Launching online learning for all our university courses.
4/6/2020 12:00:00 AM
Due to the temporary closure of all educational institutions following the Palestinian President’s announcement of state of emergency in an attempt to contain the global rapid and the uncertainty spread of COVID19 pandamic, UCAS has launched online learning since the midst of March, 2020. Dr. Refaat Rostom, the Rector of UCAS announced a formation of an emergency committee for e-learning as well as the activation of an electronic educational system consisting of about 1000 electronic rooms run by 400 academics teaching more than 650 electronic courses of 50 majors, and about 5,000 students benefit from them. “With all academic activities carried out online, we want to limit interaction and prevent the spread of COVID-19 keeping the educational process going on.” said Prof. Dr. Refa’t Rustom, the Rector of UCAS.
Proceeding the Educational Process
“So continuing education through alternative learning pathways, as soon as possible, must also be a top priority right now.” Said Dr. Ahmed Abdelal, Vice-Rector for the Academic Affairs. He added that in spite of this sudden decision, a central committee for academic and administrative follow-ups was formed. The committee resulted in decisions, the most prominent one is the formation of sub-committees, and among these committees is the e-learning committee.
Abdelal indicated that systematic procedures have been initiated in this regard. Facilitating an easy interactive communication among employees from one hand and between academics and their students on the other hand, two qualitative platforms for each were adopted. At the beginning, online classes reached a rate of 30% but now they are 100%.
He remarked that the necessary technical and programming procedures have been conducted to link these two platforms with the college’s programs, noting that this decision took six days to form the sub-committees; and the work on the platforms began a week after the decision was issued.
Switching to Online Classes
Eng.Mohamed Hassouna, Head of the e-Learning Committee at UCAS, said, "We adopted Google Classroom platform to run courses as we have been maintaining a contact with Google Company. Further, we adopted Zoom to conduct synchronous sessions since this tool is simple, easy to use and widely adopted by the majority of universities in the world. Nevertheless, we attentively worked on a plan for training teachers professionally how to create their own instructional videos.
Challenges and Obstacles
Hassouna added, "The biggest challenges that the college encountered are mainly technical ones due to the blockade imposed on Gaza. These technical issues are out of hand such as unstable internet connectivity & power supply outages. However, the college dedicated vast efforts to overcome the barriers as much as possible providing tech support for teachers so as to run their online classes successfully.
Abdelal stated here that it was a shock for students to switch radically from face-to-face education to virtual one, and this led to reluctance initially. Thus, our academics have been working hard to offer options moving online with flexibility and equity in mind and try to reduce learners’ anxiety so as not to disadvantage students whose internet and power infrastructure is poorer. By the way, all students were allowed to join online classes, whether they paid fees or not so as to proceed their learning.
Abedelal concluded that a criteria list has been prepared to help evaluate e-learning courses and to assure including the basic quality standards of e-courses.
In the light of students’ frequent questions about the mechanisms of assessment, the administration quickly responded after lengthy meetings. UCAS published a statement clarifying details of the academic process, types of academic courses and assessment process. In this regard, students are allowed to choose from the following three options:
The first option: Courses included in e-learning and have an electronic evaluation.
The second option: Courses included in e-learning and have a postponed evaluation.
The third option: Courses not included in e-learning, postponed study and evaluation.
This statement was very welcome and satisfied by students
Students’ Opinion Poll
“At the beginning, we felt anxious, but after the college decisions, which were in favor of students, we felt satisfied. Actually, it is a new valuable experience that made us keep pace with development, learn about new tools and enhance our self-learning. We have been practicing e-learning and it is really a wonderful experience.” Said by Mohamed Mostafa Carey, a student at UCAS.