HEC’s Higher Education Development in Pakistan (HEDP) project hosted the third meeting of a consortium of 11 universities at Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) Islamabad to develop high-quality asynchronous online courses (PakistanEdX) as part of the new undergraduate core curriculum nationwide.

The consortium is formulated based on the expertise and interest of these universities in developing and delivering quality online learning platforms and massive online courses. It includes AIOU Islamabad; Agha Khan University (AKU) Karachi; Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), Quetta; COMSATS University Islamabad (CUI); Habib University, Karachi; Hazara University, Mansehra; Lahore College for Women University (LCWU); Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS); National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST); University of Baltistan (UoBS) Skardu; and Virtual University (VU) Lahore. Vice Chancellors and senior officials of all these universities attended the meeting.

Executive Director HEC, Dr Shahista Sohail chaired the session. In her opening remarks she said, “As a woman, I am glad to be a part of this initiative as it will benefit all irrespective of their gender. PakistanEdX will enable women to continue contributing to the economy without compromising their domestic and official responsibilities. Many women especially in disadvantaged areas will benefit as mobility can be an issue for women in many areas in our country.’’

VC AIOU Dr Nasir Mahmood welcomed all dignitaries and assured his support on behalf of AIOU. Discussions were led by Dr Mahmood Butt, Project Coordinator, HEDP who reinforced the significance of universities’ input in developing policies and way forward for ODL and PakistanEdx.

The new curriculum adds 11 core courses drawn from five broad categories of HEC Undergraduate Policy courses. These universities will contribute courses on PakistanEdX by offering multilingual options in these five categories of Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, Quantitative Skills, Natural Sciences, and Expository Writing.

PakistanEdX is a key activity launched under the umbrella of HEC’s HEDP project supported by the World Bank. It aims to offer Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in line with well-known international platforms, i.e., Coursera, EdX, with the vision to expand the horizon of quality education on a national level especially targeting the far-flung and underprivileged areas.

PakistanEdX will provide subsidized courses (MOOCs) to underprivileged youth, prepared by high-quality faculty. The platform is developed by the same organization which has been a major developer for several international learning platforms like MIT/Harvard’s edX, University of California San Diego (UCSD), edX, and Wikimedia. The technology built by this firm has already served over 55 million students worldwide.

The platform will be complemented by the HEC PERN project which is expanding quality internet access to all universities and affiliating colleges. These initiatives are particularly important for provinces like Balochistan, interior Sindh, newly merged districts of KP and far Punjab.

The quality assurance, sustainability and financial models were discussed in length with the aim to ensure high quality and accessibility aspects. The representatives of participating universities opined on the technical and financial procedures for the execution of this activity. VC LUMS, VC AIOU and VC Virtual University, physically present in the meeting, agreed to continue contributing towards PaskistanEdX. The discussions concluded with setting timelines for accepting credits of online courses, minimum contact hours required and developing Expressions of Interest for developing courses.

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Arsalan Haider is a reporter at Academia Mag and has worked with leading national dailies and news channels. He tweets @arsalanhaider14

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