Islamabad: The Higher Education Commission’s Higher Education Development Programme (HEDP) hosted a consortium of nine universities at LUMS to identify high-quality asynchronous online courses as part of the new undergraduate core curriculum for the country.
The purpose of offering nationwide online courses is to ensure all students across the country have access to the highest quality of foundational education. PakistanEdX has been selected as formal name for this national platform. HEC PakistanEdx 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, edX, and Wikimedia. The technology built by this firm has already served over 55 million students worldwide.
HEC will use the same technology to increase access to quality education and make it available for far-flung areas of Pakistan. The platform will be complemented by HEC’s Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN) 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 consortium is formulated based on the expertise of these universities in developing and delivering quality online learning platforms. It includes Allama Iqbal Open University; Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences; COMSATS University; Habib University; Hazara University; Lahore University of Management Sciences; National University of Sciences and Technology and Virtual University of Pakistan.
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.
Discussions were led by Dr. Shaista Sohail, Executive Director, HEC and Ms. Maryam Riaz, Project Coordinator, HEDP. “HEC aims to create a holistic vision of quality culture for online and blended learning,” said Ms. Riaz. Lt. Gen. Javed Bukhari, Rector NUST said “Here is an opportunity where we can learn from each other, and I am very confident that all the stakeholders – not only faculty and students, but also the market, accreditation bodies will join hands with us.”
Rector COMSATS University Dr. Tabassum Afzal, emphasizing the significance of using technology, added that globally education is now about clicks and not bricks. He said that HEC’s efforts have taken us to this point and this endeavour will be a huge accomplishment in providing breadth of education for undergraduate students across the country.” Dr. Arshad Saleem Bhatti, Rector, Virtual University commented, “We are standing at a junction where the future of education in Pakistan is being decided.”
“The global offerings of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have skyrocketed demonstrating that online courses do not replace in-person instruction but rather provide complementary choices to learn anytime, anywhere” said Dr. Arshad Ahmad, VC, LUMS.
Dr. Halai, Vice Provost, Aga Khan University, emphasized the need for quality assurance and a rigorous review process to ensure relevance and high standards. Leading the discussions around Quality Assurance, special working groups are formulated to develop quality assurance and sustainability models of PaksitanEdx.
The consortium will meet on a regular basis to drive this project forward, invite other universities and work together to train faculty members across Pakistan to develop these courses. By pooling course offerings through PakistanEdX, all universities and their students stand to gain from more quality educational choices.