HDP steering committee reviews new tech to improve quality of online learning

ISLAMABAD:The Steering Committee of Higher Education Development in Pakistan (HEDP) project on Saturday reviewed the use of new technology initiatives including state of the art Learning Management System to help improve the quality of online learning and make it accessible even in the remote areas of country.

The third Steering Committee (SC) meeting was held here at the office of Higher Education Commission (HEC) which was presided over by the Executive Director HEC,

Dr. Shaista Sohail, and also attended by key SC members from all provinces.

The committee was consisted of senior officials from key federal ministries and provincial departments of higher education, Vice Chancellors of universities from across Pakistan, and industrial representative.

HEDP is a five-year project (2019/20 – 2023/24) being implemented by HEC to expand its key higher education priorities. It aimed to support research excellence in strategic sectors of the economy, improve teaching and learning, and strengthen governance in higher education, said a news release issued here.

The project comprises of five key components including improving and expanding research grants, roll out of the new undergraduate education policy, extending Pakistan Education & Research Network (PERN) to universities and affiliated colleges, Higher Education Management Information Systems and Data Repository, and establishment/strengthening of National Academy of Higher Education – NAHE.

Project Coordinator, Ms. Maryam Riaz gave an overview of the project, its restructuring and future plans.

The restructuring focuses on the changes necessary due to the circumstances higher education faces due to COVID 19. Extensive use of latest technology in higher education is a key element of restructuring. The new technology initiatives included state of the art Learning Management System to help improve the quality of online learning and make it accessible even in the remote areas of Pakistan.

Blockchain technology would be implemented to ease the process of degree verification and attention thus saving the students money and time it takes to get degrees attested, she added.

It would help address and eradicate the issue of fake degrees. Latest Enterprise Resource Planning system including Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence would be deployed at HEC to improve the efficiencies of the organization.

A central data warehouse linked to a powerful Business Intelligence platform would provide reports and insights to senior decision makers in higher education thus supporting evidence based policy and planning.

The research grants offered under the HEDP project during year 2020 covered sectors where there was a dire need of research to find practical solutions to issues being faced by Pakistan.

For example, a grant award under Grand Challenge fund was awarded to a research proposal in Food Security sector, and would focus on making vaccines for animals to save their lives from ticks.

Another grant was focused on finding solution to locust issue and to save crops from locust attack. Rapid Research Grants covered issues related to COVID 19.

Participants also discussed the new undergraduate education policy which has been rolled out nation-wide.

Dr. Syed Zulfiqar Gilani informed the SC of the new distance and online learning policy and distance/online quality assurance framework. HEC has implemented its own MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) which would soon be opened to faculty members across the country and after that they would be able to use it for developing their own courses.

Rector NAHE, Dr. Shaheen Sardar briefed the members on the faculty and HEC employees’ trainings conducted over last six months. NAHE also focused on training teachers on how to deliver courses online and use online learning management systems.

NAHE was moving towards self-reliance and has generated significant funds through conducting some specialized trainings, she said.

HEC provided internet and WIFI services to faculty and staff. This network has further expanded to remote universities and affiliated colleges, she informed.

The committee members were informed that despite the challenges faced due to COVID 19 the project was still on track and a successful World Bank mission has recently concluded.

SC appreciated the efforts of HEDP team and offered their support and cooperation to resolve any challenges faced by project team.

The committee members expressed their interest to be more involved with the project and have frequent meetings.