HEC Consortium to identify quality online courses nationwide

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LAHORE: The Higher Education Commission’s Higher Education Development Program (HEDP) welcomed a consortium of nine universities to LUMS on Saturday to identify high-quality asynchronous online courses under the new undergraduate basis for the country.

The goal of offering online courses nationwide is to ensure that all students in the country have access to the highest quality basic education. PakistanEdX has been chosen as the official 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 such as MIT/Harvard’s edX, University of California San Diego, edX and Wikimedia.

The technology built by this company has already served more than 55 million students worldwide. HEC will use the same technology to increase access to quality education and make it available to remote areas of Pakistan. The platform will be complemented by HEC’s Pakistan Education and Research Network (PERN), which extends quality internet access to all affiliated universities and colleges.

These initiatives are particularly important for provinces such as Balochistan, Interior Sindh, New KP Districts 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 Science and Technology and Virtual University of Pakistan.

The new curriculum adds 11 core courses drawn from five broad categories of HEC undergraduate politics courses.

These universities will offer courses on PakistanEdX by offering multilingual options in these five categories of Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, Quantitative Skills, Natural Sciences and Explanatory Writing.

The discussions were led by Dr Shaista Sohail, Executive Director, HEC and Ms Maryam Riaz, Project Coordinator, HEDP.

“HEC aims to create a holistic view of the culture of quality for online and blended learning,” said Ms. Riaz. Javed Bukhari, Rector of NUST, said: “Here is an opportunity where we can learn from each other, and I am very confident that all stakeholders – not just faculty and students, but also the market, education bodies accreditation will join us. ”

Rector of COMSATS University, Dr. Tabassum Afzal, emphasizing the importance of using technology, added that globally, education is now about clicks and not bricks. He said HEC’s efforts have gotten us “to this point and this effort will be a huge accomplishment in providing a wide range of education to undergraduate students across the country.”

Dr. Arshad Saleem Bhatti, Rector of the Virtual University, said, “We stand at a crossroads where the future of education in Pakistan is being decided.”

“Global MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) offerings have exploded, demonstrating that online courses do not replace in-person instruction, but rather provide complementary choices for learning anytime, anywhere,” said Dr. Arshad Ahmad, VC, LUMS.

Dr Halai, Vice-Chancellor at the Aga Khan University, stressed 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 formed to develop quality assurance and sustainability models of PakistanEdx.

The consortium will meet regularly to take this project forward, invite other universities and work together to train faculty members across Pakistan to develop these courses.

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