Covid-19 is taking a huge toll on families, societies, health systems and economies around the world and for as long as this virus threatens any country, the entire world is at risk
Education is one of the sectors affected the most by this crisis. More than 1.5 billion students and youth across the planet are affected by school and university closures due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The coronavirus pandemic was confirmed to have spread to Bangladesh in March. The first three known cases were reported on March 7, 2020 by the country's epidemiology Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
On March 23, considering the nature of virus transmission, the prime minister of Bangladesh announced a complete nationwide lockdown. As health of the nation is very important and social distancing reduces the spread of the virus, the steps taken by the Bangladesh Government are highly appreciable.
Crisis scenario of students in Bangladesh
In this present scenario, however, all academic activities have been stopped. Since the students are not attending classes, they will spend their time watching television, playing games, internet surfing, chatting, etc.
Although, a large number of the student throughout the country will show resilience to the profound damage of brain, stress, and fear associated with Covid-19, the virus will likely exacerbate existing mental health disorders and contribute to the onset of new stress-related disorders for many.
It is also normal for teens and young adult students who are missing out on finishing their college or university semester, participating in their institution's theatre productions or sports competitions, class trips and graduations to feel disappointed, sad, angry, frustrated.
However, it is important not to minimize the impact of these losses. A teacher can encourage them to talk about their feelings and listen without judgment to minimize the significance of this loss.
The teacher plays a vital role in keeping young potential talents and future professionals in active mode. The students need to be engaged properly and they have to utilize this time productively.
So a positive association between student-teacher relationships can improve socialisation.
Role of a teacher
In a press release on March 24, the University Grant Commission (UGC) advised the private universities to take classes online to recoup the academic losses as a result of the suspension of academic activities during the Covid-19 outbreak. These initiatives are highly informative to the faculty members and the students to enhance their knowledge.
The initiatives include (a) Online courses (b) Learning through YouTube channel (c) Digital library etc. Bangladesh Television already has started some online classes for primary and secondary students.
However, if the teachers/faculty members want to disseminate knowledge in their course to the respective students, some online methods can be adopted for various steps in the teaching-learning process:
In online mode, the lecture video will be recorded using power-point, webcam with good quality noise. A digital drawing tablet with a pen would add value for mathematical teaching, derivation, numerical examples, etc.
The video can be uploaded on YouTube and the link can be shared later to those students who have not the availability of internet or computer facilities at that moment.
In online mode, tools like Google Hangout, Skype, Zoom, etc. can be used. The faculty member can schedule an online class and ask all the students to present actively with necessary recommended books, pen and writing notebook. This would require a good broadband internet connection for video streaming.
Assessments, evaluation and attendance
To understand and evaluate the student, online assignments, online evaluation and online attendance can be made.
The quiz can be created using Google Tools – either multiple choice questions or short answers. The teachers can provide assignments, homework, feedback, marks, instruction, etc.
Presentation and interaction
Individual or group presentation can be performed with some relevant and specific topics of the module.
Through peer group interaction with the help of Microsoft Teams or Zoom, the students can collaborate and do group assignments, group discussions, prepare and edit their project report, etc.
Lecture materials, notes, presentations, short videos, and other related information can be shared to the students using Writing-board, or Google Classroom, Moodle, etc.
Collecting study materials
The reference books, articles, journals and other materials can be downloaded and shared to the students using Google Classroom or Zoom Conferencing.
Many available ICT tools are very helpful to engage the students actively inside and outside the classroom.
The students need to explore online classes through new apps and tools that can facilitate group chats and video connections so they can stay connected to their peers.
For them, it is a time when socialisation and connection with peers are especially important, and without these connections teens and young adults can feel sad and lonely.
Responses from European universities
United Nations agencies, international organisations, private sector, and civil society representatives are engaged in advancing Covid-19 education response from around the world at global, regional and country levels.
Germany, for example, is taking the necessary measures to limit the social interaction of people in public areas to stop the transmission of the coronavirus. However, some German universities remain open while research is being carried out.
Examinations are continuing to take place. As a result, most universities in Germany are updating their websites with news of coronavirus or providing answers to some of the frequently asked questions regarding the coronavirus, online classes, examinations, or deadline extensions.
Lecturers are advised to prepare for the possibility of online classes and digital teaching or learning. It is important to know that universities are cooperating in the fight against coronavirus while some universities have dedicated e-mail addresses or management teams as a means of student support.
Challenges and limitations
On April 5, University Grant Commission of Bangladesh, in another press release, expressed its concern that some private universities are ignoring their directions and conducting online examinations, grading students' scripts and rolling admission for the next semester.
Many students of Public and Private universities are at remiss, as their universities are conducting online classes. Many of these students have left Dhaka for their hometowns or villages where internet access is not readily available and mobile data are expensive with lukewarm speed.
Hence, class tests, assignments and examinations in this process, can bring poor marks ultimately affecting their final grades.
Since maximum students of Private universities are from the middle-class families and many of earners already have lost their jobs, private university authorities in Bangladesh may face the challenges of ensuring the continuity of education for affected students, including assessment, exams and minimizing the impact on students and staff.
In these dire times, the teachers/faculty members must emphasise on students' mental health.
Faculties need to find ways to more effectively take care of mental health, education services, welfare-being, environmental and socio-economic crisis, occupational support, social responsibilities and proper utilization of talents to sustain the largest number of students possible.
In this situation, the faculty members also should engage themselves actively in upgrading their knowledge, writing research papers, attending webinars, etc.
This constant teacher-student engagement activity will strengthen teaching and learning.
Kamol Gomes, is PhD Student at Technische Universität Dresden (TU Dresden) & United Nation University-FLORES, Germany