Against the backdrop of closure of examinations at the premier Dhaka University (DU) for long period due to the coronavirus pandemic, academics suggested taking examinations as soon as possible both physically and virtually to check session jam.
Talking to journalists they gave a set of suggestions including changing and minimizing the examination and others evaluation method, minimizing the syllabus, holding mixed classes at indoor classrooms and open-air classrooms and bringing only honors final year students at dormitories as they are at more risk to academic losses.They also emphasized on cutting holidays, holding classes and other academic activities on weekend, shortening and even withdrawing the vacations once the university reopen to check a looming session jam and cover up the academic losses caused by the ongoing indefinite closure of the institution in the wake of coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Talking to press, DU former Vice-Chancellor Professor AAMS Arefin Siddique suggested taking examinations as soon as possible of those departments which have already finished classes and other academic activities to minimize academic losses.
“I don’t think session jam could be avoided completely. Many institutions are applying their own tactics to check session congestion. I think DU administrations will also think of some innovative strategies to cope with the situation as it can be sure that pre and post COVID-19 situation will not be the same,” he said.
He emphasized on minimizing the syllabus and duration of the examinations, changing examination method such as taking exams in five papers instead of 10 and changing the answer-sheet evaluation method so that exams can be taken within short time as students have to stay in dormitories which are not fully secured and a probability of health risk is quite certain.
Prof Arefin, also a communication expert, said the university must ensure
everyone’s equal access to internet facilities in taking classes online and the authorities should do that.
“It is not true that taking exams is not possible online as everything is going on in virtual platforms nowadays,” he added.The most needed things are to make sure the optimum use of limited resources to ensure possible best solution for students and taking different kinds of strategies and techniques for reducing session congestion and it must be prioritizing student’s health security as they are future leaders of the country, the eminent academician continued.
He laid emphasis on ensuring equal access of every student to online classes and sought superfluous concentration of the authority on this as a significant number of students could not take part in the classes due to the lack of internet access, device and financial crisis that creates discrimination.
“There are different kinds of discriminations in society but we don’t want see any kind of discrimination among students in the classroom. We want everyone to enjoy the same level of opportunity,” Siddique added.
Dr Syed Manzoorul Islam, a retired professor of English Department at DU, thinks mixed classroom where students will be connected in both physically and virtually, could be a solution and will be comparatively easy to run academic activities that will help reduce session congestion.
He also emphasized on cutting holidays and running academic activities on the weekends as well as reducing time in giving academic result and sought collaboration and extra effort from the teachers and collaboration of students for the neo normal situation.
To boost up the activities in full swing, university could offer some remuneration to the teachers for their additional efforts except professors and associate professors, Manzoorul said.
Associate Professor of DU International Relations Department Dr Md Tanzimuddin Khan said the university can consider bringing the fourth-year and masters students in the campus and ensuring proper health safety while staying at the dormitories to complete their academic activities.
Citing examples of many countries, Tanzim preferred arranging open class under the sky for final year and master’s students as close classroom is more risky for spreading coronavirus.
For the rest of the students he suggested bringing those after the situation seems better adding merging academic activities of one semester with another would be a solution to reduce session jam.
Expressing concern over the situation, a master-level student of Linguistics Department Nowsher Ahmed said those who are in final year and master-level are in deep uncertainty because they are going to face the worst consequences of the long university closure and to face a session jam for at least one year.
The university should consider taking exams of at least final year and master’s students immediately maintaining all the health measures that could be a solution to reduce session congestion, he added.
Earlier, on August in a meeting with authority, students’ leaders of different organizations at DU sought ensuring proper health measures, allocation of seats for every student before reopening the university and providing of financial aids or ensuring smartphones immediately to students who cannot attend online classes for lack of access.
DU VC Dr Md Akhtaruzzaman said they have to go forward gradually and take decisions in a scientific way considering the realities as lives and some things are more valuable than time.
Regarding minimization of semester, he said the academic council would take decisions when congenial atmosphere will prevail to reopen the university and it’s up to the council as well to take decisions on whether semesters would be minimized or not.
The VC thinks that the university’s initiative of allocating seats only for regular students in the hall and kicking out the outsiders would be easier after reopening as the student’s organizations seemed to be more sincere and helpful this time.
DU Pro-Vice Chancellor Prof ASM Maksud Kamal said they will try to minimize the duration of semesters from six months to five months and yearly examinations from 12 months to 10 months besides minimizing the duration of publishing results after the reopening.
“Through this, we can manage to avoid session jam for first to fourth semester students but for the seventh or eighth semester students, it could be unavoidable,” Maksud noted.
Regarding student’s lack of access to internet facilitates, he said by the first week of October, university will provide data packages for students who could not attend online classes to make sure everyone’s participation.
About supplementary classes, he said they will do it through discussions negotiation between teachers and students prioritizing students’ demand and that can be in a different way like 10 intensive classes against 30 online classes.”
He called upon the students who could not join a single online class to take help of fellow students who have access to the internet to collect the lessons.
Online classes for one semester are about to be completed and for another semester classes will start soon though we could not take the examinations.
The rest of the classes and practical classes will be taken when it reopens and examinations will begin within the shortest possible time after reopening the university, he added.