Codifying e-learning in Bangladesh
Digital Bangladesh is the electoral pledge of the present government to develop Bangladesh as a middle-income country by 2021. It is a good initiative as all developed countries have demonstrated that digitalisation plays a de facto role in the development of a country. Realising the significance of digitalisation Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is overseeing the Access to Information (a2i) programme. For this project, the government has established Information and Communication Technology (ICT) division and about Tk. 19.30 billion (1,930 crore) has been allocated for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Since ICT has a connection with educational development in the current globalised world, it is going to be a compulsory subject at the primary level by 2021. Supporting ICT development government has already established language labs in more than 1600 schools and 500 multimedia classrooms for secondary level. This huge investment will influence the ICT sector and diffuse e-learning in Bangladesh.
From a theoretical point of view, e-learning is a technical educational method that does not only envelop teaching and learning through the computer via an internet connection; rather it transforms a traditional class into a virtual one. It ensures quality education by digitalising educational content, conducting online classes, virtualising conversation between teachers and students, administering and grading exams online, and connecting teachers-students out of the institutional arena.
Since the government intends to introduce e-learning in the education sector, e-learning readiness should be the precursor. We should focus on four basic issues: connectivity (quality of internet infrastructure), capability (a country's ability to consume e-learning), content (the quality of online materials) and culture (public support and belief for e-learning expansion within the country). For overseeing all these issues a national e-learning centre should be established in advance.
We should realise that e-learning does not only focus on a strong high-speed internet connection with sophisticated electronic devices, but also stresses on digitalising education sector forming unified national e-learning strategy and bring all levels of education (primary, secondary, higher secondary and tertiary level) under one platform. A popular system called Learning Management System (LMS) plays a significant role in e-learning. It connects students with teachers where the students will have own academic account provided by respective educational institutions which will allow students downloading course materials (lectures, documentaries, audio, and video contents), submitting their homework and assignments electronically, getting feedback from teachers', checking their course grades online, discussing different topics with online groups; virtually conversing with other students from different schools of same level. Besides, online attendance and assessment systems will help teachers and parents to monitor the performance and presence of students at schools, colleges, and universities. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, if a student is absent more than 25per cent of classes, the account of that student will automatically be blocked; and the student will be deprived of sitting in the examination. Time to time automatic generated messages will be sent to the cell phone of parents as warnings before final deprivation. So, the parents can monitor their children whether they are going to the educational institutions or not. This step will plummet the dropout rate of students and increase students' presence in the class.
The E-learning platform will not only help students but also teachers. A database of teachers from different levels of education institutions will help teachers to exchange opinions, course materials and updated teaching techniques of different courses and subjects. It will be helpful for teachers who live in remote areas. Likewise, if it is connected with global teachers' and students' forums, it will be supportive for both students and teachers to get access to the best possible educational resources, and learning and teaching systems. On the other hand, if we can establish a national digital library with adequate and updated e-books, e-journals, and e-newspapers, it will be beneficial for people of all ages.
Most importantly, e-learning will stop question paper leakage as instant generated passwords will be used to print the public exam question papers. This onetime generated password will be sent to cell phones of some specific teachers before the eleventh hour of the exam. Therefore, the concern teachers' will be responsible if there is any leakage of the question paper. Also, for conducting exams, a lock-down browser can be utilized as it is inoperative outside exam hall; we can primarily apply this for university admission.
For the benefit of my job, I have seen the use of this platform in Saudi Arabia as they are using 'Blackboard' and 'Cambridge LMS' software for all levels of education. All teachers and students are bound to use Blackboard for all courses whether it is an online or physical classroom-based course. This Blackboard software is connected with Saudi Digital Library (SDL), YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and even different online training courses for teachers. That means, one complementary platform codifies others. From my point of view, if we can establish a platform like Blackboard in collaboration with the ministry of education, ICT division can open a new horizon for e-learning in Bangladesh.
Abdullah Al Mamun Bhuiyan (Mridul) is a Lecturer of the Faculty of Languages and Translation, King Khalid University, Saudi Arabia.