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Distance learning in Pakistan Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Abdul Khalique, Pakistan Jun 20, 2005
Education , Informal/Experiential Learning   Opinions
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Education is the basic right of all human beings and to some extent it is the government’s responsibility to make sure that best education and best institutions are available to everyone. But in Pakistan, high quality education is very expensive and currently, only 3 – 4% of people are in a position to get the best education. Education has not been an important field in Pakistan for 53 years and despite funds and budgets, no government has yet established basic infrastructure and a strong foundation for education, even for primary education.

Currently, the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan is doing an excellent job and so far, has completed so many important projects. Some are still in progress, including a foreign faculty hiring program, PhD scholarships, curriculum updating, research grants, Pakistan Education Research Network (PERN) and a digital library. All these projects are very important, but when we see all these programs, it clearly shows that these are beneficial only for those who are getting higher education, and getting higher education is not possible right now for everyone. This is where the importance of Virtual University starts.

Virtual University of Pakistan is a major project of the Ministry of IT in the execution of its IT plans. It is a gigantic step towards raising the standard of IT education in Pakistan by being easily accessible with best available faculty. In March 2002, Virtual University came into existence with the clear objectives to spread high quality education in all areas of Pakistan, especially in rural areas that lack qualified faculty and institutions.

Virtual University brought a revolutionary way of learning and teaching for students. Now, no matter where you are, you can still get world class education through VU at a very cheap rate at your door step. Let’s see in detail how VU is imparting education in Pakistan.

Method of Imparting Education

Before going into details, it should be known that the Internet has reached more than 800 cities in Pakistan and it is soon expected to be available in all of Pakistan. Virtual University is Pakistan’s first e-learning based university, and television and the Internet are its essential parts. Television is essential for delivering lectures and the Internet is essential for interacting with instructors and tutors. The lectures are broadcast through VU’s own satellite channels, VTV1 and VTV2. These channels are dedicated to educational purposes only (a schedule of lectures is available at: vulms.vu.edu.pk).

For accessing teachers, subjects, handouts, resources etc., VU provides a unique ID to each registered student on their Learning Management system (LMS). LMS is a web-based learning system and used frequently for e-learning based universities/institutions throughout the world. LMS facilitates students to submit their assignments, access their subjects, handouts, chat with other students, ask questions through the Moderate Discussion Board (MDB), see grade books and many other activities. VU provides entire lecture material in the form of web-enabled content; the full powers of hyperlinks are utilized to further enhance the learning process. Students are able to review the course material and repeat exercises and practice problems for a proper comprehension of the material. VU provides flexibility to learn wherever and whenever you want

Initially, the basic aim of the VU was to produce CS/IT graduates. But since Pakistan is faced with a rising need for producing a cache of high caliber workforce in coming era of technology. That is why 13 more disciplines have been introduced by VU in addition to the regular IT degree program which further enhances the scope of the university to be able to better serve the country. This discipline includes Business Administration, Economics, Public Administration, Mass Communication and Commerce. VU has the intention to start Master Programs (MS) by next year. During Dawn Educational expo 2005 (as a VU representative), I learned that hundreds of people in Pakistan are impatiently waiting to take admission in the VU Master Program.

If we look at the VU fee structure, it is clear that it is comparatively lower than any other Pakistani University/Institutions (including public sectors universities as well). The government of Pakistan intentionally keeps a low fee structure to make sure everyone is able to get quality education easily. Currently, VU is charging Rs. 1445 per month, which VU students pay on quarterly basis.

Mode of Education

Virtual University is offering two types of Modes for learning:
1. Home Based
2. Private Virtual Campus (PVC)

In Home Based mode, VU sends lectures, CDs and handouts to the admitted student’s home. Students are responsible for attending lectures at their own pace, according to a predefined schedule. However, VU conducts exams in PVC for home-based learning closer to his/her home. In Private Virtual Campus mode, students join any private virtual campus and become a VU student to attend their lecture from there. In fact, she/he can buy lectures and CDs as well and can see lectures at his/her home through VTVs.

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Abdul Khalique

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