Confronted by a global pandemic that has taken almost every nation under siege, the world as we know it has undergone a somewhat rapid socioeconomic paradigm shift; the effects of which are becoming visible through the lens of the adaptive measures taken throughout the globe by governments, private institutions and the public in order to minimize any further spread of the disease. While the advocates of numerous economic sectors may lay claim to having been hit hard by the events succeeding the necessary lockdown of all institutions—government and private alike—it was rather the educational sector that has had to relentlessly push forward with the goal of providing quality education to the students to ensure that academic practices are not hindered by a sense of stagnation.
North South University, among most other universities in Bangladesh have opted for taking online classes as a convenient approach to bridge the gap between educators and young learners in this era of social distancing. As this new kind of challenge had brought under the light a number of key similarities and differences between online classes and traditional classes at NSU campus, upon analysis it may be observed that classes held at NSU are still more preferable than classes online in terms of academic progress, accessibility of resources, student participation and disciplinary measures to maintain proper decorum essential in upholding the values of the university.
Either approach requires a similar degree of interactive participation from both the faculty and the students in order to bear any commendable outcome. To clarify, be it an online class or a traditional one, on both occasions the teachers and their students must practise a willingness to communicate their perspectives to each other and not hesitate in sharing their opinions. In addition to that, similar to the decorum maintained in traditional classes at NSU campus, teachers and students participating in online classes strive to maintain proper conduct and build a strong sense of cooperation that imbues the qualities of a mentor-protege relationship, albeit virtual.
As in the case of traditional classes, it is of utmost importance to the validation of a proper online class that the objective of the course material and how the course is to be covered in time is clearly laid out through clear instructions by the faculty in a way that is comprehensible to the students. On top of that, both kinds of classes are to adhere to well-planned schedules and disciplinary guidelines as foundation for accomplishing the objectives of the course work in due time.
One other similarity between traditional and online classes and perhaps the most crucial to ensuring progress is that both forms of classes allow for the submission of student’s classwork and assignments. While students attending traditional classes can turn in their class work and assignments by simple manual submissions, online class attendees on the other hand may upload their work on their teacher’s designated online page issued by the university. In either case, the teacher may get the opportunity to assess the skills of the students.
In spite of such core similarities, there are certainly a number of differences that would still place traditional classes at NSU as more favourable an option as opposed to classes online. Although both classes are designed for the benefit of achieving course objectives, online classes in some cases may limit the scope of exploring the course material to its entirety. Unlike the traditional classes held at NSU that grants students guided access to some of the very advanced facilities on the campus—access to the fully automated illustrious NSU library, the highly technologically equipped computer lab and the science lab—online classes cannot offer anything of that sort and so gets completely outdone in this category. Such restrictions undoubtedly curb academic progress of students, especially those enrolled in the department of Biochemistry & Microbiology and the School of Engineering & Physical Sciences since laboratory work and research is an essential criteria in completing their relevant courses.
On the disciplinary front, online classes are a far less suitable means of establishing and enforcing decorum in contrast to traditional classes held at NSU. Although at campus the regulatory body of NSU implements strict measures against irregularities in class attendance as per the code of conduct, the same is not practical in case of online classes. Attendance of students are automatically recorded by virtue of magnetic scanners as they position their RFID cards near a detector each time they enter or leave the campus and separately for each class they attend. However, online classes can be accessed simply by using an e-mail address. This allows for a rather deceptive opportunity for those students who are intent on bunking classes—though such students are very few in numbers—simply by logging in to ensure their virtual presence, when in reality they are not fully engrossed in the class activities. It may be argued that in contrast to traditional classes, online classes can be recorded and thus monitored and reviewed in order to ensure that all students are attending the online classes.
However, such reviewing process can be very time consuming and thus no immediate measures can be taken to prevent a certain student from bunking classes. In addition to this, students simply cite weak internet connection or device incompatibility issues as reasons for remaining absent during online classes, taking advantage of the fact that teachers have little evidence for questioning such claims. However, with traditional classes, a student must submit an application along with valid documents that might justify the student’s reason for remaining absent. Implementation of such strict policies on campus make traditional classes a more effective means for the evaluation of student activities and immediate disciplinary measures.
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