Amid the growing number of Coronavirus cases in the country, the University of Liberia (UL) says all is set to commence a special second semester education for the the 2019/2020 academic year through E-learning programs.
Dr. Julius J. S. Nelson, Jr, made the disclosure on Thursday July 2, 2020 during a press conference at the University of Liberia auditorium.
Dr. Nelson said this online learning semester will be conducted on Moodle, the leading and globally-supported learning management system along with university’s digital registration and enrollment management system.
“With support from government and in collaboration with local partners, I am pleased to announce that the flagship of the university will commence classes for the second semester of academic year 2019/2020 on July 28, 2020 as a special e-Learning semester. This is a huge shift,” Dr. Nelson said.
According to Dr. Nelson, it is a transition that will challenge administration, as well as students and faculty members, but with deep integration of technology in learning in the future of higher education.
“When the visitor announced the digitalization of the systems at the university two years ago, that set in motion a process which was ultimately leading us to the actualization of e-Learning. This pandemic has only hastened the process,” Dr. Nelson said.
Dr. Nelson said acknowledging the magnitude of the challenges of conducting a novel online learning semester and to ensure success, the university administration has considered the needs of the students.
He said an agreement has been reached with a local partner for the provision of data packages and computing gadgets at affordable rates for registered students.
Dr. Nelson said “progress comes through deliberate actions and this Coronavirus pandemic presents a rare opportunity to embrace the inevitable change of welcoming technology on the learning environment from the 14th century to the 21st century.
He said the university is in discussions with Orange Liberia Management to help provide the data package for their students and the instructors.
Dr. Nelson said the new E-learning program will afford students the opportunity to graduate as scheduled.
“In our effort to continue to provide quality and affordable education for our students, consistent with the mission of the university, we embarked upon the process a resulted into full automation, integration and digitalization of our registration and grading systems,” Dr. Nelson said.
Dr. Nelson recounted that in 2018, when thousands of university students risked dropping out of school because of financial difficulty, the government intervened and announced a tuition-free policy for undergraduate students at the University of Liberia.
According him, this policy has led to steady increment of student enrollment at the University of Liberia. “To ensure our mission of providing academic freedom of creative thinking remains a core function of this institution, the university, through the assistance of USAID digital Liberia, installed a fiber-optic internet connection on three of our four campuses, with Straz Sinje soon to be connected via microwave technology by a local provider,” Dr. Nelson said.
According to the UL president, the university has begun a comprehensive review of academic curricula to ensure that courses conform to contemporary learning and teaching in the 21st century.
“A major next step in the internationalization of this university was a comprehensive relook at the pedagogical framework. During the 2018/2019 academic year, a plan was developed to gradually upgrade this framework to guarantee that we are on par with top universities in the region, remain competitive continentally and strive for convergence of standards with top universities in other parts of the world,” Dr. Nelson said.
He said it was then agreed that the university will gradually transition to a blended learning environment in two years, an environment in which students and faculty members will take full advantage of current technology in their academic and social interactions.
The Coronavirus pandemic, he noted, has interrupted this plan and changed the sequential nature of its delivery as well as affected all normal academic activities at the university. He however said based on the unpredictable timeline marking the end of COVID-19, it is unequivocally clear and apparent that in order to cope with the pandemic, they must “adopt and adapt.”
“The university, with about 20,000 students spread across the country during this period of restricted movements, faced the dilemma of either investing into digital education with obvious challenges or doing nothing until it is safe for students to return on campus,” he said.
Dr. Nelson said in keeping with the mission, role and responsibilities, the university chose the option of adopting pre-CONVID-19 digitalization plan, thus discarding the option of doing nothing.
He said since May, they have channeled all resources towards the reopening of school in a non-traditional way so as to achieve the twin goals of honoring our educational commitments and upholding public health guidelines.