Challenges of quality in higher education is an ongoing discussion subject among experts to bring solutions for maintaining quality of academic programmes and qualifications. But, online education, in general, and the current pandemic, in particular, has worsen the situation, says Dr Ahmed al Bulushi, dean, College of Engineering, National University of Science and Technology.
Touching upon challenges that now stand before online education in Oman, as in the rest of the world, Dr Bulushi told Muscat Daily that it will not be smooth sailing for institutions as they move towards greater use of online education in the face of situations like the current pandemic. The key challenges, he says, are about quality assurance, motivation, skilled learners and plagiarism which depend on different factors such as insufficient infrastructure, adequacy of resources, readiness of learners and so on.
“Quality assurance of online education, in general, is an international challenge. Universities with long experience in distance teaching, blended methodology and online delivery suffer many challenges, particularly in controlling the use of unfair means in academic work. Omani higher education institutions, with limited online education experience, are not an exception to this. In fact, they suffer more than the advanced countries who have a good history in using IT in education,” he said.
The success of online education depends on a number of factors and one such factor is about motivated and skilled learners, he asserts. “Motivation, study skills and attitude towards learning determines whether the students will use unfair means in completing their assessment work or not. Further, the purpose of stud matters, i.e. whether a student is studying just for an employment opportunity or for seeking knowledge and overall self-development and professional advancement.”
He pointed out that immature and short sighted students are more likely to use unfair means to pass a course. On the other hand, online education gives lots of freedom and control over self-learning. So, students who are not well trained and those who lack essential study skills find it tempting to copy academic work from different available sources, especially when assessment outsource services are available in the country.
Cheating in general is an old social phenomenon and it is encouraged further under loose systems, Dr Bulushi said adding, “It is essential that the entire society with its institutions stand firm against plagiarism in higher education institutions. Individuals who offer students’ assignments for a fee (outsourced assignment) should be prosecuted and punished.”
He further suggested that universities should have appropriate detection systems that can easily detect plagiarised work and take serious actions against guilty students. Most importantly, educating students towards this wrong doing and changing their attitude towards using unfair means is crucial for developing professional citizens.
Thus, higher education institutions that are not able to produce ‘ethical graduates’ can be considered failed in their mission. On the other hand, students who use unfair means to pass assessments can never advance as successful professionals in life. So, the price paid is huge and not just a small amount paid to a person who trades on the new generations’ future, he said.
“We all have a responsibility towards fighting this lesion. I salute those students who understand the real meaning of their education and training and dedicate themselves for it,” he added.
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