BEIRUT: Given the ongoing public health emergency, schools and universities in Lebanon have been officially closed - rushing to find an alternative to salvage the academic year.
Universities and schools are currently holding all classes, assignments, and exams using a variety of online education systems, such as LMS Open Blackboard System and Zoom, with the aim of limiting gatherings without compromising the student’s education.
Lebanese American University, American University of Beirut, University of Saint Joseph, American University of Science and Technology, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik and Notre Dame University are leading the charge of the patch-work solution for providing education during the coronavirus crisis.
A number of university seniors have seen their graduation put on hold as these proceedings during the global pandemic poses a huge health risk. Coupled with the nationwide protests of late last year, students have seen their academic year turned upside down.
Ali Taleb, an English Literature senior at AUST expressed to Annahar, his frustration, labeling the year as "a complete mess."
“We fully understand that this is a serious epidemic and extreme measures must be taken in order to stay safe. However, our education has been on hold for longer than the outbreak. Because of how hectic last semester was our GPAs went down, we simply didn’t understand the curriculum," he said.
Although online education is a practical solution as things currently stand, a number of factors hinder its success and effectiveness. A lack of awareness, infrastructure inadequacy and financial difficulty of some students have all played a role.
“Every student needs to have a laptop or a tablet. Providing those to students is nearly impossible," Eddy Tadros, a secondary school IT expert told Annahar. “Even a great number of teachers don't know their way around technology, and then add to that the expensive Internet charges, low speed, and bad connectivity.”
While university students might find it easier to use the online educational system, elementary and high school students will find it more difficult, especially those in public schools who have yet to be introduced to online education.
Mona Zorkot, a public high school teacher, explained the difficulty teachers are currently facing. “When you teach at a school where the students can’t afford their books at times, these situations paralyze the school year as we cannot force the students to study online and coming to school is no option. Making up for the material is going to be truly a difficult process knowing that the epidemic won’t be ending soon.”
To make matters worse, a large number of university students have voiced their discontent with the system, describing it as "unpractical" in most instances. Biology, medicine and art students have found the most difficulty.
"Most courses that demand practice requires us to do the work from home and send it by email before the class so that we can discuss it in the video conference.” Maroun Farjallah, a second-year, film-making student at Antonine University, (AU) told Annahar. “Yet there are courses that are harder to be taken online for their need for constant one-on-one interactivity between teacher and student”
Earlier today, the AU announced that all online courses will be suspended due to the “difficulty to adequately use Microsoft Visio conferences courses from home.” The university will also prolong the semester after classes eventually resume.
Christy-Belle Geha contributed to this article.
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