AKU has promoted blended and digital learning with the creation of supportive structures and faculty training since 2011.
Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development, East Africa, hosted an online forum between faculty and students to discuss the Tanzanian government’s decision to reopen universities and other institutions of higher learning.
While AKU in Tanzania will not resume face-to-face teaching as yet, students are looking forward to accessing the library and campus facilities.
“We are able to access some resources online to add on to our virtual classes as well as assignments, but the library is what I missed the most because there’s so much more on campus than there is online,” said a master’s student at the Institute for Educational Development, East Africa (IED, EA).
Other students welcomed the decision but also called for strict compliance with preventive measures.
Students also shared their experiences on taking classes online.
Most of them cited access to internet as a major challenge. Balancing work – especially the doctors and nurses serving on the frontlines – and study was not easy. However, it was not all gloom with some saying they learned a lot about digital learning despite the challenges.
One of the participants in the forum said: “I learned how to adapt to online learning in such a short time. I enjoyed the experience of testing out new applications I’d never used before. It would be good if online learning continues even after the pandemic as there is so much to learn.”
Another student said: “Before the University was closed, the administration made sure that we had all the online applications needed to participate in the virtual classes. This ensured a smooth transition for us as we shifted to online learning. They also bought us internet bundles which was encouraging especially in these tough financial times.”
The students also applauded AKU Tanzania’s administration, faculty and IT department for providing emotional, mental and technical support while they adapted to full-time digital learning due to the pandemic. They said:
“The IT department was always supportive. They assisted us every time we faced technical hitches.”
“AKU provided counselling for the students which was very helpful especially since we’re all facing struggles during this pandemic.”
“We had townhall meetings where we were able to share our concerns. This made us feel heard by the University leadership.”
“The faculty were outstanding! They reached out to me when I could not attend class due to sickness and kept checking on my recovery. They were also flexible with the submission of assignments while checking in regularly on our progress.”
When Tanzanian authorities ordered a nationwide shutdown of universities and colleges on March 18, AKU immediately closed its campus and shifted to full-time online learning.
IED EA Director and Associate Vice Provost Professor Joe Lugalla said: “The safety of our students and staff is our priority. Arrangements were made for all our students, both local and international, who needed financial aid to travel. All the students left the campus by March 21. In order to ensure that our students continue receiving quality education, online classes began the week after. Faculty and staff were required to work from home. We ensured that Salama house is safe for a few staff and faculty working on campus. All entry, exit points and all floors had sanitiser stations. Surgical masks were provided to staff and faculty while on campus.”
Online learning is not new to AKU. Since 2011, the University has promoted blended and digital learning with the creation of supportive structures and faculty training.
Around 70 students from the Medical College, School of Nursing and Midwifery in East Africa and IED EA participated in the forum. It was moderated by Loveluck Mwasha, SONAM faculty, and Nipaeli Mrutu, IED EA faculty.