When the pandemic hit, Bangladesh saw educational institutions -- both public and private -- move their academic activities online. But this was uncharted waters for most of these institutions, and their teachers, who would have to conduct these classes. Despite the slight ray of assurance offered by the vaccine for Covid-19, educational institutions remain shut. Students and teachers are still struggling with online workload demands, even after a year.
"Most of the time, it is hard to determine if the students understood the lectures or not, as the scopes of interaction are limited. We have to carry on with the lectures, without any one-on-one interactions with the students," shares Farzana Rahman, a teacher at Academia, Dhaka.
Getting teachers and department staff members to cooperate is also a challenge.
Sanjeeda Prottasha, a fourth-year undergraduate student at Rajshahi University, shares that many of her classmates are not attending online classes because their respective departments are not cooperating with them. For example, several departments have postponed online classes, because of their reluctance to continue lectures without conducting exams. Despite students' pleas to move forward with online classes, departmental authorities are paying them no heed.
While many private universities are assisting students with recorded lectures and pre-planned assignments, public universities are lagging behind. Most public university students are facing session jams, as final exams are being postponed.
"Session jams are frustrating, to say the least. Many of my friends in private universities are graduating and getting jobs after finishing their courses online, which is yet to be implied in public universities. We need an online assessment system in public universities," shares Arsia Tabassum Kabbya, a fourth-year undergraduate student at Dhaka University.
Mental health issues, as well as back pain, obesity and headaches among other illnesses, are on the rise, for both students and teachers.
"Spending long hours in front of screens causes permanent neural changes in young kids, which leads to an addiction to electronic devices, and stifles their capability to judge between right and wrong," says Dr Mahjabeen Haque, Director, Student Counselling and Guidance Office, Dhaka University.
Sizan Ahmed Jim, a master's student at Dhaka University, states that many of his classmates who have no WiFi facilities at home, resort to cellular data to attend online classes, or go to nearby cafes or shops that provide Internet access. However, they are unable to attend classes regularly. "The teachers usually instruct them to collect class notes afterwards, but the university authority never helps these students with logistical support," he adds. As a consequence, many of these students were forced to drop semesters altogether.
"To be honest, most of the online classes are not helping at all. It is nearly impossible to understand critical topics, without in-person interactions," shares Zawad Zarir Pasha, a student of Adamjee Cantonment College, Dhaka. Similarly, Mahinoor Ekram, a first-year undergraduate student of North South University, shares that her mental health has been in shambles because of online classes, and she feels that she is not really learning anything anymore.
"In our country, we must come up with a smoother version of online classes, with more ways to involve the students, and making the system more interactive," concludes Mohammad Ali, Assistant Professor, Bangladesh University of Professionals.