Like other public universities, Dhaka University is likely to experience its previous session jam in the wake of the perennial shutdown centring the coronavirus pandemic.
The university suspended all exams, continuing online classes with very few students’ attendance. A big portion of students can’t join in online classes due to absence of requisite logistics and lack of access to internet. So apparently session jam has become inevitable but the authority is yet to take any decision on how to overcome the academic losses.
Contracted, acting president of DU Teachers Association, Dr. Lutfur Rahman said, "There has been no discussion about the session jam yet. Now we are emphasizing on online classes. However, there is no mention in the university order regarding taking exams via online.”
"The impact of COVID-19 is worldwide. Everyone will fall behind but we may suffer more than developed countries for lack of internet facilities and inequality. But after normalcy, we will start physical classes. Many students do not have devices and internet access to join in ongoing online class, the university and the government are thinking about it. i hope we will be able to overcome the session jam with the cooperation of the university administration and teachers-students, parents and the government," he told The Bangladesh Post.
Former pro-VC Prof Nasreen Ahmed said, “We don’t know when the pandemic will end. We have to think of alternative way to reduce the session jam.”
Dhaka University remained closed till 17 March. As the situation was not improving, government extended the closure till August 6. Even if the leave is not extended after that, the concerned people are thinking that there will be a session jam for a period of 9 months to 1 year. The university completes a semester within six months and offer two semesters in a year. The first semester finals were supposed to be held by June, they are still not in sight.
The university had the experience of keeping all academic activities closed for a couple of months for political unrest. In such cases, the university usually reduced weekly leaves and extra classes were taken to compensate. But now, session jam has become inevitable. The existing semester will be extended till next December. In some cases, new semesters can be started in October-November.
But alternatively, the university also had experience to take exams shortening the syllabi. As such, exams can be taken on what has been taught in the course till March.
UGC member Prof Dil Afroza Begum said, "University can take current semester exam batch by batch separately. For example, exams of first year students will be held separately and after completing it, second year exam will start. There will be maximum two students in a bench. In this way, examinations can be taken separately up to Masters. Students will be picked up on a university bus from home."
Asked how Dhaka university is planning to make up for the lost months, Professor Tanzimuddin Khan said, "As online classes have begun, if we take classes six days a week instead of five, and reduce semester duration to four months, the loss can be covered quickly."
But that depends on taking online assessments for the current semester without any more delay, he said.
He continued the university authority is not thinking about taking assessments at the moment.
Dr Tanzimuddin Khan informed. "It is understandable that students do not want to be stuck in session jam because it might affect their career. But as a public university, we have to ensure everyone's participation in the class. In the online system, it has not yet been possible."
Dhaka University Pro-Vice Chancellor (Administration) Dr. Md. Samad said, "There is a possibility of session jam for the pandemic. No discussion has yet begun on how to overcome this. However, we will adopt a roadmap after discussing with government and other universities to overcome the session jam."
Students have been discussing alternative measures that are conducive to avoiding session jam.
Mohiuddin Mahi, a third-year student at the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, said, "We want online classes to continue for the next two semesters without exams. When situation improves, the exams can take place altogether."
The university authorities are giving more importance to the online classes to deal with the session jam. The administration is considering giving devices to those who are unable to take part in classes for want of devices and financial crises.
A committee has been formed headed by Pro-VC (Education) Prof. Dr. Maksud Kamal to make a report on the formulation of policies centrally for the conduct of online education activities, construction of information technology infrastructure, financial and related matters.
Dhaka University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Md. Akhtaruzzaman said, ‘Educational activities around the world are suffering for Covid-19. We have to accept the reality and move forward in a scientific and planned way. We have many plans to overcome the session jam."