Oman Observer

Salalah: There is a move from the colleges in the Sultanate to shift to the virtual classroom following the government’s decision to suspend classes in the colleges as a protective measure against novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The authorities concerned are holding brainstorming meetings over the course modules, platforms and applications to be used to impart the lessons online. While they are discussing the pros and cons of the ‘online classes’, they are firm at the same time not to waste and implement it as soon as possible.

Sources in the Ministry of Higher Education said all the six Applied Science colleges are working on how to switch to online classes to make up with the course before the semester examinations, which are due in the month of May. The online classes are likely to start very soon.

Dr Bakhit al Mahri, Dean Salalah College of Applied Sciences, said the colleges already have ‘Blackboard Learning System’ which is aimed at providing the students and staff the best possible e-learning solutions.

“We have planned to use this platform where the academics can upload lessons and the students can interact. They can ask their doubts and stay in touch with the faculties for all their study requirements,” Al Mahri said.

Commenting further on the readiness for online classes, Al Mahri said the role of Programme Directors in coordinating online classes would be vital, while the Deans and Assistant Deans would be playing important role at the college level in terms of supervision and delivery.

He appreciated the readiness of the academic and administrative staff members in taking up the challenge of online classes, which will be a good learning opportunity for the staff members and the students to explore new ways of teaching/ learning process.

“This readiness will give the system strength to be prepared for any such situation in future as well,” he said.

“This is not a good idea to leave the students idle at home after face-to face classes have been suspended. They not only get bored at home, there are chances of them becoming disoriented from the studies at a time when the examinations are due,” he said.

The Blackboard Learning System, which is part of the colleges’ day-to-day learning system, has come handy for a situation like this and make pace with the global demand for distance learning in critical situations.

A senior faculty member of Salalah College of Applied Science said, “We are planning maximum optimisation of the Blackboard system, which is equipped with discussion board, audio-video sharing facility and a platform where academic and administrative staff members can be in touch with the students.

He reiterated the Ministry of Higher Education’s resolve that there should not be any obstruction in the education system and emphasised on the fact that the ministry and the colleges are in tune with adopting the online class system as soon as possible.