Ever since countries all over the world have gone into lockdowns due to COVID-19, educational institutes have been no exception. Students and teachers have come across the perennial struggles of having access to uninterrupted and seamless quality of internet connection. To this universal problem, Pakistan has been no exception. Students and teachers across the hierarchy of educational backgrounds have found themselves in the eye of a near meltdown of internet bandwidth in many places. This state of affairs is adversely pitting academic institutions, tutors and students in a race against time. At the same time, it is compromising on student’s much desired academic progress. However, universities and schools can adopt smart solutions to overcome the disruptive distress of adopting the online mode of communication.

First, university administrations in Pakistan do not need to let all teaching staff be on virtual video-conference applications to conduct virtual classes with a dozen or more students. As the number of users in a single video-chat increase over ten or more participants, the quality of internet connection is likely to get hampered. That one route is surely going to frustrate students, teachers and administrations alike on assuming that online-education is impractical. Instead, university staff can move to adopt already available and free off-the-shelf solutions. Universities can quickly reduce some of the burden on their existing staff members by directing their students to make use of the available repository of teaching content available on YouTube. They may not need to look far away. The Virtual University of Pakistan has an almost rich source of course material of about 338 courses on YouTube. One must admit that they do not account for all academic programmes universities may teach. However, for a relative margin, they alleviate pressure on universities to account for all course instruction. For some courses, whose lectures may not be available on VU’s YouTube channels, universities may consider requesting their respective course instructors to upload their teaching instruction on a single channel belonging to the university over YouTube. One tip that teachers can follow is that by keeping their videos short, precise, and clear to the concept by offering some metaphors, they can help retain the attention and focus of students. Also, by uploading some PowerPoint presentations below their videos along with one reading material (if need be), they can help ease the pain of the students in revisiting concepts. Universities may also consider using MIT’s Courseware or using Coursera like platforms, if need be. Universities can also engage in an agreement with Virtual University and seek their handouts to distribute among their students.

Second, in order to conduct exams, universities may consider using online Exam Software which may help alleviate the challenge of conducting online exam. This will prevent universities in facing delays in its annual academic calendar.

Third, schools and universities can use free services and platforms to create rooms and discussion boards to undertake lesson-based discussion. Google classroom is certainly one such platform which can come to teachers’ aid among many similar platforms. Moreover, by using email service or generally having standard FAQs for a certain lesson, the instructors can address queries of students. Staying available or online in course-based groups can reduce pressure for students and teachers from missing out on completion of deadlines.

Fourth, it is important that instructors continue to give some form of assignments to their students which can keep their students engaged in academic activities. Certainly, the use of plagiarism software can ensure fair play from students and can help keep in check violation of ethical code.

Next, the most important bit is the need to undertake a behavioural change on part of the teachers, students and parents. This bit is about ensuring that students and teachers, while, staying and working at home have the essential private space to complete pending academic commitments. What needs to be realised is that the ongoing lockdown is not a stay-at-home vacation. It is as much a time to find one’s self-space, while ensuring that our pending professional commitments remain connected by harnessing technology and internet. Families need to ensure that distractions remain controlled to a minimum by ensuring a quality environment. This ensures that the wellbeing and the much-needed discipline remain intact on behalf of both teachers and students to complete their assignments.

Perhaps the most important bit which is closely related to online education is that it can have a psychological fallout of making students feeling excluded and secluded. Students may feel that they’re lacking discipline and perhaps being below par, which could trigger anxiety. To beat this sense of frustration and lack of self-efficacy students require self-assurance and a reminder that they are not alone in this and will be able to come out knowing as much as other peers. Second and most importantly is that families and friends need to come closer for students to provide them with needed psycho-social and knowledge-based support. This will ensure that students are able to have a fulfilling academic experience through online education and by being at home during this novel time. As a former graduate of an online university and a frequent online-education beneficiary, the experience of online-education is second to none for all the right reasons, provided that there is drive, determination and devotion on part of the learner to keep learning and staying committed to time-bound goals.