Colleges also come up with their own strategies to cope
Despite many challenges, Sherubtse College in Kanglung, College of Science and Technology (CST) and Gedu Business College and Royal Thimphu College (RTC) are continuing education without much problems. Some students are on campus while some are learning through online classes.
These colleges are all set to be open and take in all the students on campus from January to February if the situations remains normal.
Vice Chancellor of Royal University of Bhutan, Nidup Dorji said if conditions are all fine and remains normal from February next year, then the universities in the country will go back to normal operations, where the colleges will have all the students on campus including day scholars.
But if there are challenges around the virus then the universities might have to adapt to some changes as they have been currently adapting.
Dean of Gedu College Jamyang Tenzin said currently, for second year students, online teaching is going on and the college is planning to conduct their end semester through online. While for first year and final year students they will have face to face examination on campus in January, next year. The reason for not being able to take in second year students on campus is because of limited hostel facilities.
Gedu College, for now, is planning to take in all students on campus next year. For almost six months the students had to take online classes and it was quite challenging in the beginning but now almost all the students are used to along with the lecturers. The only issue is the network issue. The college has been following all the COVID-19 protocols
Right now the maintenance of hostel is going on and it will be completed by end of December this year. So the college is almost ready for next year if college has to take in all the students on campus, said the Dean.
President of Sherubtse College, Tshering Wangdi said since Kanglung was a risk free area, the college was reopened safely amid the pandemic. As far as possible, the college ensured that all the students are wearing face masks and are maintaining social distance and avoiding all the big gatherings such as assembly and other programs. The college has also suspended all the college functions and sports and is going on with only academic teachings. The college is using big classrooms and the class timing is stretched from morning 8 am till 6-7 pm.
CST has already drawn up the calendar till June, 2021 next year knowing that the COVID-19 will prevail. Currently CST is taking up blended teaching learning where students will have online classes and face to face learning as well. The college will take in students on campus on a rotation basis.
Recently final year students have returned back to their hometown. President of CST said before sending them, all the final year students were quarantined in their hostel room for eight days following the COVID-19 protocol. First year and third year students are on campus. CST is using larger classroom and half the capacity unlike in the past.
After the lockdown was lifted, RTC reopened with all the health advisories in place including maintenance of physical distance. All students, faculty and staff are required to put on the mask all the time when they are on campus. To ensure there is required physical distance in classrooms, they have only 3 to 4 days of classes every week for each cohort so that the crowding is reduced and the classes are held in larger classrooms occupying just about 50% of the classroom capacity.
To make up for the required contact hours, classes are held from 9AM-5PM every day. The online mode (using the Virtual Learning Platform), which was effectively implemented in the previous Spring Semester and during the lockdown is also made mandatory for faculty and students so that classroom teaching-learning is complimented and the competency gained in using online platform is upheld and not forgotten.
At this time, teaching is in its last two weeks of classes and College is getting ready for the Semester End Examinations. They will be able to wind up this semester by 17th December.
Dean of RTC, Shiva Raj Bhattarai said all the students from all semesters are attending their face to face classes. As usual about half are boarders, who stay in the campus, and the remaining day scholars commute to the college on their scheduled teaching days.
As of now, unless there is any significant change in the country owing to the pandemic, RTC is scheduled to open in mid-February 2021 and run classes as they are doing currently.
He said RTC is being very cautious and wants to stay prepared for any lockdown situation in future.
For example, they have kept their virtual learning always updated and it is used by all the Tutors and students regularly even when we have face to face classes.
“Similarly, we have asked our Tutors to prepare two sets of question papers for our Mid Term as well as Final Examinations – one that is suitable for invigilated examination and one for the online examination, in case there is a sudden lockdown. We will continue providing refresher training to our staff and faculty in the use of the virtual learning and stay prepared for any such pandemic or any other untoward situation that may occur in future,” said the Dean.
He said the college is consciously archiving and updating the online teaching-learning materials such as eBooks, scanned materials, PPTs, etc., for all the programmes offered at the college which was developed or gathered during this year, for future use.
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