Most university students find it comfortable to study online as it allows for better flexibility and easy access to lessons that they can understand. However, there are some students who are facing challenges to learn online.
A second year student from the Paro College, Laxmi Dhimal, said learning through Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) was convenient as the college provided the students with strong Internet connection. Due to the closure of the institution, Laxmi is back at home in Tsirang, and has a difficult time coping with the online classes due to the unstable Internet connection in her village.
She said the slow Internet causes her miss out on important online discussions and teaching. She said that connecting her laptop to the Internet through hotspot is slow, but the data consumption is very high.
Another college student under the Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) who is also a class representative said there are many problems being faced by the students. The class representative said the views of the students to be heard even if it may seem like a small issues to those in position to help.
One of the problems that the students face is the high data consumption, which makes online classes expensive. Instead of spending the money to buy basic household necessities, it has to be spent on topping up the Internet data.
Another issue faced by the students is the mandatory attendance for the online classes. The heavy Internet traffic that leads to disruption in network connection causes them to miss out on giving and receiving vital information.
Some of the students who are back in their villages with their families say it is hard to stay home and study while their old parents are laboring away in the fields under scorching heat.
“For those students who are in their villages, the heavy assignment load and helping their families in the farms, puts too much a burden on the students,” said class representative. The students have to compromise on their studies as they are now taking the responsibilities to ensure their families have enough food secured during such crisis.
The students who are looked after by the guardians have to do all the chores to compensate for the free accommodation and food. There are also some students who live in toxic home environment that is not conducive to learning.
The class representative said that the online classes have reduced from four classes to just one class per week per module, which compromises the quality of education. There are students who need special attention while learning and they are now finding it difficult to understand the lessons via e-Learning. Also e-Learning is a new program and everything is new to the students, therefore, students may not be able to perform well, he added.
“Our brain is trained for classroom education and online classes feels very inconvenient,” said the class representative.
There are also issues with not having a continuous supply of electricity in some places as the summer season is near.
A final year student of RUB said that it is very difficult for him to learn through online classes. He said the data charges are too high and for one class, he needs at least 600 to 700 mb. He said he is hesitant to ask his parents to recharge for him everyday. “Almost all the shops are closed and I can’t even recharge the data pack as I can’t afford recharging in bulk,” he said.
Being a self-funded student makes it difficult for him to study through online classes. Earlier the college said the students would be provided with mobile data top-ups for self-financed students, but he has not received the free top-ups, as of now.
A second year student in Gedu College shared going through similar challenges, like high data consumption and interruption in between due to high users. Besides, she said e-Learning from home is completely different.
“It is very difficult to focus entirely on studies when I also have to do some household chores because it is quite awkward not to help my parents,” she said.
A student of College of Science and Technology (CST) said the online classes are more flexible and it is easily accessible. The biggest challenge is the poor Internet connection that hampers the interactive aspect of the learning process.
“As a science student, TSM (engineering mechanics) and engineering mathematics has become difficult to cope up with. There are too many distraction and critical thinking is reduced as well as the quality of instruction,” she added.
Meanwhile, RUB provides the students with a monthly stipend of Nu 2,500 for data recharge and Royal Thimphu College (RTC) has also rolled out mobile data top-ups for all their students.
Royal Education Council has also published textbooks, teacher’s guides and other teaching and learning in soft copies for classes PP to 12. The copies can be downloaded from their website. The soft copies are purposely provided to facilitate teachers and parents to support learning of the children during the pandemic. However, a few textbooks such as Science for classes 11 and 12 are not available for download due to copyright concerns.