Published: 23rd April 2020
UoH conducts survey, finds students don't have access to net, electricity. Drops idea of online classes to students' relief
45 per cent students said they can access internet‘ infrequently’ and 18 percent (about 450 students) said they can’t access it at all, 200 students don't have electricity at their homes
After a survey shows that the majority of students don't have proper access to the internet, the University of Hyderabad has decided not to impose online classes on their students and faculty at this juncture. Many institutions swiftly and efficiently shifted online after the lockdown but many students have complained about having little or no access to the internet and have raised their issues to their colleges too.
UoH decided to conduct a survey to determine what their students really need. "A team led by Prof Vinod Pavarala and Prof Vasuki Belavadi at the Department of Communication at the University of Hyderabad designed and administered an online survey among the student population to elicit information about access to the Internet and their views on online classes. About 2500 students responded to the survey, making it perhaps the largest such surveys conducted in-house by any Indian university," a release by the University said. They also pointed out that the results of the survey could easily reflect the conditions in the rest of the country and could be something that the state and Centre could take into consideration as well.
According to the survey, close to 90 per cent of all students said that they have a mobile phone, only about half mentioned that they have access to a laptop. "About 90 percent of students also said that they access the internet at least some time, with about three-quarters of them doing so by using their mobile data packages, with the rest using WiFi or fixed internet lines. When asked if they would be able to access the classes online if the University opted for them, about 37 percent of the students answered with an emphatic ‘yes’, while 45 percent said they would be able to do so ‘infrequently’ and 18 percent (about 450 students) said they can’t access at all," the University said.
Another interesting fact that the survey has found and that their campuses have also overlooked is that there are a significant amount of students who don't even have an electricity supply, "Among the concerns expressed by the students about accessing online classes, ‘reliable connectivity’ (40 percent) and ‘cost of data connection’ (30 percent) were the most significant, while at least 200 students also cited ‘unreliable electricity supply’, suggesting rural residences of a number of UoH students."
A student from the University told the surveyors that since she's residing in a rural area, online classes are a hassle, "In this lockdown situation, attending online class is difficult for me, because I am living in a village which doesn't have a proper network and has electricity problem. Reading PowerPoint presentations, documents and writing assignments on the mobile phone are also very difficult.”
The survey also found that 90 percent of the student population who did have favourable conditions still prefered pre-recorded classes over live ones. "Many students who had laboratory or studio-based courses expressed their apprehensions about how online instruction could substitute for face-to-face on-site practice," the University said.
The other problems that students pointed out that other student groups, unions and councils have also raised are that students could be having mental health issues, living in small, cramped places and the anomalies it could create because students come from different social backgrounds.
Taking these into consideration the University has decided that it was important to understand that they cater to a heterogeneous student population. "Given the issues of uneven access and levels of comfort with online classes, the University made a policy decision not to impose it on the students and faculty at this juncture. It left it to individual faculty members to use online communication to reach out to students and provide supplementary reading material and offer other kinds of academic support. The University took the decision not to include any online inputs as part of the syllabus for exams and also directed its faculty not to put any added pressure on students by giving assignments and projects with strict deadlines," the authorities have said.
However, they have not dismissed incorporating e-learning in the future, but at a time when faculty and students are prepared for it. Till then, they would devote their time to coming up with plans to complete the ongoing semester and conducting entrance exams.