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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Online learning in Pakistan by Muhammad Hamid Zaman

Muhammad Hamid Zaman
Muhammad Hamid Zaman summarizes, "The cover story of the November 12 Forbes issue will be about Salman Khan. No, not the one that most Pakistanis are familiar with. This is not the action-oozing heart-throb from Bollywood but the founder of the Khan Academy, a quieter but more effective hero."

The Khan Academy provides free, easy to understand ‘micro-tutorials’ to anyone in diverse topics, ranging from cosmology to art history, mathematics to healthcare. Over the last six years, the Khan Academy has made a tremendous impact, reaching 190 million viewers of its lectures. Among the viewers is Bill Gates, who often quotes Khan and talks about how he uses these lectures to teach himself and his children key concepts in science, arts and mathematics.

First, Pakistani students and non-students, academics and non-academics, can all benefit from quality, free and accessible education. The Khan Academy provides easy-to-understand tutorials on topics of fundamental and applied knowledge in a variety of areas. Conspiracy theorists and water-car supporters can all benefit from some general understanding of thermodynamics.

Same can be said about students who may wish to take a course offered by EdX. Yet, there is also a catch. It is important to realise that online learning can certainly complement but not substitute higher education in Pakistan. The instructors may not realise the training of our students; there are language barriers and certainly, most courses do not incorporate the local cultural, environmental and social context. This may not be relevant in theoretical physics but advanced topics in a variety of disciplines, including public health, agricultural sciences, economics and certainly, policy and humanities need to keep context in mind.

The tendency to jump on the online learning bandwagon without analysis of the content of the course would be counterproductive to say the least and can be disastrous for our already struggling higher education sector.

Source: The Express Tribune