Students to use stipends for internet data

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Following the government’s directives to close all schools and educational institutions including early childhood care and development (ECCD) centres and vocational training institutes from March 18, colleges have started sending students home from March 19.

The faculty members will, however, have to remain in college to prepare and carry out teaching materials for online education.

International students studying in a few colleges are also being sent home as per their parents’ approval.

Royal University of Bhutan’s (RUB) vice-chancellor, Nidup Dorji, said college administration should help and arrange transportation for students home while some parents decided to pick up their children.

He said the faculty members were also asked to keep the students engaged through online education. “However, there are various constraints while conducting online education.”

Nidup Dorji said that although many colleges have virtual learning environment (VLE), it works within the campus, as it was facilitated through dongle. “The biggest challenge is getting access to internet and data affordability.”

He said students would be in different places and it would be challenging to engage all of them since some students would not even have proper internet access on mobile phones.

“Yet, we’ve decided to go ahead with the online education where faculties would upload reading materials, notes and reference materials,” the vice-chancellor said. “We’re not sure how successful it would be, but we’ll try to keep students engaged.”

He added that the current measure is to keep students engaged until the colleges reopen. “If we have to keep colleges closed for more than a month, RUB will have to work out a solution to enhance online education.”

Nidup Dorji said they shared the same concern with the government and sought its intervention to provide access to internet or free internet data from the two telecom companies.

Meanwhile, the vice-chancellor said the university, with approval from the government, has also decided to provide students their monthly stipend. “The students are expected to use it for internet.”

RUB has also decided to send information and communications technology experts to colleges to ensure all necessary arrangements are done or if there is a need for any requirement of additional equipment. “We’re also exploring the possibility of sharing common modules on one platform like broadcast media. We can do this by letting teachers record and then broadcast it.”

There are more than 10,000 students in 10 constituent colleges and two affiliated colleges.