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Learning in the time of Covid-19

For the last six months, the entire world has struggled to deal with the impacts of the Covid-19 epidemic. Responses have ranged from extremely successful to downright dismal. Although the case load in Myanmar has never been too high, a globalised economy means that no one lives in an economic vacuum – the ripple effects of a distant event are felt everywhere.

The government in Myanmar proactively closed down business establishments, schools, universities, etc. in March to halt the spread of the disease. When the Ministry of Education (MoE) advised all universities to stop regular classes, MIIT was in the process of conducting its final evaluation for 2019-20 I Semester. A few exams remained to be conducted when MIIT closed indefinitely on March 23, 2020. Reacting quickly and productively, the MIIT administration decided to lead the response to Covid-19 in the education sector and sought permission from MoE to conduct its classes online.

MIIT got the necessary approval from MoE and successfully conducted the regular, prescribed courses of Special Term 2019-20 online from May 11 to June 10, 2020. Synchronous learning was achieved through live online classes using the Zoom platform, while asynchronous learning was achieved through the MIIT Learning Management System (LMS). Prior to starting the classes, extensive technical support was provided to all instructors and students through comprehensive online sessions.

Online learning does not imply that corners are cut.”

Online learning does not imply that corners are cut. Instead, MIIT focused on implementing solutions to challenges posed by the epidemic. The administration negotiated with telecom providers to provide hugely discounted internet rates to students. A well-equipped data center and trained personnel meant that not a single class or lecture was cancelled on account of technical difficulties. Quizzes and assignments were conducted as they would have been on campus. All learning material was uploaded to the MIIT LMS so that students could access it at their convenience, thereby making the learning process richer.

Another feather in our cap were the final exams for Special Term 2019-20. The final evaluation component for each course was conducted online, using a remote proctoring solution. Students took the exam from the comfort and safety of their homes. The platform used artificial intelligence to flag suspicious activity or cheating. As a failsafe, all exams were also remotely proctored by MIIT faculty using a live video feed from the student’s webcam and real time screen capture. Moreover, all these measures were implemented while taking all precautions and maintaining proper social distancing in one of the state-of-the-art programming labs at MIIT.

‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’. So goes the adage. In times of global unrest, anxiety, and disruption, we need leaders who chart new trajectories and do so by setting an example. MIIT is proud to be the first and only university in Myanmar to have conducted prescribed courses of a regular semester online. We hope to continue focusing on the challenges of higher education in Myanmar. Our goal is quite simple – to live up to our motto: “Transforming Education. Enriching Lives.”