To e-learn or not to e-learn in Pakistan

Pakistan is a developing, multiethnic and multilingual country and has become the second largest economy in South Asia with a total population of approximately 167 millions. Pakistan has long list of colleges and universities across the country but still the literacy rate of the country is low compared to the other countries within the region. Distance learning is another way to learn and provide the facilities to the students who can’t attend the college or university based on their personal circumstance. In the recent years, the both government and people have realized the importance of the ICT and believe that these technologies have tremendous potential in the country. The trends towards ICT education has been increased in the young generation.

The distance learning or e-learning in Pakistan is not a new phenomenon and there are many colleges and universities are providing the e-learning based courses to the students. For example, Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) was the first of its kind to offer distance learning and later broadcasting courses on the TV. Moreover, in 2002 another university was set up (named Virtual University) to meet existing demand in the country. The Virtual University introduced a number of e-learning techniques into the country and offered both e-learning and blended learning to the students. In short, there are many projects and plans going on to improve the education quality and standards. There are many colleges and universities started or planning to join the e-learning arena and will offer to provide an e-learning based courses. There are still many problems which are hindering in the development of the e-learning and uplifting the education quality and standards.

I will try to write a series posts to highlight the number of main problems associated with the e-learning and to identify the key elements which hindering in the development of e-learning in Pakistan.

ICT Infrastructure

The infrastructure is one of the key problems in the development of e-learning in the country. Since 1996, Internet service providers companies are in operation and they had just covered only 29 cities of the country by mid 2000 with 0.1 million internet subscribers. But today, there are more than 200 internet service providers and providing services in more than 1800 town and cities. But most of them are providing only dial-up services to its subscriber. According to the Internet World Stats, only 7.2 percent of the total population used internet. A large number of populations can’t afford or don’t have access to the internet and can’t buy personal computer and subscribe with the internet service provider due to their low incomes. From the last 5 years, the growth of Internet café’s increased massively in both urban and rural areas. These internet café’s provide a cost effective, easy and convenient access to the Internet.

From 2004, the government have had paid its intention towards this industry and invest a large sum to improve the current ICT infrastructure. Both local and foreigner investor flowed their investment in this industry. This investment resulted to increase massively for both cellular and Internet subscribers. But when it comes to the high speed internet like DSL or broadband then there are not many subscribers for these internet services. The DSL and broadband is available only in selected cities so still a large part of the country is not able to access high speed internet. According to the PTA, there are nearly one million subscribers for broadband internet in the country and these subscribers are twice compared to the last year.

There is still a need more resources and money to improve the overall infrastructure which provide the high speed internet and will manage the massive growth of the internet subscriber. During the data gathering from the students, they were more concerning about the speed and availability of the internet.

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