By: Zoha Fareed Chishti
“I was home in the middle of the semester. I was quick to realize this was not a comfortable set-up for classes.” – Wardah Noor ‘23
As the university admin geared up to take the classes online during the spring of 2020, it soon became clear that not every student was equipped with the necessary resources required to adapt to this change.
Wardah Noor ‘23 from Layyah, Punjab, found herself facing a mountain of problems. Her working space had to be crafted out of the family living room- which was perpetually occupied by other members of the family. “When you are at home, there is no concept of privacy- your classes mix with all that is happening at home,” she told The Post. Since Noor lives in a joint-family system, she was always surrounded by people, rarely finding the peace and quiet required to attend classes. On top of that, Noor had to deal with the incessant power cuts and the abysmal internet connection, adding to the hurdles disrupting her learning process.
For Muhammad Bilal Shahid ‘23, from Lahore, Punjab, the shift to online classes was not particularly troubling. He found his post-Covid schedule aligning with his usual study routine of self-learning. The only real challenge he found himself facing was the limited human interaction. Shahid said, “I believe your peers teach you more than your instructors and having that resource limited was a big challenge.” Although his internet connection remained generally satisfactory, Shahid dealt with the anxiety of his connection becoming unresponsive during quizzes or exams.
When the semester shifted online, Nimra Tariq ‘22 from Rawalakot, Azaad Jammu-Kashmir, adamantly tried to keep up with her classes. Her biggest challenge proved to be the limited access to the internet. She told The Post, ”I did not even create a proper study space for myself, I just studied in the places where the internet worked better.” Being unable to attend the zoom sessions with the rest of her peers, she felt she was constantly at a disadvantage. With the lack of real-time engagement with her instructors and denied opportunities for class participation, Tariq felt a void forming in her learning process.
Similarly, Mumtaz Khan ‘22, hailing from Quetta, Balochistan struggled with taking classes online. He told the Post, “I was juggling between my responsibilities at home and the workload of my 4 courses. The Internet and electricity were another issue altogether. We were facing load-shedding and Wi-Fi fluctuations every day.” Khan also struggled with creating an isolated working space for himself. He explained, “For the past 2 years, options like Library, IST, dorm room, DRs were available at our discretion. The drastic and sudden difference was difficult to adjust to (and still continues to be).”
In Lahore, Punjab, Manaal Mohsin ‘23 had set up her study space in her dining room. “I wouldn’t say the space was conducive to learning,” Mohsin told The Post when asked about her study-space, “There were a lot of distractions, a lot of noise. My brother had his classes and my mother would also be working from home so this caused a lot of disruption in the WiFi.” With so many distractions and connectivity issues, Mohsin found it challenging to focus on her study material.
Karim Ahmad ‘22 from Gilgit City, Gilgit-Baltistan, too had to fight against the odds to learn online. He told the Post that an unstable connection had obstructed his learning process to a great extent. Ahmad said, “As most of the components were writing and research based, it normally took minutes or even, in some situations, hours to load a single google site.” Ahmad explained that for most students in Gilgit-Baltistan, load-shedding and connectivity issues were a huge obstacle. Some of his friends had to move to other cities to access online learning. He said, “I used to wait for hours to get my electronic devices recharged. I had to wait for a stable connection (which sometimes only became available after midnight) and missed the deadlines.”
With much of its student body directly affected by these shortcomings, the LUMS administration has been arguably mindful of the challenges attached with online learning. During the initial transition phases, several surveys were carried out by the instructors and the administration alike, to ensure that the learning material reached most students.
The administration has distributed internet devices with free data (75gb/month) to the students on full financial aid. However, the problems persist. For Tariq ‘22, the free internet device did little to help her case considering there is no bandwidth internet connection in her hometown, Rawalakot.
Similarly, Noor ‘22 has concerns about the upcoming fall semester. Talking to The Post, she said, “For the 2020 fall semester, LUMS must draw policies for areas with limited access to electricity and internet in order to ensure that all students can participate in remote-learning equally.”
The LUMS campus has always been described as a bubble- the student body is diverse but equal. On-campus classes allowed the students similar access to resources; perhaps crafting a space conducive to learning for all. It took a global pandemic to undo this façade of equality otherwise projected on campus grounds. The shift to online semesters has unveiled the disparity within the LUMS student body.
An email from the Vice Chancellor, officially announcing that the fall semester would be conducted online, has further raised the concerns of the students.
Looking ahead, for students living in environments that are not conducive to learning, a particularly challenging semester awaits.