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The Graduate Students Association of Ghana (GRASAG) chapter of the University of Professional Studies (UPSA) has called on the management of the school to review its e-learning policy in the wake of the COVID-19 induced shut down of schools.
President Nana Akufo-Addo directed schools in the country to shut down effective Monday, March 16, 2020, to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.
The Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service were instructed to roll out and supervise various e-learning platforms for the academic society.
However, there seems to be a disjointed effort by universities and designated ministries to build a more streamlined e-learning system for students.
We understand that the management of UPSA immediately introduced an e-learning platform for students so academic activities are not delayed unduly.
After the directive, UPSA migrated all academic activities including Internal Assessments, tests and lecturing onto its e-learning platform but only students who had paid their fees in full were to be given access to the platform.
GRASAG has thus called on management to take a second look at some of the policies around the e-learning platform.
GRASAG among other things called on management UPSA to grant all students free access to the e-platform.
“We are calling on management to grant access to all students to use the e-Learning platform for their Interim Assessment (IA) and assignments and exempting unregistered students only during the examination period. We do not expect anything different as this has been the norm especially at this crucial time of our lives.”
The group is also calling for the review of autopilot penalty increment on late school fee payment.
“Many people are not working because their job descriptions demand an on-field presence. Feeding the family and keeping the body and soul together in these times have become very difficult. The mass distribution of food items by student leaders, the clergy, organizations, and the government is a clear justification of this point. Management should reconsider the overelaborate increase in penalties for students who for obvious reasons have not met the fee payment deadline.”
“At most, the increment should be reasonable and fixed over some time, as we strive to pay within set deadlines, the GRASAG leadership has proposed a GHC50.00 fixed penalty during the school closure and we support this position.”
In a related development, some undergraduate students of UPSA made a similar demand on the management to review some of the e-learning policies which they claim is “harsh”
Find Below the full press release
A group of concerned students led by Mr. Mark Elorm Numado calls on UPSA management to review its eLearning Platform policy and provide data to students to ease pressure
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghana has not been spared. This led to the president’s directive on the 15th of March, 2020 for the closure of all schools until further notice. As part of directives, the Ministry of Information and the Ghana Education Service was instructed to roll out and supervise various e-learning platforms for the academic society. However, there seems to be a disjointed effort by universities and designated ministries to build a more streamlined e-learning system for students.
UPSA management in its efforts to ensure uninterrupted teaching and learning, quickly migrated students to an e-learning platform – join.upsavirtual.site, and also activated students’ e-mails which I must say is a proactive leadership style exhibited by management to ensure smooth learning activities.
I have taken the time to interact with my postgraduate colleagues and seniors on the challenges these eLearning platforms pose to both lecturers and students. The most pertinent amongst them is the inaccessibility of the e-learning platform by students who have not yet registered for the semester. This has deprived them of their basic learning right and possibly missing out on assignments and interim assessments being conducted on the platform. This contradicts the school’s modus operandi which allows all students to attend lectures and participate in all assignments and interim assessments which accounts for 40% of their end of semester assessment. If penalties are still being imposed for late registration, why then are they not given access to the e-learning platform?
Complaints of students have also indicated that different meeting apps are being deployed by the lecturers. Some also have to result in the use of WhatsApp platforms due to the difficulty of navigating the meeting apps. There has equally been no guide for students to follow. All these make teaching and learning difficult.
Learning on the e-learning platform is costly as students spend a lot of money on data. This challenge has also been identified by the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) in the Food and Goods Initiative.
Colleagues, the situation looks endless until we decide to stand together in these trying times. The university will continue using these platforms as a result of the extension of school closure due to the over 300 reported cases currently in the country. This has necessitated a clarion call on management by myself and a team of dedicated students to offer some suggested solutions that we believe will curb the current challenges as silence means betrayal! I must say that these are not normal times for anyone and any organization. Therefore we must all collaborate our efforts in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some suggestions to manage the situation include;
Grant all students free access to the e-platforms:
We are calling on management to grant access to all students to use the eLearning platform for their Interim Assessment (IA) and assignments and exempting unregistered students only during the examination period. We do not expect anything different as this has been the norm especially at this crucial time of our lives.
Review of autopilot penalty increment on late School fee payment:
Many people are not working because their job descriptions demand an on-field presence. Feeding the family and keeping the body and soul together in these times have become very difficult. The mass distribution of food items by student leaders, the clergy, organizations, and the government is a clear justification of this point.
Management should reconsider the overelaborate increase in penalties for students who for obvious reasons have not met the fee payment deadline. At most, the increment should be reasonable and fixed over some time, as we strive to pay within set deadlines. The GRASAG leadership has proposed a GHC50.00 fixed penalty during the school closure and we support this position.
A digital repository for lectures and lecture slides:
For comprehension during lecturing, the school should create media platforms like YouTube channels, e-drives, etc. and make available pre-recorded lecture sessions, notes and workshops, by uploading them on these platforms. By so doing, students will have instant and later access to these materials even for those who are yet to have access to online presence.
CSR towards students due to user-facility fees:
On the subject of high consumption rate of bundles during online lectures, I suggest management creates an Adhoc committee to discuss ways of allocating some bundle to postgraduate students as being done in other universities and jurisdictions like UG, KNUST, and NUGS. In these cases cited, a system of verification is established to avoid waste: students are required to submit their student ID numbers before they’re attended to.
Management must show concern about the bundle challenges students are facing in these times. More so, students are not on campus to enjoy the user-facility fees paid for. Online lectures organized by lecturers for 3 credit hour courses do not last for 3 hours. These apps such as Zoom and others consume a lot of data of which the partnership with Vodafone to access join.upsavirtual.site for free does not extend to. It does not cover the most critical aspects of online learning which are the video conferencing apps being used.
As students, we should show management we are capable of taking our destiny into our own hands and their failure to act may rather be a time bomb. Hence, I also want to call on the Graduate Students Association of Ghana (GRASAG) UPSA chapter leadership to allocate some amount of data to students from their paid SRC dues.
We are equally calling on Management to take student leaders seriously and the best way of ensuring this is for them to see GRASAG leadership as not an antagonist to the wellbeing of the school and students in general but rather trusted partners to school development.
An intervention from the Ministry of Education, Student Unions (NUGS and GRASAG) we believe, would salvage the situation. I must also urge all postgraduate students not to relent in their efforts until we see results.