Virtual Education can be defined as instruction in a learning environment where the teacher provides course content through course management applications, multimedia resources, the internet and video conferencing (Wikepedia 2011).
Triggered by the abysmal state of education in Pakistan, a small group of motivated individuals in Lahore decided to utilize virtual education as a way of addressing the teacher shortage in Pakistan as well as tapping into the experience of veteran teachers. VEFA aims to ‘generate educational resources to help make up for deficiencies in the schooling system’.
VEFA’s model is currently centered on approaching experienced teachers and getting their lectures on primary school subjects recorded through the Camtasia Studio software. Each lecture will cover a topic or part of a topic of the national curriculum and will be for a maximum duration of 20 minutes. The lectures will then be uploaded and made available online. Once the series of lecture is complete for classes I to 8, VEFA will play the lectures at Virtual Weekend Academies at select locations throughout Pakistan free of cost. The VEFA team is currently working on their first pilot in Lahore. During a Q&A with the TC-P team, VEFA founder Memoona Sajjad expressed great hopes for the project:
VEFA’s first MIRAS weekend academy is all set to be launched in July 2011 at Lahore inshallah. This pilot project shall be the first venture of its kind and the progress of our first batch of students will be monitored to assess the success of this work. We hope participating students will gain not only textbook knowledge but will develop a deeper awareness of relevant issues. VEFA aspires to develop among students a sound grasp over concepts, values and the application in the wider world, of the knowledge imparted to them.
VEFA’s target audience are students of grade 1 to 5 studying at public schools in rural or urban areas in Punjab. Their lectures are currently focused on Math and English however, VEFA is considering developing lectures on ethics and Iqbaliyat.
At the moment VEFA is mostly in its production stage. They hope to cover all topics from classes 1 to 5 by January 2012. However they have also identified two in-need schools in Lahore who have agreed to host VEFA lectures on weekends. Further Memoona is confident that online viewership for VEFA lectures will increase dramatically and they will reach their target audience of at least a thousand school children in five years.
The steadily growing use of technology in the field of education is definitely exciting. Just recently a TC-P commentator Muhammad Ansari informed us of a group of students in Karachi using video call technology to teach students about unconventional subjects in order to develop critical thinking. Projects such as these set an important precedent for public and private school teachers. It will be great if the Ministry of Education begins to pick on these trends and get public school administrators to start thinking on more innovative lines.
If you are interested in VEFA’s work, they are currently recruiting teachers and volunteers. For further information, please visit their website.