Fiji National University (FNU) is in discussions with the Tertiary Scholarship and Loans Board (TSLB) to purchase laptops for students using the Tertiary Education Loans Scheme (TELS) book allowance in an effort to bridge the digital divide faced by some of its students.
FNU Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor James Pounder said while students have access to smart devices which allow them to view the content on the online learning platforms, some do not have laptops or tablets which can enable them to actively participate, which places them at a disadvantage.
Professor Pounder said to ensure students have access to devices that aid their studies, they have commenced discussions with TSLB to address this issue.
“While students are continuing their studies online, we are aware some students are at a disadvantage as they don’t have the resources or the finances to purchase or borrow these devices to continue learning online. One of the ways we can address this is using the book allowance given to students to procure laptops as most of our textbooks are available electronically through our libraries. FNU has been, for the past couple of years, converting our libraries from the traditional physical spaces to an online learning space and this is an opportune time to assist students in this transition.” said Professor Pounder.
“These are unprecedented times which require innovative thinking to ensure that none of our students get left behind through no fault of theirs while we continue learning and teaching through alternative means at FNU. While approximately 80% of our students have access to digital devices, we hope that this initiative will assist those who find themselves disadvantaged,” added Professor Pounder.
According to AVC Pounder, a decision on this is expected to be made soon.
FNU resumed studies via the online mode on Monday 20 April.
The transition to online learning mode is in adherence with the Government’s directives on physical distancing, social gathering and curfew restrictions regarding the COVID19 crisis.
FNU students have the facility to continue their studies and access teaching materials through Moodle from the safety of their homes and the laptop initiative is seen as a means of ensuring that no-one is left behind as FNU moves from the totally online to the blended learning mode when restrictions are lifted.
The University also has an agreement with Vodafone and Digicel which allows its users to access the FNU website and Moodle platform free of charge. This means the students do not need data to view FNU online pages. Students who face issues accessing these online services are encouraged to contact their course coordinators for further guidance.
The University continuously provides students with support in terms of tips and simple training courses to enhance their online learning, and counselling services are available through phone or email should students face other issues affecting their studies.
“As the country’s national university, our main priority is to ensure that we are able to provide access to education for all our students, despite the challenging situation we find ourselves in and I want to assure all students that we are fully committed to ensuring that the quality of our programmes and their delivery are not compromised. Students can rest assured that anyone facing any major difficulty will be assisted and are encouraged to contact their College,” said Professor Pounder.