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AUAF Hosts an E-learning Conference- Challenges and Benefits of Online Teaching

On August 2nd, 2015, American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) hosted a conference on online education in Afghanistan in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Education Advisor of President Ghani and the Ministry of Higher Education. The conference was held at International Center for Women’s Economic Development of the University  and attended by distinguished guests including Dr. Farida Momand;  Minister of Higher Education, Deputy Minister Mohammad Osman Baburi, Deputy Minister of Higher Education; Dr. Mohammad Qayomi, President Ghani’s Chief Education Advisor; Dr. Mariam Qudrat, AUAF Trustee and California State University  Long Beach Professor; Lisa Roegner, online education specialists, as well as several governmental and non-governmental officials.

The event commenced with the recitation of the Holy Quran followed by the welcoming remarks by the President of the University Dr. Mark A. English; “We are all here today because we believe in the future of Afghanistan and in the continued development of its educational infrastructure. It is my hope that we can all come away with a better understanding of not only the challenges but also the exciting opportunities and the intrinsic value of E-Learning in today’s higher educational environment.”

Speaking at the conference Dr. Farida Momand, the Minister of Higher Education, expressed her gratitude to AUAF and Dr. Qayomi for hosting and initiating the conference respectively.  She also outlined the importance of online education in Afghanistan and new strategies that can bring positive changes to the higher education sector.

“Online education should not be limited to universities in Kabul, but should reach to all provinces and districts,” said Minister Momand.”I am confident that I will bring these changes to the Ministry of Higher Education, though it will take time.”

Following the Minister’s speech, Deputy Minister Baburi presented on the challenges and obstacles online education faces in Afghanistan. He gave an overview of the current higher education system and its development since 2002. Deputy Minister Baburi shed light on the two stages of National Higher Education Strategic Plan (NHESP) and said “The basis for a realistic and quality higher education system has been built. We have made substantial progress but also need to recognize that we have a long way to go ahead.”

While talking about the benefits of online teaching in universities across Afghanistan, Dr. Qayomi also pointed out the challenges such as funding, relevance, urbanization, globalization, millennial generation, prevalent culture, and technology that tertiary education must overcome before online teaching can be implemented in Afghanistan.

AUAF Trustees Dr. Mariam Qudrat and Lisa Roegner, highlighted the successes of online education in the region and perceptions of distance learning in Afghanistan. Dr. Mariam talked about E-learning in South Asia and different approaches used by neighboring countries; Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Maldives, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, to initiate and implement E-learning.

The second half of the conference started with a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Rebecca Miller; AUAF Director of Library. The panel consisted of Dr. Qayomi, Deputy Minister Baburi, Dr. Qudrat, and Ms. Roegner. The panelist responded to the questions and comments made by the audience.

“I would like to extent my sincere gratitude to the American University of Afghanistan for hosting this great conference. We are building and transforming the system of higher education, and online teaching is one of the crucial issues that was ignored for years,” said Deputy Minister Baburi. “It was a great opportunity as we had experts from United State, Dr. Qayomi and Dr. Qudrat to share their experience and information, and finally we decided to form a working group task force to follow this issue.”

Sharing the draft agreement and timeline of online education implementation with the audience concluded the conference.