In order not to interrupt education and training due to Covid-19 outbreak, many universities in Vietnam have proactively implemented e-learning methods.
Despite many difficulties and challenges, this is an opportunity for Vietnamese universities to test methods and new subjects for training, optimise resources and improve their capacity and quality to accelerate their integration with the world’s higher education systems. Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Van Phuc granted an interview with Nhan Dan Online Newspaper to talk about distance and e-learning in universities during this time.
Q: Could you tell us how Vietnamese higher education institutions are operating amidst the Covid-19 outbreak?
A: In order to avoid the interruption of training and education amidst Covid-19 outbreak, many higher education institutions have proactively instigated e-learning. Accordingly, they have invested in online training systems; purchased or transfered the LMS (Learning Management System) and learning content management system (LCMS); trained lecturers; and digitalised learning materials. Several institutions have witnessed a high consensus of lecturers for the e-learning method, including Hanoi Open University, Ho Chi Minh City Open University, the University of Science under Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City, Duy Tan University, FPT University and Hanoi National University of Education
The higher education institutions have outlined that this is an opportunity for them to boost the digitalisation of learning materials so that all lecturers, students and management officials can take advantage of positive factors in the application of information and technology in management, teaching and learning activities, making the time and space for teaching and learning more flexible.
Q: E-learning is still a method to cope with the epidemic and it is relatively new to the majority of higher education institutions. So, how can we visualise the overall picture of e-learning in the universities?
A: According to a quick report on e-learning, by early April, there are in total 98 higher education institutions deploying online teaching. The overall picture of e-learning in Vietnamese institutions can be divided into three groups:
The first includes universities that have much experience in distance and e-learning as they focused on this training method early. They developed the LMS and LCMS as well as provided full learning content, managed the learning and the progress of learners, and instigated methods to accurately and objectively examine and evaluate learning results thanks to IT advances. However, there are only a few institutions in this group, such as Hanoi Open University and Ho Chi Minh City Open University.
The second group consists of universities which have not yet had LMS but began to apply software to support online teaching and learning in real time. For example, where lecturers teach via many applications such as Zoom, Google Hangouts Meet, Webex and Microsoft Teams.
Meanwhile, the last group contains institutions who have not conducted e-learning for regular students. They have only provided their students with documents for self-study.
It can be seen that e-learning is not unheard of in Vietnam. In fact, many higher education institutions have paid much attention to developing infrastructure and software, training human resources, preparing electronic textbooks and learning materials. Some realised that investment in IT infrastructure system, the LMS, and the LCMS and the digitalisation of learning materials, which aim to support traditional way of training, would only diversify training methods and subjects and eliminate geographical distance and optimise resources, improve tuniversities’ capacity and quality, and accelerate their integration into the world’s higher education systems.
Q: In your opinion, what difficulties do universities face when they organise e-learning activities?
A: The common difficulty that the higher education institutions are facing is that the infrastructure and equipment are not complete and synchronous. They lack appropriate learning materials as well as management experience and appropriate management processes for online training. Meanwhile, students and instructors need to have more time to adapt to technology and new methods. The students’ ability to learn, read documents and acquire knowledge by themselves via the internet is limited. In addition, the effectiveness of the e-learning method is not very high for content that requires interaction between teachers and learners. It is also difficult for teachers to conduct examinations.
Q: How will the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) support higher education institutions remove difficulties?
A: In order to support and create conditions for higher education institutions to overcome difficulties in deploying e-learning, the MoET and the Ministry of Information and Communication (MoIC) have coordinated with each other to seek solutions. Accordingly, the MoET has signed agreements to receive support from four major telecommunications enterprises. Specifically, Viettel and VNPT will provide institutions with free infrastructure and technologies, including servers with enough bandwidth to ensure smooth teaching and learning activities.
Viettel, VNPT, Vietnamobile and Mobifone will provide free mobile data for students, teachers and parents when using e-learning methods announced by the MoIC and MoET during the epidemic’s outbreak. All universities in need of being provided with infrastructure and solutions for e-learning can contact directly the above businesses.
With the participation of the major telecommunications corporations, I hope that higher education will make positive changes in the near future. Accordingly, many institutions will rapidly deploy e-learning methods or combine both traditional and online ways of training. Vietnam’s higher education will have the opportunity to boost digitalisation, towards keeping pace with world training trends.
Q: How will the quality of e-learning be evaluated and controlled?
A: E-learning can be considered as a temporary measure at this time to prevent the spread of the epidemic. At the moment, we do not set strict standards. However, universities should be responsible for providing explanations about their conditions to ensure quality of training and the output quality of the online modules.
The MoET also issued Official Letter No.795/BGDDT-GDDH, instructing institutions to select appropriate modules for online training.
Q: How does the MoET orient distance and e-learning?
A: I believe that with the guidance of the Party and Government leaders, the Covid-19 epidemic will be soon controlled. After the epidemic is controlled, universities will pay more attention to the application of advanced technologies in the management and organisation of training activities, contributing to boosting the building of a learning society. The MoET will continue to build a legal framework to enhance e-learning and the development of open learning materials. The Ministry will continue to advise the Prime Minister on promoting IT applications in teaching and learning, developing distance learning and building a learning society.