Since the declaration of a state of emergency in Palestine to cope with COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic measures, and the closing of schools and universities; Al-Quds Open University has dealt with the tremendous pressures left by the state of emergency situation; the Presidency of the University and all its Departments combined their efforts to develop alternative plan that ensures the progress of the educational process with high quality while maintaining the safety of students and staff. Therefore, QOU converted traditional lectures into e-lectures, and accomplished mid and final exams electronically with unprecedented attendance by students. Academic, administrative and technological interventions were made leading to the progress of the educational process of the second semester of the academic year 2019-2020, with unparalleled success, and the final exams started today, Saturday, 2-5-2020.
Prof. Younes Amr, President of the University stated that the University's blended education philosophy has facilitated a lot to align the educational process with the current stateofemergency, by investing in its high technological, academic and administrative resources to ensure healthy educational environment that is in line with the emergency procedures announced by President Mahmoud Abbas and the Prime Minister Dr. Muhammad Shtayyeh .
Prof. Amr stated that because of the outbreak of Covid-19; the University administration held an urgent meeting and came out with recommendations and instructions for the various departments of the University on the necessity to proceed with the educational process while keeping up with the quality of education. Prof. Amr also pointed out that most of the University’s concern was focused on proceeding with the educational process while ensuring the safety of students and staff, and therefore the face-to-face lectures were replaced by entirely e-lectures, especially that the technological infrastructure of QOU is advanced and ready to face such scenarios. Moreover, electronic exams were developed in a way that guarantees credibility of its outputs.
Prof. Samir Al-Najdi, Vice President of the University for Academic Affairs, said that the deanships of the Faculties and in partnership with the Information and Communications Technology Center and the Open Learning Center worked to expand the base of e-learning through several measures and achievements, including holding virtual classes, as (267) courses were taught for the second semester 2019/2020 over a period of five weeks, in addition to filming lectures for (35) courses of the same semester and broadcasting them via Al-Quds Educational Satellite Channel, besides uploading all lectures on YouTube by Al-Quds educational Channel.
Self-learning courses were designed and approved for this purpose. They consist of short videos to clarify challenging concepts, and there is continuous communication between teachers and students to answer questions and inquiries.
Prof. Jamal Ibrahim, the Dean of Admission, Registration and Examinations said that it was not possible to hold face-to-face exams within the current situation so the University
developed technological tools that enable students to take exams and complete the second semester while keeping up the quality of education. Fundamental changes occurredon the nature of exams to adapt to the current circumstances by providing a mid-term e-exam that depends on Open Book Examinations so that the student is given questions that bear open answers, which measure the student’s understanding of the educational subject and broaden his/her horizons in analysis, investigation and scientific research. This style of examinations was applied for the courses for which mid-term exam were not held due to the state emergency. Meanwhile, final exam consists of (30) questions that have closed answers (multiple-choice questions) to be answered in a specific time (60 minutes), taking into account that the questions for each student is different from the other.
For his part, Dr. Eng. Islam Amr, Assistant to the President of the University for Technology and Production Affairs, explained that the lectures were converted to be fully electronic. Additional sectors were allocated to the infrastructure in addition, the number of servers for this process was doubled, and infrastructure capabilities were enhanced to withstand the huge pressures of virtual classes and electronic activities. it is worth mentioning that the student attendance rate reached 98%. Dr. Amr added that more than 250 technical support groups have been created on WhatsApp, working around the clock to provide support and assistance to our students.
Dr. Mohammad Al-Kahlout, Vice President of the University for Gaza Affairs, explained that several measures have been taken in the University’s branches in Gaza amid the current crisis to overcome the difficulties that students and Faculty Members may face in order to make the educational process successful. Branch managers have formed an Emergency Committee for each Branch to manage the crisis and accomplish some outstanding urgent issues of the students. Moreover, technical support committees have been formed in order to guarantee the quality of educational service provided to the students and these committees work in all branches of the University to facilitate the tasks of students and Faculty Members alike
Prof. Muhammad Shaheen, Assistant to the President of the University for Student Affairs, pointed out that the Deanship of Student Affairs contacted all cases that encountered problems in the e-learning process and provided the required facilities for them to integrate with the e-learning process.
Dr. Issam Khalil, Vice President for Financial Affairs, indicated that the Financial Department was able to pay the salaries of March 2020 and is continuously communicating with the banks to follow up on checks payments issued by the university to various payees to ensure their implementation to receive service from the corresponding agency, in addition to following up bank balances to develop scenarios of the financial situation regarding the salaries of the month of April in light of the financial crisis that the University suffers from. He also talked about the adoption of additional payment mechanisms for students of the summer semester to facilitate paying their fees online, through mobile phones, and Palpay.
For his part, Ziyad Al-Wawi, Head of the Regional Student Council, expressed his satisfaction with the progress of the educational process at the University despite the emergency and the closure of the universities. Al-Wawi praised the measures taken by QOU to convert the traditional lectures and exams to be electronic which enable students to complete the requirements of the second semester in full, while keeping up the quality of the educational process.