E-LEARNING

Online Learning Takes Off At Gafurov Medical College In Tajikistan

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By Stasha Igrutinovic

Surrounded by rugged and snow-capped mountain ranges in the Sughd Region of Tajikistan, Gafurov College attracts the next generation of nurses, pharmacists and obstetricians to its accredited research and training programmes. There, the students benefit from the faculty’s modern laboratories, a fully-stacked library and even housing for those from far-away towns.

But the lack of a thorough digital infrastructure hampered the school’s ability to improve its operations and grow. Together with the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), the EBRD helped Principal Shohida Abduraufova pilot online teaching software and implement new tools for a more effective learning system.

A digitally-savvy solution

Gafurov College hired a consulting group to develop a new teaching platform based on the school’s existing website, which replicated face-to-face interactions in an immersive virtual classroom. Following several consultations with staff, students and management, the consultants developed a final version.

Once logged in, students can access their classes, take tests and engage with their teachers and peers over chat. The new platform also cuts down on administrative costs and reduces inefficiencies by streamlining communication between students and management, such as notifications of absences or delays.

Spurred on by the coronavirus, Shohida is harnessing virtual learning as an opportunity to extend her leading programmes to youth living in rural areas of Tajikistan. In the coming years, the college aims to bring in groups of students who will attend class entirely from the comfort of their own homes.

What this virus has shown is that society requires a flexible and resilient education system to ward off potential shocks. Managing a faculty with around 2,000 students was one of our biggest challenges,” says Shohida.

Back to school

Over the summer, Shohida got the news that she could open her college again, provided adequate social distancing measures were in place.

“Although we’re now back in class, we’re prepared to go online the moment we have to close should there be another wave. We also implemented many of the digital tools that came with the new software, which helped us promote a more hybrid and effective learning system,” Shohida adds.

Digital technologies have found a new role in schools in the wake of the coronavirus, and while they cannot entirely replace the traditional classroom, they are proving to be an effective tool for coping with future disruptions.

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