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Experiences of the Undergraduate Students during COVID-19 Pandemic: A Study at Govt. Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka

Authors:
  • Govt. Teachers' Training College Dhaka
  • Govt. Teachers' Training College Dhaka

Abstract

The current study tried to explore the experiences the undergraduate students of Government Teachers’ Training College Dhaka (TTCD) gathered during COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers applied qualitative research methodology to delve deep into the research problem through qualitative approach. In order to collect data, the study conducted semi-structured interviews with eight undergraduate students of Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka. The eight students were interviewed over mobile phone and the conversations were recorded with prior permission. The major findings of the study included- maintaining physical distance was difficult; participating online academic activities was a big challenge for the students; and students got different insights about life during COVID-19 pandemic. Experiences the participants gathered during Covid-19 influenced their way of thinking and well-being.
Education and Development Research Council (EDRC)
Dhaka, Bangladesh
The EDRC Journal of Learning and Teaching
Volume 7, Number 2, April 2021; ISSN 2411-3972
12
Experiences of the Undergraduate Students during
COVID-19 Pandemic: A Study at Govt. Teachers’
Training College, Dhaka
Dr. Ranjit Podder
1
Mazharul Islam
2
Md. Mizanur Rahaman Mizan
3
Abstract
The current study tried to explore the experiences the undergraduate
students of Government Teachers’ Training College Dhaka (TTCD)
gathered during COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers applied qualitative
research methodology to delve deep into the research problem through
qualitative approach. In order to collect data, the study conducted semi-
structured interviews with eight undergraduate students of Teachers’
Training College, Dhaka. The eight students were interviewed over mobile
phone and the conversations were recorded with prior permission. The
major findings of the study included- maintaining physical distance was
difficult; participating online academic activities was a big challenge for
the students; and students got different insights about life during COVID-
19 pandemic. Experiences the participants influenced their way of thinking
and well-being.
Keywords: COVID-19, experiences, undergraduate students, pandemic,
technology, the Internet
1. Introduction
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have influenced almost all
sectors of our society. The virus supposedly spreads through an individual
to other individuals rapidly. Many countries around the world maintain
social and physical distances to stop or minimize the spread of this
dangerous virus. As a protective measure against COVID-19, educational
institutions have been closed by the governments in different parts of the
world for indefinite period of time. This closure of institutions makes
distances between students, students and teachers, and academic learning.
1
Associate Professor, Govt. Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka; email:
ranjitpodder67@gmail.com
2
Master of Education student, Govt. Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka; email:
maazhar205@gmail.com
3
Master of Education student, Govt. Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka; email:
mizanur.r.mizan@gmail.com
13
According to the American Council on Education, enrollment was likely to
drop by 15% in the fall of 2020,while at the same time many institutions
confronted demands for large tuition cuts as academic activities continued
virtually (National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper-
27392).The Ministry of Education China estimates that more than 220
million children and adolescents are confined to their homes; this includes
180 million primary and secondary students and 47 million preschool
children(Wang, Zhang, Zhao, Zhang, & Jiang, 2020). According to the
report Youth and Covid-19: impacts on jobs, education, rights and mental
well-being (The Daily Star, 2020), COVID-19 has compelled students and
universities alike to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. The
uncertainty that is being felt by the world because of COVID-19 is,
unsurprisingly, being mirrored by students as students are the integral part
of the world society (Education.com 06 July,2020). In order to engage
students in academic activities, the governments all over the world have
taken various steps to ensure the access to education through the Internet.
The government of Bangladesh has also shown success in teaching
students by broadcasting pre-recorded lessons through television, YouTube
Channels, etc. And many schools and colleges have been continuing their
teaching and assessment activities through the Internet using some
conferencing apps such as Zoom, Google Meet, etc. Most of the students of
our country are not skilled to attend classes through the Internet; especially
the underprivileged students are not able to attend virtual classes for not
having digital devices or Internet connections. The pandemic had a big
impact on students even on higher education students (Aristovnik, 2020).
Like other countries Bangladesh shut down their educational institutions
since 17th March 2020 to ensure distances and thus help reduce the spread
of the virus. In order to continue teaching-learning activities, the Ministry
of Education, Bangladesh encourages teachers to conduct online classes
(Alam, 2020). A report by The BTRC (Bangladesh Telecommunications
Regulatory Commission) shows that there are almost 99.428 million
Internet subscribers in Bangladesh. However, only access to the Internet
does not mean that all are getting required speed of Internet connectivity
(Alam, 2020). The current study aims to explore the personal and academic
experiences of the undergraduate students at Teachers’ Training College,
Dhaka gathered during COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Rationale for the Study
Due to COVID-19 pandemic, a terrifying situation prevails all over
the world. The students of all levels in Bangladesh have been staying at
homes since 17thMarch 2020 due to the compulsory closure of educational
institutions (Dhaka Tribune, 24 April 2021). A survey on French population
shows that many students have been emotionally debilitated from being
locked down for a long time (Martinelli, 2020). During the pandemic, it is
14
known from personal level telephone interactions that the undergraduate
students of Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka have experienced many
issues that they had never faced before. Therefore, we decided to conduct
the study with eight undergraduate students of Govt. Teachers’ Training
College Dhaka to learn what they personally experienced during their stay
at homes; what challenges they experienced during attending online
teaching-learning; and what insights they got from their lived experiences
during COVID-19 pandemic.
3. Research Questions
The study tried to find answers to the following questions:
1) What challenges did students face during COVID-19 pandemic?
2) What experiences did the students gather in attending the online
teaching-learning activities?
3) What insights did the students get from COVID-19 pandemic?
4. Literature Review
COVID-19 has already disrupted students’ lives in many ways such
as making distance with their friends and teachers; being locked down at
home for long time and not being able to take part in the outdoor activities,
etc. In the last 50 years, there was a huge growth in the education sector all
over the world, of course there were also lots of challenges that we all had
to overcome to ensure education friendly environment for students and
teachers but COVID-19 is the greatest challenge that hit the national
education system severely (Daniel,2020). About 188 countries closed their
education institutions as of April 2020 and sent the students home to ensure
their safety (UNICEF, 2020). Though every government has been trying to
provide education through the Internet, TV, and Radios, the access to this
kind of facilities is difficult for middle income or low income families in
developing and poor countries. Providing quality education is a big
challenge during lock down all over the world including the developed
countries. This situation has also caused negative impact on students’
mental and physical health. Rahman (2020) asserted that the COVID-19
pandemic is making global health crisis in the current time and this is the
greatest challenge we have faced since World War II (Chackraborty &
Maity, 2020).
A recent BBC report revealed that a third of the world’s population
was currently under lockdown and that was a huge and unprecedented
circumstance (BBC, 2020). As of 1st June 2020, globally, 1.2 billion
learners (68.0 per cent of the world's total enrolled learners) were affected
due to the closure of the educational institutions in 144 countries (The
Financial Express, June 13, 2020). During lock down, students are getting
involved in studies through e-learning process. E-learning is a form of
15
distance education to provide learning experiences for students. In a
developing country like Bangladesh, there are many limitations to access to
e-learning facilities. Many students in Bangladesh are unable to join online
educational activities due to high cost and low speed of the Internet; and not
having smart phones or laptops. Another issue is the fact that most of the
students are living in the rural areas of the country where the Internet
connection and high speed cannot be ensured.
The lack of or poor Internet connectivity is considered as a major
obstacle that must be overcome in order to smoothen the online teaching-
learning and assessment activities; and ignoring the poor Internet
connectivity, it would be difficult to achieve the targets set for
2021 (Bangladesh Post, 2020). The lack of e-learning facilities shows that
digitalization of education in Bangladesh has not been fully achieved yet.
As a result, many students across the country are now deprived of education
which would create inequalities in the long run. One of the researchers’
experiences show that the situation is more challenging for the higher
education students because they feel lonely or helpless being in financial
crises as most of them have lost their part-time jobs (July 2020, European
Research Intensive University). The heightened level of psychological
distress and downstream negative academic consequences are prevalent
under abnormal circumstances (Granton, 2019).
As a result of physical distancing measures implemented in
response to COVID-19, the tertiary education institutions shifted to an
emergency online learning format which created academic stress for
students (Grubic, Badovinac, & Johri,2020). Most of the students of
Bangladesh are not well-skilled to operate the devices which are used for
online learning. Most of the educational institutions do not have LMS
(Learning Management System) such as Learn, Moodle, or Canvas. Among
the undergraduate students, mental depression is more prevalent among
low-income and working-class students (Chirikov, Igorsoria, &Krista,
2020). The pandemic has the capability to affect students physically,
academically, financially, and psychologically. A study during COVID-19
pandemic demonstrates that undergraduate students have experienced
increased symptoms of anxiety and depression due to the COVID‐19
pandemic, which may have negative effect on students’ studies and future
lives (Islam, Barna, Raihan, Khan, & Hossain, 2020).
5. Research Methodology
This study was conducted by using qualitative research
methodology. The researchers used semi-structured interview method with
eight purposively selected undergraduate students from different years of
Govt. Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka. Interviews were conducted over
mobile phone and the conversation was recorded with prior permission of
16
the interviewees. The interview data were transcribed, read again and again
with a view to developing data through recurrent edits, coded, and then
categorized based on the themes of the research questions. The participants
were from different geographical locations and with different lived
experiences. Therefore, they were selected in order to gather the real life
experiences. Findings of the study emerged during data transcribing and
coding. The findings have been presented in the following section. All the
participants willingly agreed to become a part of the study. The students
were given pseudonyms such as S1, S2, S3, S4, S5, S6, S7, and S8to
minimize any possible threats to them.
6. Findings of the Study
The major findings of the study included- maintaining social or
physical distances was a challenge (6.1); availability of devices and Internet
was a challenge (6.2); and different students had different insights about life
(6.3). The findings and discussions have been presented below:
6.1 Maintaining Social Distance was a Challenge
World Health Organization (WHO) recommended social distancing
among communities as a preventive measure. Bangladesh has a large
population and most of them are not conscious enough to maintain distances
as a protective measure (Ahmed, Rony, & Zaman, 2020). The father of S1
is an Upazila Chairman and he is a first year student. S1 asserts that he was
getting worried during lock down because many people used to come to
their house for different purposes as his father is a political leader. A few of
the visitors used facial mask, maintained 3 feet distances was recommended
by WHO but most of them did not follow the health guidelines. S1
maintains:
The news of increasing number of COVID-19 affected patients
made the whole family worried. However, by the grace of the
Almighty, we are not affected but we are passing difficult times. The
whole family is scared in fear of getting COVID-19.
S3, S4, and S7 also claim that they also had trouble to maintain
social distances. Bangladesh did not impose any strict protocol initially, and
millions of people were out on the streets, especially in Dhaka (Anwar,
Hosen, &Nasrullah, 2020). Unfortunately, the house of S4, a student of final
year, was in a crowded area. Therefore, when she went out to bring
necessary commodities, she had to face a large crowd most of whom were
without masks. S4 asserts:
Though we are keeping sanitizer, washings hands, drinking hot
water regularly, many people didn’t care for those kinds of
protective measure. Many people do not use mask, in shop or
nearby Bazar there is no distance between seller and customers. In
17
most cases the health conscious people try to maintain distance but
it is difficult because of the rush of people everywhere.
The above data show that students face common issues of
maintaining the social distance. Though the rate of COVID 19 new patients
and the death rates make a new record each day, many people do not care it
much. A study jointly conducted by BRAC and Bangla daily Prothom Alo
found that 61.10 percent people cannot maintain safe physical distancing in
public spaces because of the thickness of people (The Daily Star,
August,2020). As the death toll rises to 100 plus per day, the government of
Bangladesh has decided to keep the educational institutions closed until 22
May 2021 (The Dhaka Tribune, 24 April, 2021). However, keeping the
shopping malls, government and private offices closed has become a
challenge and therefore, maintaining physical distances is a big challenge
for the students as well as other people.
6.2 Availability of Gadgets and Internet
Participating online classes was a challenge for the undergraduate
students of Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka. It is 13 months since the
educational institutions all over the country were shut down as part of efforts
to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Khan, 2020). It is observed from the
interview data that during COVID-19, students have been facing trouble to
attend online classes. The respondents claim that they were not habituated
to attend the online classes before. S2 is 2nd year 3rd semester student
staying in his village during the lock down period. Sometimes, he cannot
not attend the classes for power failure, and the low speed of the Internet.S2
asserts:
My home is in Netrokona. I attend my classes from a remote place
of Netrokona district. So sometimes, I fail to get access to Internet
due to network issues. I could not join the classes many times due
to low speed of Internet. The speed of Internet is so low that
sometimes, I cannot join the classes even only with audio, let alone
video facilities. When I am able to join with video, I miss the lively
interactions with friends that happen in on campus classes.
S3and S5 also reveal that they also have been facing Internet issues when
they want to join online classes. S3 claims:
The Internet price is very costly in our country. And mobile operator
couldn’t provide good speed of Internet. So it is very hard to join
classes regularly from rural areas. Other problems is to sit in the
same place for a long time; lack of complete understanding of the
lessons being taught. I also face physical discomfort as I have to sit
hours together to participate in the online classes and health issues
stemming from attending hours of online classes. Though it is good
18
to see my friends and teachers online, longer periods and
technological disturbances make it boring.
S1and S4 express similar opinions that they also have faced some
issues like network problem, high cost and low speed of Internet,
inadequacy of gadgets or digital devices, etc. A report by Jasim and Sajid
(2020) reveal that slow Internet connection and high-cost mobile data
remain the major obstacles for many university students from rural and
remote areas. Educationists claim that the launching of online classes will
not yield any positive result if network issues are not solved. According to
a recent report by cable.co.uk (a UK-based website) that compares global
Internet pricing claims that India provides Internet in the cheapest ($0.26)
price in not only compared to its neighbours but also globally. Bangladesh
charges the highest ($0.99) for one gigabyte of mobile data among three
South Asian nations India, Sri Lanka ($0.87) and Bangladesh.
Undoubtedly, students are facing network problems, high call-rate issues
which do not help them to have a great time in lock down.
S6 and S7 allege that they have become lazy by sitting, eating, and
sleeping. They claim that almost all activities are Internet-based and they do
not have to take part in physical work. However, these two students helped
their mothers in cooking and thus they have achieved some culinary skills.
S8 maintains that he helps his father in the cornfield and he is passing busy
time at home.
One thing is clear from the above data that although students have
to face challenges of buying an android phone, laptops and high speed
Internet, they have become expert in using the devices and the necessary
Apps. This skill of using different gadgets and Apps would help students
and teachers to use technology in teaching in a better way. Moreover, some
of them have acquired some life skills such as cooking and farming.
6.3 Students Got Different Insights about Life
All the participants of the study have claim that they have a great
learning from COVID-19. One of the best learning for them is to work for
mankind and to stay neat and clean for a healthy life. The participants claim
that from the beginning of the pandemic, they have been washing hands
frequently; using mask while going outside; rubbing hand sanitizer, etc. “If
we practice the stated activities continuously, it is expected that we will be
able to lead healthy lives”, claimsS2.S2further points out that, COVID-19
has locked them at home but they had learnt some necessary skills such as
cooking, painting, graphic designing, and farming which are needed for
practical life.
S2 maintained:
19
In my pre-COVID life, I didn’t wash my hands so often but now I
do. After 5 years of separation with my family for education
purposes, I have a great time with them for the last 13 months. In
this lock down, I feel for the first time how much I love my family
and how much they love me. My mother takes care of me about what
I will eat, if I washed my hands, etc. The great learning in the lock
down is: “Love your family because they do care about you.”
“The great learning to me is that nature is more powerful and our power is
limited. Money or wealth does not help always”, maintains S3. He also
realizes the suffering of the hungry people after they have lost their jobs
because of COVID-19. S6 remarks that it is pathetic to see many people
starving for some days and many people are ignoring them. However,
claims S6, a small number of people are seen to come forward to help the
poor. S6 alleges:
An unseen virus is going to demolish the whole mankind. We don’t
have enough resources to face a virus. But the whole life we are
blindly wasting for making money. If money cannot save a life, why
people should be so arrogant with their wealth? Viruses know no
national boundaries or races, and only by working together
mankind can win the battle against the viruses. So we all should
work for mankind.
During COVID-19, S8 had enough time to enrich himself with
practical knowledge and skills, and he also gets opportunities to serve
mankind. S8Claims:
In this pandemic, many people lost their jobs. Poor people,
especially the day labourer, face food crisis everywhere. And when
I see this, it really hurts me. We, some friends, have been trying to
help poor by collecting money, buying foods for them. I feel
mentally satisfied by working for the people in need. I want to
continue my service to the distressed humanity throughout my life.
The data stated above show that the undergraduate students of
Teachers’ Training College, Dhaka went through valuable experiences.
Those lived experiences provided them with some rich insights like loving
the people around is important and working for humanity is satisfying;
considering nature more powerful than mankind, and money should not be
preferred to life. The learning is great for one’s life and can purify the souls
of those who lived through the stated experiences.
7. Conclusion
This study has revealed that maintaining physical distances is
challenging for the students who lived in the remote villages during
COVID-19. Students also face difficulties in attending the online classes in
20
want of good quality gadgets and low Internet speed. Inequalities between
students regarding access to the Internet and various gadgets was found
dominant (Khairul, Islam, &Alif, 2020). Alongside negative impact of
COVID-19, almost all the participants achieved some skills such as culinary
skills, gadgets and Apps use skills, and providing support to the neighbours
without hurting their ego. Some of the locked down students have developed
human qualities through helping the distressed people and providing
necessary support to their parents and others.
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Article
Full-text available
Aim: The effect of the current COVID-19 pandemic on the education system of Bangladesh and its possible solution is the focus of the present study. Design: The study employed a descriptive survey research design. Place and Duration of Study: The study was conducted through all the districts of Bangladesh from 8 March (2020) to 30 July (2020) accordingly. Methodology: Descriptive survey with the interactive interview via online in the pandemic area and offline field works for collecting data in possible places were the main structural design of this research. Results: The COVID-19 has affected worldwide education sectors by shutting down many institutes and temporarily pushing the majority of students out of school. Most countries have temporarily closed their educational institutions to control the COVID-19 pandemic. In Bangladesh, near 40 million students are now out of school, until the epidemic returns to normal. Besides this universal disruption, out-school learning deprivation varies depending on the socio-economic status of the mass population, their access to technology, parental capabilities, and so on. Most countries are using online or satellite television platforms to deliver education during the pandemic, which is not enough to meet the contrasting levels. Although, developed countries (first and second world) are making good strides with online teaching while struggles are seen in rest (third-world countries). This article highlights how COVID-19 is affecting the education sector and students in Bangladesh. Undoubtedly, the most immediate impact of the Covid-19 on students of Bangladesh is abruptions in learning opportunities with multiple other aspects. Despite earnest government attempts, COVID-19 is adversely affecting students in Bangladesh for several significant reasons. Conclusion: Collective responses and analysis revealed that not technologies but also technicalities are needed to run the education system smoothly besides this pandemic situation accordingly.
  • N Ahmed
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Ahmed, N., Rony, R. J. and Zaman,K. T. (2020). Journal of Biomedical Analytics Vol. 3,(2) pp. 5-14.
Online classes pose a problem
  • Bangladesh Post
Bangladesh Post. Online classes pose a problem. (2020, 29 May). Retrieved from https://bangladeshpost.net/posts/online-classespose-a-problem-34136.
COVID-19 outbreak: Migration, effects on society, global environment and prevention. The National Center for Biotechnology Information
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Chackraborty, I. Maity, P. COVID-19 outbreak: Migration, effects on society, global environment and prevention. The National Center for Biotechnology Information. PMCID: PMC7175860.
Education and the COVID-19 pandemic
  • J Daniel
Daniel, J. (2020). Education and the COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11125-020-09464-3.
New covid variants: Bangladesh to keep schools closed until
  • Dhaka Tribune
Dhaka Tribune. (24 April, 2021). New covid variants: Bangladesh to keep schools closed until May 22. Dhaka. Bangladesh
How are children in Bangladesh coping with online classes
  • A Khan
Khan, A. (2020, 03 Dec). How are children in Bangladesh coping with online classes. Retrieve from https://thefinancialexpress. com.bd/views/how-are-children-in-bangladesh-coping-withonline-classes-1606987424
Time and Covid 19 Stress in the Lockdown Situation
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Martinelli, N., Andant N. ( 2020, August 10). Time and Covid 19 Stress in the Lockdown Situation. Retrieve from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone. UNICEF DATA. (2020). Education and COVID-19. Retrieve from https://data.unicef.org/topic/ education/covid-19/