Birzeit University switches to online classes due to Coronavirus

Birzeit University has moved to online teaching for its 14,800 students, as the government has ordered all schools and universities to close in efforts to contain the growing Coronavirus outbreak.

Aziz Shawabka, Birzeit University’s assistant to the president, said that the idea of using online classes and e-learning complies with the emergency plans that have been mobilized by the nation. It furthermore follows the Palestinian Ministry of Health’s request to avoid bringing together large groups of people in events or gatherings. Shawabkeh explained that a group of academics has launched a webpage that presents information and expert advice to develop e-learning skills among the university’s students. The university’s department of information technology has launched a specialized online page to train faculty members in the utilization of e-learning methods.

Shawabkeh pointed out that the university is using open source programs, such as Moodle, and web conferencing systems, including BigBlueButton and Zoom. These programs, according to Shawabkeh, are available free of charge and can be accessed easily. He added that the university’s faculty members could also create short educational clips through their mobiles, upload it on YouTube, and then share them on social media.

As the outbreak of the Coronavirus is creating challenges and concerns for universities across Palestine and around the world, Shawabkeh called all higher-education institutions in Palestine to be flexible and prepare themselves to use e-learning methods and online teaching. He assured that Birzeit University is ready to help and support its peers.

He called upon telecommunication companies to provide free internet services for those who need it.

Shawabkeh emphasized the necessity for all parties to cooperate and work together to minimize educational disruption and facilitate the continuity of learning.