Turning Challenges into Opportunities: Research and Education Success Stories During Covid-19
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Covid-19 has forcefully changed most of the norms in the world. Education has been one of the most affected areas. Ethiopia has taken rigorous measures to control the spread of the virus, and one of those measures was the suspension of in-person or face-to-face education delivery in all higher educations to encourage the practice of social distancing in order to stop the spread of the virus. During this crucial time, as a step to tackle the negative impacts of closed educational institutions, the country moved to an online education delivery system. As a country that heavily depends on face-to-face education delivery and with a low adaptation of online or hybrid learning, we faced the biggest challenges in deploying nationwide online platforms and services to aid in online education. This paper dives into National Digital Library of Ethiopia, one of the online educational resource delivery platforms that are developed, and was used as a central digital repository for educational materials. The paper covers the challenges that were faced during the adoption of the platform, the process that was taken to deliver it to the millions of students nationwide at zero cost, and the success that was achieved. With this sudden shift away from the classroom, it was really challenging to adapt and continue the education system for most of the students since it wasn’t usual on normal days. We broke down through the challenges to overcome all the problems. We introduced a nationwide online platform deployed on cloud technology that aims to deliver course materials to millions of students. Students with at least smartphone devices are able to access the platform from all over the country. We had to make all universities and TVET institutions to push their course materials through the platform according to their departments and academic calendar years. So that, students can get the exact course materials that they were getting from their instructors. From the infrastructure aspect, it was also challenging for us to handle high incoming bandwidth to the server. We had to prepare infrastructure that can handle such huge requests from millions of students and make it available 24/7. We also had to collaborate with the one and only Internet Provider of the country to make it available without any service (internet) fee, which helps students to access the system at zero cost. By overcoming those challenges, we achieved what we aimed for, providing a system that is accessible anytime and anywhere at zero cost.