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6. Zaman & HossainThe Agriculturists 10(1) 38-45(2012)

6. Zaman & HossainThe Agriculturists 10(1) 38-45(2012)

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Published by: Noman Farook on Jul 02, 2012
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Status of Internet use for Higher Education and Research in AgriculturalSciences
M. A. Zaman
and S. M. Iqbal Hossain
 Dept. of Farm Power & Machinery, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, Bangladesh
 Dept. of Agricultural Engineering, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University,Gazipur-1706, Bangladesh
*Corresponding author and Email: zamanma_bd@yahoo.com
Received: 04 January 2012 Accepted: 26 May 2012
A study was conducted to explore the role of internet on higher education and research at two selectedpublic universities in Bangladesh, which offer courses on Agricultural Sciences. One hundred and fiftyeight teachers and 79 post-graduate students were interviewed based on questionnaires. It was foundthat 90.8% teachers had internet connectivity and they used internet on regular basis to search relevantwebsites and download the selected course contents. All the teachers agreed that adequate and reliableinformation on different topics of Agricultural Sciences can be obtained through internet, which can beused for academic and research purposes. Use of internet by the students is being gradually increasedin public universities. The universities are expanding the internet facilities to increase services to theteaching and learning communities. Digitization of libraries and internet links between the publicuniversities libraries are in progress. It is expected that the use of internet would bring significantchanges in higher education and research systems of developing nations and the institutions of highereducation would attain a global standard. Development of education in these countries are badlyinfluenced by limited resource and poor finance.
Higher education, agricultural sciences, internet for higher education1. Introduction
Higher education is crucial for the production of vital human resources for socio-economicdevelopment of a nation. Higher education isalso important for political stability and peace, aswell as building democratic culture and cohesivesocieties (Yizengaw, 2005). In today’s world, anational issue, in one way or other, mayinfluence global issues, for example, climatechange and food security. Higher education,therefore, should have an aim to generate skilledmanpower to tackle the present and futurechallenges of the world communities. On thedawn of a new millennium, the world is facingincreasing globalization in different areas of human lives. An increasing migration of professionals from one country to another arebeing observed, and the rise of the `globalprofessional’ qualified to provide services in anycountry of the world. This inevitably is givingway to an introduction of internationallyaccepted educational standards and requirements(Wojtczak and Schwarz, 2000).Inclusive quality education is fundamental toachieving human, social and economicdevelopment. Governments as well as all theother social actors have an important role inproviding quality education for all and, in doingso, should recognize the importance of abroadened concept of inclusive education that
The Agriculturists 10 (1): 38-45 (2012)
A Scientific Journal of Krishi Foundation
addresses the diverse needs of all learners andthat is relevant, equitable and effective(UNESCO, 2008). Forty eighth sessions of theInternational Conference on Education (ICE)recommended to “Strengthen the use of ICTs inorder to ensure greater access to learningopportunities, particularly in rural, remote anddisadvantaged areas” and to “Provide highquality, informal educational opportunities thatoffer the possibilities for formal recognition of competencies acquired in non-formal settings”.UNESCO is committed to “Encouraging effortsto increase resources for education both atnational and international levels”. In order topromote ICT-based teaching and learning,Regional and International cooperation is badlyrequired for policy making and adequatefinancing (UNESCO, 2008).Traditional systems of higher education in publicuniversities of developing countries are based onprinted books and journals. Most of the books onAgricultural Sciences are imported and studentsoften cannot afford to purchase these books.Also, the university libraries in developingcountries cannot have adequate stock of Text andReference books due to financial constraints.Procurement and collection of books sometimesrequire long time. For these reasons book-basedtraditional system of teaching and learning ishampered. In addition, text books becomeoutdated after publication and academic researchsuffers a lot due to unavailability of updatedinformation. Recent developments on theinternet technologies, development of worldwide websites with a vast treasure of educationalinformation, have drastically reduced thedependence on printed books and journals.Virtual libraries with digitized books and journals are now available online. Theseinformation can be easily accessed anddownloaded through internet at any time fromanywhere without any cost.The internet as swiftly entered into the life of humankind in the 20th century, it has becomenot only the hugest information resource in theworld but also the most rapid means of communication. People from different countrieshave got an opportunity to communicate witheach other in a very short time. In comparison toa snail-mail or even airmail, e-mail gets overdistance and time, and frontiers of the states witha lightning speed. Students can enhance theirknowledge using the educational literature,encyclopedia, references, dictionaries, anddatabases, which are freely accessed;participating in distance educational courses, incollaborative projects with students from otherschools and universities in other countries, anddiscussing different problems with them. So, theopportunities, which internet can offer in thesphere of education, are really unique (IITE,2003). With the advent of informationcommunication technology, more and moreeducators are exploiting the internet tools e.g. theWorld Wide Web (WWW) and e-mail in order tomake their educational materials available andaccessible online (Zabel, 1998). Probably, theeducation most influenced by informationtechnology is that at the university level. TheInternet, when used properly, can close theeducation gap between the developed and thedeveloping nations. The internet has dramaticallyincreased access to information. This study was,therefore, undertaken to explore the role of internet on higher education and research at twoselected public universities in Bangladesh, whichoffer courses on Agricultural Sciences as well asconduct research.
2. Methodology
A study was conducted in 2010 to explore therole of internet on higher education and researchat Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU)and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur RahmanAgricultural University (BSMRAU). Both theUniversities offer courses on AgriculturalSciences. Teachers and post-graduate studentswere interviewed based on questionnaires.During this study there were 512 teachers inBAU, of whom 457 had internet connectivity. InBSMRAU all of 84 teachers had internetconnectivity. One hundred and thirty (130)teachers and 58 post-graduate students from39
Internet use for higher education and research
different disciplines of BAU and 28 teachers and21 post-graduate students from differentdisciplines of BSMRAU were randomly selectedfor interviewing. A total of 158 teachers and 79post-graduate students were thus sampled for thisstudy.Data were collected on the status of internetconnectivity in selected universities; extent andtype of internet use by the teachers and students;skills in internet use; comments on theavailability, relevance, authenticity and qualityof course contents found on the websites. Thecollected data were analyzed for differentstatistical parameters using Microsoft Excel.
3. Results and Discussion
 3.1. Status of internet connectivity in BAU 
ICT infrastructure has been developed to provideinternet connectivity to teachers and student inBAU campus. The system was startedfunctioning in July, 2008. The capacity of theinfrastructure is above 3000 and by now about450 users are being served. The internetconnectivity is administered centrally through ahired Internet Service Provider (ISP). In BAULibrary 20 PCs connected to Internet arereserved for the students. The Department of Computer Science, under the Faculty of Agricultural Engineering & Technology, recentlyinstalled WiFi wireless system to provideinternet connectivity to the students, who areinterested to use this facility outside theDepartment building within 100 m range. Thestudents, who has laptop computer, can avail thisfree facility. Similar facilities will be developedsoon in Residential Halls for the students. Use of the internet provides great educational benefits tostudents and faculty members. The Departmentof Computer Science has been offering ICTrelated education including a PostgraduateDiploma in Information and CommunicationTechnology (PGD-in-ICT).
 3.2. Status of internet connectivity in BSMRAU 
Internet facilities have been developed incollaboration with BangladeshTelecommunications Company Limited (BTCL).All the departmental teachers and administrativeofficers have internet connectivity. Five accesspoints have been made available for PG studentsin the library, which will be expanded as perdemand.
 3.3. Use of internet resources
The connection to internet is the first and crucialcondition of internet use. Every teacher shouldown a computer with internet connectivity. Outof 596 of the two universities, 541 teachers(90.8%) had personal computer with internetconnectivity.About 75 % of the PG students own computers.The students are now using internet facilitiesprovided by the BAU library and the Departmentof Computer Science. Private ISPs are alsoavailable in BAU Campus. The students have topay for internet browsing from private ISPs.BAU authority is planning to provide free ITservices to the students in near future.
 3.4. Type of internet use
Both the teachers and students are aware of theinternet facilities such as e-mail, chatting,browsing for information and internet phoning.However, most of the teachers were found to usee-mail communication (100%), browsing forteaching materials (98.1%) and researchmaterials (97.5%) as shown in Table 1. Newlyrecruited teachers browse for scholarships(41.88%) also. Teachers spend 3-7 days perweek and 1-8 hours per day for internetbrowsing.The students use internet for browsing anddownloading class materials and materials forassignments, e-mail, chatting, readingnewspapers and listening to music. The graduatestudents search internet for course and researchmaterials and for e-mail communication (100%),for jobs (58.2%), and for scholarship (68.4%) asshown in Table 2. The PG students spend 1-2hours per day for internet.
 Zaman & Hossain/The Agriculturists 10(1): 38-45(2012)

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