In early 2020, a new virus began generating headlines all over the world due to its unprecedented speed of transmission. From its origin in a food market in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 to countries as far-flung as the west coast of the United States, the coronavirus has affected hundreds of thousands, with a rising death toll now over 79000.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic; they first develop in animals before developing in humans. Researchers believe that the virus may have been passed from bats to other animals – either snakes or pangolins – and then transmitted to humans. Physicians and researchers are learning new things about this virus every day. This virus may appear in us without any severe symptoms, and we may carry it for two days up to two weeks before we even notice the possible symptoms.
About 188 countries are dealing with this virus. Unfortunately, some of these countries – because of the lack of medical facilities – are going to face a disaster. In many other countries, the number of patients is increasing rapidly because of the high rate of transmission of the disease. This number of patients led to unpredictable issues, making the situation more complicated.
All such problems add up to lots of economic and educational difficulties. Most of the countries have already faced this pandemic problem. Iran is one of these countries, reported its first confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections on February 19, 2020, in the city of Qom. As of April 7, 2020, according to Iranian health authorities, there had been 3872 COVID-19 deaths in Iran, with more than 62500 confirmed infected. As of April 7, 2020, Iran has had the sixth-highest number of COVID-19 deaths after Italy, Spain, United States of America, France and United Kingdom, the highest in western Asia and the seventh-highest number in the world.
So far, government actions have focused on enforcing cancellation of public events, closure of schools, universities, shopping centers, and bazaars as well as holy shrines. The government also tried to enforce travel restrictions without quarantining the cities.
The mass closure of colleges and universities in Iran begun early March 2020. KNTU initially canceled classes from Monday, March 2, for a week to provide instructors and academic support staff with enough time to prepare and deliver course content in alternative ways. KNTU then moved most of its classes online, and the students willing to go back home and study remotely were encouraged to do so. Support was then offered as much as possible to faculty members to help with the transition.
Holding classes online and extending virtual learning was a substantial shift for both the students and the instructors. Virtual classes were familiar but not on such a scale. Therefore it was expected they would face challenges. Despite all the difficulties, all the students, staff, and faculty are trying hard to deal effectively with the situation. Fortunately, most of the universities, including KNTU, have enough facilities to hold their classes through their learning management systems.
For sure, the quality of learning in this situation would not be similar to a reasonable condition; however, the only prevention action against coronavirus still seems to be staying at home to cut the transmission chain.
The University will soon be working through contingency planning for the exams, and more information will be shared after the national holidays in early April. We hope all the countries are successful in overcoming this hard-pandemic challenge, and we could go back to our normal lifestyle.