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September 22, 2021
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Doing things differently

Due to the COVID 19 pandemic we have had to revise the way we operate.

“Learning and teaching has continued and even thrived during the pandemic as we developed and experienced new methods of teaching, using on-line means …” Professor Father Philip Gibbs OBE.

By KEVIN PAMBA

The corona virus (COVID 19) pandemic has altered people’s way of life and doing business all over the world.

The message of the “new normal” ways of living and doing business promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and supported by the governments of the world is gradually getting across to the people everywhere. T

In Papua New Guinea’s Divine Word University, the “new normal” is being accommodated in its daily routines as a higher education institution with the main campus in Madang and other campuses in Port Moresby, Wewak, Rabaul and Tabubil.

When the first COVID 19 case was detected in PNG in late March 2020, the DWU under the leadership of the then President Professor Cecilia Nembou took steps for the university to continue functioning as normal as possible while implementing the prevention protocols.

The DWU put in place COVID 19 prevention protocols recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Government of Papua New Guinea in its campuses.

One notable measure DWU took was to encourage the use of information and communications technologies (ICTs) that enabled online delivery of its teaching and administration functions and limit face-to-face contact where possible.  Academics and administrative staff were upskilled with short trainings on the use of various ICT tools and platforms to work remotely where possible under the new normal.

Meetings and conferences were delivered virtually using the platforms available. For example, last year, the annual Maror Symposium of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences was staged virtually using Facebook live streaming. Besides the presenters and a small audience in the auditorium, everybody else was encouraged to watch the Maror symposium live on Facebook.

The Department of Tourism and Hospitality in the Faculty of Business and Informatics also staged a “virtual expo” of its annual Liklik Diwai Tourism Expo for the first time last year.

The annual Missioning Ceremony in the main campus last year was also streamed live on Facebook. The parents of final year students taking part in the Ceremony and the public were invited to watch the event remotely as live streamed on Facebook instead of travelling to the Madang campus like in the pre-corona virus years.

Incoming President of DWU Professor Father Philip Gibbs SVD, OBE strengthened the focus on the use of ICTs for academic and administrative functions since assuming office on the 1st of January 2021.

“Due to the COVID pandemic we have had to revise the way we operate.

“Learning and teaching has continued and even thrived during the pandemic as we developed and experienced new methods of teaching, using on-line means including better use of Moodle, and Symposia with international participation through Zoom meetings,” said Professor Gibbs in his welcome address to the students and staff at the beginning of the year. 

Professor Gibbs also acquired various equipment to enhance the COVID 19 prevention protocols and strongly encouraged staff and students to be vaccinated where many did in May and twice last month (July).

Professor Gibbs impressed upon the DWU community to be creative and think and work differently using ICTs. The use of Zoom technology and Facebook live streaming are being used variously this year especially for meetings, conferences and interviews. This is beside the DWU’s ongoing leadership the PNG higher education sector in using the various online platforms for academic delivery, notably with the use of Moodle learning management system and access to the 24 hour uninterrupted WiFi access to the Internet particularly in the main campus in Madang.

In June Professor Gibbs successfully led the international conference on Sorcery Accusation Relation Violence (SARV) hosted in the Madang campus and engaged presenters through Zoom across PNG and overseas and beamed to the public on Facebook’s live streaming.

Professor Gibbs also impressed upon the DWU community to stage the university’s annual Open Day in the Madang campus virtually this year. The annual event was cancelled last year due the sudden onset of COVID 19 and the restrictions that followed.

Professor Gibbs reiterated the importance of doing things differently and called on staff and students to plan and prepare for a “Virtual Open Day”. The Virtual Open Day will be staged on Saturday 21 August 2021. Students and staff of all the academic departments in the four faculties have been collating information, creating videos and graphic works to be shared on the Virtual Open Day with accompanying live commentaries.  The DWU Virtual Open Day will start at around 8.30 am and finish about 4pm. It will be streamed on the DWU’s official Facebook page (www.facebook.com/dwu.official).

In the pre-coronavirus years, Open Day used to be a popular weekend event in Madang campus on the first Sunday of each May. The Open Day is a time when the students working in the academic departments and faculties put on displays and presentations for the public to get to know their academic, research and community engagement activities.  The provides opportunity the public to get to know what happens I the University’s academic programs for prospective students, parents and partners to get know them.

It is also a time for students to impress upon potential employers about what they learn in the university. The Virtual Open Day is one of the many examples of DWU carrying on its functions as a higher education institution by doing things differently under the “new normal” in the COVID 19 era.

Dr Kevin Pamba PhD is based at Divine Word University, Madang.  Dr Pamba has been with DWU since January 2000.

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