[AgriYouthNepal shared this Open Letter with various stakeholders of Agriculture and Forestry University on the glorious occasion of fifth anniversary of Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU)]

Happy AFU Day, everyone!

It is a matter of joy and pride for all the stakeholders, staffs, teachers and students that our university has come this far and we hope it will grow and flourish in years to come. It is a historic day and in the midst of the anniversary celebration, we would like to bring into limelight where we stand on the changing landscape of learning and information sharing.

ICT based tools like Global Positioning System (GPS), Geographic Information System (GIS), satellite imagery, digital database, data mining and data mediation sound promising and are increasingly gaining momentum. ICTs are an essential foundation to drive today’s research and are not just mere add ons. Research activities are becoming increasingly distributive, collaborative, ICT and information intensive.

A university represents some of the highest concentrations of talented and intelligent individuals anywhere on the planet. It is the place where people literally engage in lifelong education. Improving technological infrastructure, investing in greater connectivity, data and information, creating a digital knowledge base, encouraging e-learning and developing capacity should be fostered in agriculture universities to support innovative agriculture development. When it comes to ICT based infrastructure, AFU has been a laggard in the modern timeline. Today when the world discusses about MOOCs(Massive Open Online Courses) and Open Access, we have stationery visiting hours for getting the Xeroxes of lecture notes that were probably written before we were even born. We have not been well acquainted with where and how to access information of our choice, what the recent news/updates are in our sector and who to concern for the technical back stopping. Although some initiatives have been made in delivering lectures through powerpoint presentations, anyone who has sat through a “death-by-PowerPoint” lecture can realize that they have not been as effective as they could be. Learning is not about how loud the bells ring and the whistles blow.
The central library has done an appreciable job collaborating with the Cornell University supported “TEEAL” programme. However, it lacks frequent monitoring and evaluation and there is a serious need of developing technical capacity among the academicians and students about accessing the journals.

We would like to point out some major areas where the university should prioritize in the recent future:
1. Development of physical and virtual ICT infrastructures.
2. Equipment on computer and telecommunication hardware.
3. Digital repository, Open Access and virtual library.
4. Publications(online/offline) on recent research activities carried out by the students and academicians of the university.
5. Online application and examination forms for entrance examinees and students of the university.
6. High speed internet connectivity within the university premises.
7. An effective, responsive and well designed university website with a resource database, a staff and student login portal, e-learning materials and publications.
8. Capacity building in use of ICTs to improve quality of teaching, learning and research.

If just 10% of the investment spent on physical infrastructures went to digital, it would have an enormous impact. It would make large cost savings and provide competitive advantages and meet students’ expectations. It would aid research, collaboration, improve teaching and enhance reputation. We here not only stress upon digital infrastructures, but also on investment in skilled professionals who can build digital tools that meet the present learning needs.

We are facing a crisis. We request you to move digital up your agenda. Don’t ignore it because you don’t understand it. Don’t presume it is just a support function. Make sure you recognise it for what it is, a critical part of our university. If you want us to innovate and really bring next-generation learning to life, you have to engage at a higher level and demand more “out of pattern” experiences. All we need is a bit of vision and a willingness to experiment.

We are looking forward for a more engaging and useful learning environment. We need a tipping point. We need something to catalyze this effort and energy and take it to the next level. Your effort for a more learning centered digital and physical based infrastructure has potential to help not only students in the present time being, but also future students to live better and more fulfilled lives.

You’re the game changer!

(Disclaimer: This open letter is a part of AYN’s movement to create a better ICT enabled learning environment in the university. The words/ideas expressed in this letter are not meant to offend, underestimate and/or humiliate anyone. You can drop your views at [email protected])