Behind the Scenes of buX

In the last two years, buX connected more than 10,000 students of Brac University from across the country. Hosted by eduNEXT, a third-party scalable cloud service provider, the platform self-sufficiently housed course materials, timed exams, and notices without fail. In this piece, we get a glimpse of the experience, challenges, and incentives behind it all.
FND101:Fundamentals of Foundations

The journey of buX began when faculties realised their main goal for online education was to ensure that all students should be able to continue their university courses without any additional distress on top of the pandemic. The mastermind and pioneer of it all was Dr Mahbub Alam Majumdar, Professor and Dean of the School of Data and Sciences. Many prominent universities had online educational platforms before Covid-19 started, so his vision was to have the same for Brac University. Initially, faculties wanted to offer students the comfort of pre-recorded lectures but were unsure where to post them. Although the first option was LMS, a pre-existing platform of BracU, the risk of it crashing was too high. Hence, inspired by edX, an online course provider, the idea of buX came to life.

EXN203: Theories of Execution
After the layout was decided, the next step was to tackle the technicalities. According to buX Support Team Leader and Lecturer Md Tanzim Reza, hosting edX would not have been possible for the faculties alone, so it was decided that a third-party service provider, eduNEXT, was to be hired to take care of the technical aspects of buX, while the team at BracU would handle the support side and update the service providers on what changes or updates were required to be made. Under the brilliant guidance of Professor Majumdar, the faculties then commenced what was referred to as “Team Teaching”, where faculty members of each course would be working as a team, despite having separate sections; something that was never before heard of. This process took 2-3 months, at the end of which buX was finally launched to its students in July 2020.

CLG315: History of Challenges
Even if team members were originally sceptical of the probability of success of the project and whether online education could be acclimated to, buX overcame the challenges. Many students barely had access to decent internet connections or even competent gadgets. Additionally, in terms of online education, like the students, faculty members too were unfamiliar with it. However, tutorials arranged by other BracU faculties on the basic know-how of using buX, recording videos, or improving audio qualities enabled them to switch to buX from live classes on other platforms. In the words of Lecturer Arif Shakil, the videos were attempted to be “provided at a granular level” to be understood by all users regardless of whether they came from CSE backgrounds. Most buX lectures were designed to be no more than fifteen minutes long to avoid monotony. Hence, the shorter videos were effective for both teachers and students. Unlike physical classes, students had to wait for the upcoming live session if they had any queries while watching buX lectures. It was also challenging for teachers to track whether students were attentively watching the videos. As a result of pop quizzes, students were willing to listen to lectures on time, and teachers could also monitor their students’ activities. While developing a platform like buX containing all course materials seemed impossible at first, with a team effort, the team members successfully made it through with a combined effort.
EXP432: Experience Studies

When asked about the experience of creating the online platform, the buX team looks at 2020 retrospectively, when the platform was met with scepticism. Like anything new, buX was illuminating yet intimidating. It was not created as a companion resource for students – it would have to be self-sustaining: a compact learning tool that contained assignments, quizzes, and more. It was designed to provide access to course materials to students scattered all over the country who would later hold onto it like a lifeline. Despite an online learning platform sounding impressive, the inception and execution of buX in a country like Bangladesh, which struggles with a stable internet connection, seemed challenging. Although members of the team agree that nothing can replace physical classes, they state that BracU developed an effective and efficient platform that serves as a backup for the education system in the state of emergency imposed by the pandemic. The pioneers of online teaching beam with pride to have been a part of creating buX. As stated by Md Tawhid Anwar and Nabuat Zaman Nahim, Lecturers and members of the buX support team, ‘We were happy to help and serve the education system.’ They fondly remember the first time they saw the homepage of buX; the first moment they believed what they set about to do could come to fruition. With buX embedded in a myriad of electronic devices at home, 10,000 students of BracU could access courses even while offline at a time when stagnancy was the new normal.

With offline semesters in full swing now, buX is no longer at the forefront. However, according to the buX team, it will still be accessible for the students as a secondary source of learning away from offline classes. This move will undoubtedly benefit the student body as they will continue having access to thousands of hours’ worth of pre-recorded lectures for hundreds of different courses. Moreover, BracU will now continue to proudly house the country’s first online educational platform – and of course, stand testament to the vigilance and faith against seemingly unachievable odds.

Special thanks to the respected faculties:
Md Tanzim Reza
Md Tawhid Anwar
Nabuat Zaman Nahim
Arif Shakil

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