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Sometimes Microbes Can Change the World! - Prof. Dr. Hasan Şimşek

Sometimes Microbes Can Change the World! - Prof. Dr. Hasan Şimşek

Those who are parasitic, naughty, godless, rebellious according to their time in history have led to revolutions. The person who discovered that the bath stone floats on the water and discovered the lifting power of the water, the person who contributed to the construction of freighters and cargo ships weighing thousands of tons on this discovery, is against their time, is inappropriate, perhaps insane! All the revolutionaries of the world are against their times. Alternative ideas against the dominant ideologies of the time have also been treated as germs that infect many societies. Different types of microbes have led to revolutions in the history of the world. Different types of microbes have led to revolutions in world history.

Things went unexpectedly, as the established world order rotated on its axis. A virus that we cannot be seen with the naked eye changed the world history. This microscopic virus has revealed that imperial powers like USA and England, which challenge the world, are in fact paper tigers. In fact, the USA which shows-off to the world, turns out to not have a reliable public health program, and the notion that rich and developed countries should have people’s health safeguarded has been destroyed. USA and England are in fact weak countries, as opposed to Germany, France and Canada, where every national would like to live. The truth has been revealed!

Something similar also occurred in terms of education! A health problem causing fear around people has appeared; if you breathe you die, if you make contact you die. In a hurry, we closed down the schools, universities and businesses. Thank god, we are living in the 21st century and medical sciences have taught us that much, and we have been convinced with experience.

So what is there? A few software programs that were never considered to be a best-seller, frequently shared and widely discussed software, became globally popular. The Microsoft Teams software continues to be made available to its customers, but the Zoom software that was never expected to receive this much interest, increased its value in the stock market.

Microbes Changed the World!

Fortunately things happened that way. The lecturer, who waited to sit in his office and do the face-to-face lesson at what time of the day, saw that his most important ritual, which lasted for a thousand years, was taken away. No classrooms, no students, no school! What does the teacher have? There is a software on his computer that offers him a small window, and there are students in his class. However, in a virtual environment!

We adapted very well; we faced obstacles, fund solutions, made mistakes, and corrected those mistakes with our students. Interestingly, we have learned how professionally these programs were designed and provided solutions for many possible problems. We congratulate those who put effort into these programs and thank them.

The microbes revolutionized! There is no way back from that and, there should not be.

The online education system in use today limits the primary and secondary education but provides new opportunities when it comes to higher education. At undergraduate education level, these online systems provide lesser opportunities to the classical higher education systems (applies globally) but, I believe that online systems open up remarkable opportunities for postgraduate education level. The online systems lacks some of crucial key elements of training (interaction, the interactive ecology of classroom environment, social communication, instructor’s limited use of various teaching techniques due to the online system, reliability of online exams, etc.) when it comes to undergraduate education where mass education and crowded classrooms are on carpet. We experienced very serious problems in exams involving many students such as undergraduate education. While most of these are caused by the internet infrastructure, some of them are due to students' indifference or opportunism. More time is needed for effective use of online education. In a nutshell; as of now, I might have beef with the use of these programs at the undergraduate level. In short, if possible and not mandatory, avoid online training with the tools we currently have at the undergraduate level!

However, these online systems have great potential in postgraduate education. What is the difference with the undergraduate education? For one thing, graduate classes are less crowded! Secondly, you do not have to adhere to many standards arising from mass education in postgraduate programs as in undergraduate programs. For instance, a limited number of students can be assigned to do research assignments, project development, planning, project management, etc. You, as the instructor, can give assertive, voluminous working tasks, assignments, exams. Since the number is limited, reading and evaluating these studies are within the competencies of the instructor. Moreover, this method is already the best way to evaluate student performance in postgraduate programs. In addition, there is a huge difference between the motivation and psychological maturity of graduate students and the motivation and psychological maturity of graduate students. Even the online education tools we currently use for the students working for master's and doctorate degrees have a lot of good in themselves.

The following should be taken into account: University administrations should make urgent attempts to institutions such as Higher Education Planning, Accreditation and Coordination Council (YÖDAK) and Council of Higher Education (YÖK) regarding online/distance education in their postgraduate programs while the pandemic is still in the agenda of political and educational authorities. Approving board like YÖDAK and YÖK should be understanding about the launch of postgraduate and doctoral programs for international students. However, the importance of providing face-to-face education at certain intervals should not be neglected in postgraduate programs. In this case, my suggestion is to start working immediately on the transition to face-to-face programs at the rate of 1/2 of the master's and doctorate courses we are currently conducting. In other words, 7 weeks of a 14-week period can be carried out face-to-face and 7 weeks online (one week face-to-face, one week online), or the first two weeks of the 14-week period can be done face-to-face, the next 7 weeks online, and the remaining 5 weeks can be face-to-face. Especially if online and face-to-face trainings are planned after 18:00 in the evening, universities can reach a serious number of employed individuals. In terms of international education, a programming similar to one mentioned above may create new opportunities for institutions. Creative new international solutions can be found from this idea. The opportunity is ahead, it's time to act fast.

I have been working in Eastern Mediterranean University for the last two years. Therefore, I still have the advantage of being an observer who is looking from outside. Prior my time in EMU, I worked in two different foundation universities for the last 8 years. The first impressions I got after I started working at this institution are very positive. It has a great campus infrastructure. It has a green and well maintained campus where students can spend time outside. You can feel the traces of a serious Middle East Technical University (METU) culture (I am writing these as an METU graduate and an academician who worked at METU for 17 years) owing to METU members who contributed during the establishing of EMU. EMU is truly a “university” compared to many foundation universities serving on the flat floors with three assistant professors. EMU has a well-equipped academic staff with its many professors and associate professors at the institution. For this reason, it is the only Cypriot university to be included in the list of 800 world universities of Times, including the South side of the island. Famagusta is a quiet and calm city. It's a student city. A peaceful and safe little city with a wonderful sea within walking distance. There are such good quality town universities in the USA. In this respect, EMU looks like these universities.

For example, none of the private universities in Turkey can compete with my current Faculty, EMU Faculty of Education, in terms of the quality of the academic staff. There is even a better equipped academic staff than many public universities. The buildings and classrooms are of high quality and the university has a well-established and reassuring bureaucratic functioning.

Taking into account the new distance/online education opportunities offered as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, an exciting future is awaiting EMU.

I believe that our new university administration, which has recently come to work, will do their part in building this exciting future.

Prof. Dr. Hasan Şimşek

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