This is the perfect opportunity for students to build their collaborative, independent and self-directed learning abilities
by LYDIA NATHAN/ pic credit: eduspiral.com
THE Covid-19 pandemic has certainly hit the globe very hard and it does not seem to show any sign of slowing down in certain parts of the world.
Countries that are quicker to react with corresponding measures are also still reeling from the effects of the crisis while restructuring all the sectors within the economy in order to be more resilient to any future crisis, including the possibility of the second wave of the pandemic.
The education sector, for instance, has to be reimagined with the adoption of online learning as many institutions have to do away with face-to-face classes.
The term “remote learning” is now the new norm and newer measures are being accelerated to ensure that students’ learning would continue seamlessly outside of the traditional classroom setting.
Taylor’s University deputy vice chancellor and chief academic officer Prof Dr Pradeep Nair said the way forward would be to revise the pedagogy used at learning institutions by incorporating digital approaches and independent learning.
“I like to view it as a positive change. Of course, the current situation is very sudden and has definitely brought about its own set of challenges, as we all tried to adapt to the new normal,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in an interview recently.
According to Pradeep, some universities and students viewed these pivots to learning with a bit of anxiety.
However, the upside to this experience is the enhancement of students’ capability to operate in a globalised virtual world, similar to most businesses.
“This is the perfect opportunity for students to build their collaborative, independent and self-directed learning abilities, which are key skills of the future.
“Online teaching doesn’t necessarily have to be a platform that we turn to only during emergencies. It should be incorporated as part and parcel of our pedagogical methods and curriculum, because learning should be on-demand anytime, anywhere,” he said.
The education sector saw some immediate challenges as soon as the Movement Control Order went into full swing, particularly in terms of technology and digital knowledge.
Pradeep said there were gaps that higher education institutions faced, resulting in universities trying to adapt to available technologies and “up-skill’” the academics in digital know-how in order to continue operations while ensuring students’ learning continuity.
“It can pose a problem if universities are not prepared, especially in terms of infrastructure.
“Education institutions need to take into account things such as proper communication protocol between lecturers and students, clear guidance and instructions with established procedures, digital support and dynamic lesson designs,” he said.
Pradeep added that emotional impacts are also quite profound among students, causing stress and anxiety to some.
“It comes with the uncertainty of not knowing when you can return to campus, or not being able to return to your home country or the country in which you are studying.
“There are also financial aspects to think about, which may cause some to be distressed. Then, there is also the ‘cabin fever’ factor when one is stuck at home for prolonged periods of time,” he said.
Pradeep said Taylor’s University had begun encouraging students to do more independent online study as part of its Curriculum Framework earlier on.
“It is also the reason we have invested RM50 million in our Virtual Learning Environment after the SARS epidemic in 2003.
“To mitigate this current situation, Taylor’s is fortunate to have our own eLearning Academy team, who have made available and trained our lecturers to use various platforms and software for recording, video editing, resource sharing, online collaborations, polling, assessment and even creating virtual labs,” he said.
He added that both Taylor’s University and Taylor’s College have gone virtual since March 23, 2020, which is part of an effort to comply with the social distancing mandates and to protect the wellbeing of its staff and students in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that even orientation for new students had to be conducted online, while events and extra-curricular activities were cancelled, postponed or gone virtual, including the postponement of its April convocation date.
Still, all the innovations incorporated into the new system seem to be quite a success.
Pradeep said the university’s digital orientation saw over 2,000 students with a total of nearly 3,300 unique log-ins and over 80,000 clicks on its Integrated Moodle e-Learning System or TIMeS.
“Students could access briefings, forums, quizzes and even an online exhibition by our 71 clubs and societies, as well as pre-engagement activities which included a Tik Tok Party Challenge and eSports competitions,” he said.
Feedback received is also good despite being on lockdown in their home countries, with 90% indicating satisfaction in a post-survey conducted.
For now, Pradeep said classes will continue to go online as per guidelines from the government.
“We invested in a state-of-the-art learning management system, lecture capture system, remote communication tools and applications, and expanded hardware capabilities, and we created over 1000 course microsites for each course taught.
“Our lecture capture system, ReWIND, has over 40,000 recorded lectures, which are available for students to fast-forward, rewind, or skip to particular segments as desired,” Pradeep said.
The university also has been using the Lightboard Video Technology since 2019, enabling lecturers to face students and write texts on a glass that is brightly illuminated when explaining concepts, diagrams, models and processes, as if done on a board.
Pradeep said the technology has allowed teaching to be very flexible in more than one ways and the future of education will continue to progress.
“I also believe content reforms are in order, so instead of having to teach everything related to a topic, we have to think about whether we can deliver content on a ‘need to know’ basis.
“We may also need to consider micro-courses, where students can choose modules and personalise what they learn in such a way that they earn micro-credentials,” he said.