UNIVERSITI UTARA MALAYSIA: LEARNING MUSTN'T STOP WITH COVID-19
The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed higher education institutions online to ensure that effective learning continues. While technology can facilitate seamless migration of face-to-face learning to a virtual platform, accessibility to quality digital content is crucial, especially during the Movement Control Order (MCO). As the workplace is rapidly expanding beyond the lecture halls, online classroom delivery will become a new norm.
Like anywhere else in the world, students at Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) were initially forced to leave the campus and go home to follow the Malaysian directive of the movement control order (MCO) to curb the spread of the virus. As the students were not allowed to come back to the campus and face-to-face classes could not resume, as usual, an alternative to traditional teaching and learning had to be found. Fortunately, the University has implemented blended learning education in which students learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face teaching for the last few years. Capitalizing on the existing learning management system (LMS), the transition to 100% blended and online has been rather smooth.
However, one key challenge with the full online transition is the access to Internet connection by students, especially those who live in remote locations where basic Internet infrastructures are not as good as those found in urban and suburban areas. This particularly true especially for the undergraduate students, and is not much an issue for OYAGSB students as they are mostly working adults. Prior to Covid-19, students mostly stayed on the campus or if they live nearby the campus, with their parents. In these situations, they tended to have an excellent access to Internet facilities. While technology can facilitate seamless migration of face-to-face learning to a virtual platform, accessibility to quality digital content is crucial, especially during the Movement Control Order (MCO). Thus, while faculty members were ready to move to online teaching, students might not necessarily be so, despite the various teaching and learning support provided by the University to facilitate online delivery.
Despite the technological challenges, online teaching and learning have to continue. Some faculty members indicate that they started to convert 100% of their traditional delivery to a fully online content since there is no definite date when the MCO will end. However, from the feedback gathered, online learning is significantly easier for technical subjects than for those that require creativity. Thus, in the time of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, a variety of support should be continuously provided. One area that is worth mentioning is human tutoring, which can be facilitated through online and digital means that are equally accessible to everyone. Human tutoring, i.e., having faculty members who motivate, inspire, and support advancing independent thinking, is still indispensable.
The situation the world is facing now is somewhat unprecedented. It has forced higher learning institutions to think out of the box of how to deliver their academic responsibility. The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed higher education institutions online to ensure that effective learning continues. As the workplace is rapidly expanding beyond the lecture halls, online classroom delivery will become a new norm. More importantly, we hope that for Generation Z, Alpha, and the generations to come, the experiences of isolation and remote learning away from their peers, teachers, and classrooms will serve as a cautious reminder of the importance of the need for face-to-face and social interaction.