Academic institutions worldwide are facing an unprecedented situation. The COVID-19 pandemic and the measures to curb its spread have upended academic calendars, resulting in the need for new and innovative ways of imparting knowledge to students.
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) has adapted to the situation by embracing flexible online learning. The university, which is recognised as a premier digital technology university by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, was quick to transform all its courses and modules to be conducted online.
The change required a considerable revamp of infrastructure. UTM has spent about RM 4.4 million (S$1.4 million) to upgrade its wireless infrastructure to provide fast and stable connections that support online teaching and learning.
With many students having to access their work remotely in accordance to the movement control order outlined by the Malaysian government, UTM’s online learning platforms have proven to be highly useful. The university’s platforms, such as the Online Learning Campaign (OLC), Open Distance Learning (ODL) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), cater to different categories of students.
ONLINE LEARNING CAMPAIGN
The UTM OLC is a one-stop centre for teaching and learning activities that has adopted e-learning.
Using the Moodle open-source learning management system, OLC provides a variety of tools for interactive learning, such as multimedia materials, assessment functions, digital badge systems, collaborative writing tools and forums. Students can also use other applications that can be integrated with the platform, such as Padlet, Quizizz or Socrative.
Students who are unable to use videoconferencing technology such as Webex and Zoom for synchronous learning are not at a disadvantage as lecturers can share learning materials on the platform.
OPEN DISTANCE LEARNING
The ODL programme is targeted at postgraduate students around the world who want to learn virtually without being on campus. Students are tutored by the same academics who teach on campus, and are awarded with qualifications that follow those defined in the Malaysian Qualifications Framework.
Like OLC, the ODL programme is hosted on the open-source Moodle platform and is easy to access. Students only have to ensure the availability of internet access to log into the ODL system for scheduled lectures or asynchronous learning that best fits their schedule. The programme is also available in a mobile version that allows for access on the go.
MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSES
UTM is actively using MOOCs to provide non-UTM students the opportunity to have an online learning experience delivered by the university experts.
UTM-MOOCs are also an alternative for students on campus who wish to take their courses at flexible times. These courses can later be applied as credit transfer to replace the modules that they were unable to attend due to the movement control order during the pandemic.
In light of the pandemic, UTM is offering discounts on its certificates from selected MOOCs until Dec 31, 2020. UTM students are entitled to a 60-per-cent discount while non-UTM students are entitled to a 45-per-cent discount. With the changing landscape of global education and in line with the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2015-2025, the UTM-MOOCs promote open, flexible and lifelong learning opportunities among students.
ONLINE LEARNING ASSISTANCE
All UTM students have access to the UTM One-Stop Centre website that provides online learning assistance.
The site highlights guidelines, synchronous and asynchronous communication platforms, as well as free software downloads for better adaptation of the new learning approach. It also includes the library resources of UTM, sites such as OpenCourseWare, as well as other open education resources that provide books, journals and databases for learning materials.
EMPOWERING THE TEACHERS
With the change of teaching mediums, lecturers have had to change how they prepare teaching and learning resources. The different teaching and learning platforms might require lecturers to redesign courses and adapt students’ guides and teaching manuals.
To ensure all lecturers are able to conduct online classes, the Centre for Teaching and Learning UTM has conducted various online courses and workshops for its lecturers that enable them to be more active in creating engaging learning activities and compelling course content to suit the online learning platform.
Providing quality teaching and learning activities through reliable resources is important in education. In these times of disruption, UTM has stepped up its game to provide robust online learning platforms to ensure continuous learning for students all around the world.