The online portal changing the polytechnic experience

The online portal changing the polytechnic experience

About 100,000 polytechnic diploma students and adult learners are using an online platform called PolyMall, which allows students from Singapore's five polytechnics to access learning resources across multiple disciplines. The team behind it says more courses will be added. Tan Si Hui reports.

SINGAPORE: An online platform developed to allow all five polytechnics to share curriculum content has led to a more effective teaching and learning experience, according to lecturers and students who spoke to CNA.

PolyMall, which was first launched in 2016, allows full-time diploma students to shop around and enrol in about 1,400 modules offered by the various institutions for free.

And the team behind it says more courses will be added.

PolyMall also allows access to course materials uploaded by lecturers for students who are pursuing a diploma at a different school. According to Temasek Polytechnic (TP), about 600 Ngee Ann Polytechnic students enrolled in TP’s pharmacology module online last semester.

ALLOWS SHARING OF RESOURCES, BETTER PREPARATION

Dr Maisha Foo, a pharmaceutical science lecturer at TP, said the platform allows staff to share resources, which is more efficient.

She said: “There may be certain subjects that are common across the different courses and the different polytechnics. So I think that’s where we can tap on those resources. We can curate the materials and it can help us save time developing materials on our own.”

Asmita Ale, a pharmaceutical science student at TP, said the portal helps her broaden her interests and expand her career options.

That is because students can sign up for general education modules in diverse areas.

“If the job that I want inculcates business and science aspects, by looking at materials in PolyMall, it will give me an insight into the industry I’m looking forward to,” said the second-year student.

Mr Brian Tan, a senior lecturer at Republic Polytechnic's School of Applied Science, said the platform has equipped students with more subject knowledge before attending classes.

The platform allows multimedia content like video clips and animations to be uploaded, so students can even get a sense of what they need to do during hands-on tasks like laboratory experiments.

Mr Tan said: “This allows them to come better prepared for lessons and engage in deeper academic discussions with their lecturers in class.”

“UNIQUE IN THE WORLD”

PolyMall was first conceptualised in 2014.

A team of about 30 representatives from all five polytechnics worked with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).

Deputy Principal (Development) of Singapore Polytechnic, Hee Joh Liang, who is also the chairman of PolyMall, said the aim was to allow the five polytechnics to collaborate with one another and help students become self-directed learners.

The team then brought on board US educational technology firm Blackboard.

Regional Vice-President for Asia of Blackboard Philip Murray said it’s the first time the company’s technology has been utilised in such a manner.

“At no time have we ever had universities and polytechnics get together to share content and allow students to seamlessly move between faculties and different polytechnics dependent on their own capabilities and course interests,” said Mr Murray.

“This is unique in the world.”

VISION FOR COURSES TO COUNT TOWARDS A QUALIFICATION

Currently, about 100,000 students are using the platform.

For now, online modules from another polytechnic do not count towards a student’s grades or qualifications, but Mr Hee said this could happen in the future as more modules are added.

He said: “The vision that we would like to have is where students can, in a way, pick a certain module from one poly and pick another module from another poly so that it can stack up towards a diploma.”

As technology advances, the platform could also be enhanced so polytechnics can share resources that incorporate augmented reality and virtual reality, said Mr Hee.

He hopes the portal will inspire students to become lifelong learners.

“They need to own their learning, rather than lecturers telling them ‘you must learn this or you must learn that.’

“Because the world is changing very fast and the half-life of a skill is now less than five years.”

Source: CNA/mn

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