SINGAPORE: Undergraduates at the National University of Singapore (NUS) may soon try their hand at designing their own modules, the school announced on Friday (Feb 8).
The optional Design-Your-Own-Module initiative, which begins in August, is part of the university's efforts to help students take greater ownership of their learning and better pursue their passions.
Interested students can organise themselves into groups of at least 10 and submit a proposal to an NUS faculty mentor or to their home faculty for review and approval.
They can choose to invite a guest speaker from the industry to tutor them on a subject - for instance fintech, urban sustainability or the fine arts - or they may select modules from a suite of online courses offered by edX, a not-for-profit massive open online course provider created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University.
Faculty mentors will then set assignments, supervise discussions and ensure demonstrations of competence in the field of study.
Under the initiative, the students may take up to four modular credits from their Unrestricted Electives Modules to pursue subjects that "contribute to their personal and professional growth", said NUS in a press release.
They may use the modules to meet the requirements for a specialisation, minor, double major, double degree or concurrent bachelor-master’s degree.
The modules under the Design-Your-Own-Module initiative will be graded on a satisfactory or unsatisfactory basis and will not contribute any marks towards a student’s cumulative average point.
NUS senior deputy president and provost Professor Ho Teck Hua said one of the reasons for the initiative was that a lot of students might have "special needs" that NUS professors do not cater for.
“Second reason is that we want our students to take charge of their learning journey," he said. "It’s important for them to start from NUS to plan for their lifelong journey and to be responsible for their learning journey themselves.”
NUS undergraduate Felix Tan, who hopes to help others pick up soft skills like teamwork and communication, said he intends to create a module on the subject.
Mr Tan, a first-year undergraduate, said: “My friends tell me they are interested in picking up these soft skills, but don’t know how to go about doing it. Being able to design this module would be a first step.
“It also offers students an avenue to pursue things that the university currently does not offer.”
When asked if the new initiative would lead to an increase in workload for faculty members, especially after last December’s exodus of lecturers in the NUS faculty of arts and social sciences, Prof Ho said faculty members will be provided with teaching credit that will be part of their teaching load.
BETTER CHANCE FOR POLYTECHNIC GRADUATES
Another initiative that the university will roll out will give polytechnic graduates with entrepreneurial abilities a better chance of getting into NUS.
The university is working with the five polytechnics, which can nominate up to 200 graduating students in total.
These students will be considered for admissions.
Prof Ho said he is hoping that more polytechnic students will take advantage of NUS’s entrepreneur ecosystem.
“We promise to interview them," he said. "For a group of students who don’t meet the academic cut-off, we will admit them under the aptitude-based discretionary admission.”
Each year, up to 15 per cent of applicants are identified for admission based on qualities other than academic merit. Last year, 15 per cent of NUS' student intake was made up of polytechnic students, up from 11 per cent five years ago.
More could also get into their first-choice programme starting this year.
An initiative to give A-Level applicants bonus points for their first-choice courses will be extended to those with polytechnic, NUS High School and International Baccalaureate qualifications.