Readying for physical classes

UOW Malaysia KDU Penang University College chef Kumar Rajaretnam (with hat) and other staff members sanitising the culinary classroom while others prepare a mock hotel room (pic, below) at the college in Anson Road, George Town. — Photos: MUSTAFA AHMAD/The Star

NOT everything can be taught online, such as how to cook for 50 customers in one go or do machine-tooling.

So, the private education sector in Penang has been delightedly revving up cleaning and sanitisation activities to prepare for real-world classes again.

The Higher Education Ministry announced recently that from July 1, certificate, diploma and bachelor’s degree students in their final year can return to the campus for classes that require clinical work or training or laboratory, workshop, design studio, practical or specialised equipment.

First-year students at all levels of tertiary studies can also return in stages from July to October, while students with special needs at technical and vocational education centres can return to class from Aug 1.

For all other types of classes and tertiary students, full online learning must continue till the year-end.

UOW Malaysia KDU University College’s School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts Department head Cindy Loh said students prefer the conventional classrooms.

“Frankly, a lot of them do not favour online classes. They prefer to engage in face-to-face classes.

“During online classes, we cannot show them how to do things or teach them how to use equipment, ” she said.

Despite that, Loh said her students’ attendance had been good during online lessons held since the movement control order (MCO) was issued in March.

Even with the MCO, enrolment of new students had progressed well at UOW-KDU, said deputy vice-chancellor (engagement) Associate Professor Dr Brian Imrie.

Assoc Prof Imrie said UOW Malaysia KDU was excited about the possibility of welcoming students back into their George Town and Glenmarie campuses.

“We acknowledge that students can’t wait to get back and new students want the full experience of university life, ” he said.

He said a phased approach was being taken to reopen the campuses in strict accordance with the government’s standard operating procedures from July 1 for the students.

“Wherever possible, we want to give students a choice to accommodate different learning styles.

“Some of them might be a bit apprehensive about coming back and want to continue online learning, ” he said.

He said with these options in place, the learning experience at the university college can be enhanced as it provides the students not only with face-to-face experiential classes but also online theory-based classes which could be more convenient for them.

He said that prior to the outbreak, the university had developed a digital learning strategy to deliver a quality online learning experience using top management systems.

UOW-KDU is part of the Australian University of Wollongong’s global network of campuses.

Meanwhile, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and University College Dublin Malaysia (RUMC) in Penang already have in place a sophisticated online learning management system that made it much easier for its medical students to adapt to online classes during MCO.

Raji SogamaurRaji Sogamaur

RUMC corporate marketing head Raji Sogamaur said the learning management system was used to manage the university students’ learning experience and journey.

“Our students have been adapting to it very well. So far, the learning process has been excellent, ” she said.

Raji said currently, no physical classes were conducted at the university and no students were allowed to come in during the MCO.

RUMC students travel to Dublin to attend the first two-and-a-half years of pre-clinical studies, followed by another two-and-a-half years of clinical training in Penang.

“Ireland has managed to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the country and has started re-opening its economy.

“New students are expected to begin their medical programme in Dublin this year, but must adhere to two weeks of self-isolation prior to attending classes on campus, ” she said.

Established as Penang Medical College in 1996, RUMC was awarded university status by the Highter Education Ministry as a foreign university branch campus in 2018.

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