Return to normalcy


Students have to get back on track. It is time to try to get back to as normal a life as we possibly can but doing it safely.

This is only possible if we follow strict standard operating procedures (SOPs).

While online learning is the new norm, there is no denying that face-to-face learning is still an important aspect of good quality education.

There are also many other aspects to learning aside from classes. Students must have access to library resources, and good Internet connection.

They must be able to sit for examinations physically, which they can’t from their home countries. This is why our campus remains open for essential services.

We have to support our students’ learning. We have been told by the Higher Education Ministry (MoHE) that our college and university students can only return for in-person classes in phases come March.

However, we are hopeful that it can be earlier as the Education Ministry has already allowed for school children to resume face-to-face classes.

So far, some 200 existing students have returned as they have endorsed student visas in their passports.

All returning foreign students must undergo strict and comprehensive compulsory quarantine set by the Health Ministry (MoH).

Upon getting clearance from the MOH after their quarantine, I believe it will be safe for the students to return to campus.

They will still need to follow the SOPs we have in place such as the wearing of masks, ensuring physical distancing, practising good hygiene and avoiding crowded places.

We also have our welfare team on hand to assist them. We have been preparing for our students return to physical classes and intend to welcome them all back as soon as we are allowed to do so.

We are mindful of those who cannot return for face-to-face classes for a host of reasons, which could include closed borders and them having to be under quarantine or self isolation.

As such, we will adopt a hybrid or dual mode of instruction to include streaming our face-to-face classes live to those who need to learn online.

Sunway Education Group chief executive officer Elizabeth Lee

Now that permission has been granted by the government, we are working closely with our international students, Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS), the Immigration Department and Malaysia’s high commissions overseas to have all our international students return to campus by March 1.

For this to happen, they need to begin the application processes now. We need to do this especially for international students in specific disciplines, like medicine, engineering, pharmacy, hospitality, culinary arts, design and biosciences who need to return so that they can attend the much needed clinical, laboratory and studio sessions to ensure they acquire the professional skills to excel in their future profession.

According to MoHE’s guidelines, we will conduct hybrid learning, combination of face-to-face and online lessons from March 1.

As a matter of priority, practical, clinical and studio sessions will be done face-to-face, whilst strictly complying to the SOPs set by MoH and MoHE.

Practical classes are done in smaller groups of eight to 15 students anyway, unlike lectures which may have hundreds of students.

Lecture sessions will remain online for sometime, for the sake of students’ and staff’s safety.

There are enough measures in place to mitigate the risks (of the Covid-19 spread).

Some of these measures include students having to be tested three days before leaving their home country and again upon arriving in Malaysia where they will be quarantined for at least 10 days at their own cost.

So, given how much hands-on practical sessions they have missed in some disciplines since March last year, the sooner they arrive, the better it is for them and for us.

Online learning has limitations and I am glad the authorities are allowing the return of all students to campus in a phased manner.

After July last year, when MoHE allowed students to come back to campus in a phased and controlled manner, the reality was that many – especially the foreign students – could not do so due to border closure, health advisories and quarantine restrictions.

I have not heard of foreign students in my institution who missed out on their lessons.

Technology has enabled anytime, anywhere learning and we’ve made sure no student is left behind.

Where students – both foreign and local – need catching up, is in their laboratory, clinical and studio work.

We have been trying to teach this online for more than 10 months now.

We need all students to come back as soon as possible to campus for these classes.

Taylor’s University deputy vice-chancellor and chief academic officer Prof Dr Pradeep Nair

So far no foreign student has returned from abroad due to border closure. With the latest MoHE announcement, we expect some will. The university has a minimal number of foreign students, most of whom are research students and they are still here in Malaysia.

We have always practised open and distance learning (ODL) that does not require Internet access all the time.

Lessons may be delivered via snail mail or phone calls if necessary. Though lectures may still be mostly online, tutorials and discussions may be held onsite.

Consultation with lecturers will also be possible. This will increase the instructional time but it is still manageable.

Some students are comfortable with ODL which is safer, cheaper, more accessible in terms of learning materials, lessons and the lecturers.

The university is opting for a hybrid approach. Face-to-face lessons will be conducted for courses requiring practical and clinical sessions. All our campuses have strict SOP for laboratories and classrooms.

We also have an isolation facility for students should there be a need to isolate them. Last year was an unprecedented year.

This year will probably still see us grappling with many uncertainties. There is no right time (to allow foreign students back) as long as the spread of the virus is not controlled; by vaccines or by the people, we have an obligation to provide students with the best education and we are finding ways to do it remotely.

UiTM Academic Affairs Division Office

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