Time to gain new skills

Flexible and accessible: Online learning erases barriers to a quality education. — Photo: 123rf

THE mode of delivering education has evolved rapidly over the past year.

Businesses are moving towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution and education is one of the leading industries embracing digital innovations.

The Covid-19 outbreak has spurred the education industry to move online as lessons are transferred to the virtual space – in schools and higher learning institutions – as well as to adapt to a new normal imposed by the super-spreader virus.

But how is this relevant to the general public? Well, to gain an education now, one no longer needs to be physically present in a classroom. Quality education is available wherever and whenever so long as there is access to a computer and the Internet. This mode of learning is known as ‘asynchronous e-learning’ and it is commonly facilitated by e-mails and discussion boards which enable learners and their lecturers to communicate even if they are not able to be online at the same time.

This key component of flexible e-learning has resulted in many opting for online courses as the asynchronous nature allows them to get an education while juggling work, family life and other commitments.

Asynchronous e-learning makes it possible for learners to log on to an e-learning environment at any time and download documents or send messages to lecturers or peers.

It allows learners to participate when they have the time to do so, dramatically expanding the traditional class period while removing geographical restrictions to education.

By leveraging tools like discussion forums, strategic use of video, and small-group projects, lecturers can increase interactivity even without live student contact.

The innovative growth and adaptation of technology by the education sector have opened doors to adult learners to reskill and upskill themselves

The usage of the online educational platform allows for a better balance of work and studies as it offers flexibility in terms of time, logistics and finances.

The flexibility of online education makes it suitable for working adults interested in learning as it does not compromise on their professional growth.

It enables working adults to take courses and programmes that are related to their current profession while promoting the adaptation and transfer of skills to cope with changing technology, work practices and organisational structures.Online learning transcends geographical boundaries. Great strides in technology allow both lecturer and learner to determine their own learning pace, with the added flexibility of a schedule that fits everyone’s agenda.

This flexibility has also made education more cost-effective for working adults to pursue higher learning. Being able to study online means substantial savings on both travel and accommodation expenditures.

The flexibility of time and cost is further explored with Massive Open Learning Courses (MOOC), corporate training or programmes offered by institutions that are approved to conduct online learning.

Breaking away from conventional education pathways, MOOC can be studied and accumulated as a credit transfer towards an accredited qualification later on.

Through online programmes, adult learners can also participate in discussion boards with their classmates, communicate with lecturers, and receive responses and feedback faster and more frequently.

Participating in a discussion board is similar to participating in a virtual team. Indirectly, this exercise equips people with the necessary skills for virtual communication and collaboration as the country’s workforce moves online.The Malaysia Online Education (e-education) Market: Global Demand, Growth Analysis & Opportunity Outlook 2023 report by Research Nester published on Feb 25 states that the advancement in information technology has led the online education system to great horizons.

Owing to the presence of international branch campuses coupled with reasonable tuition fees, Malaysia’s online education market is considered one of the most attractive markets for higher studies across the globe.

The report further states that Malaysia’s online education market is anticipated to project a favourable compound annual growth rate of 16.4% over the forecast period of 2016 to 2023 due to the strong government initiatives and rising number of smartphone and tablet users in the country.

In line with this, we are seeing the emergence of many institutions offering courses and programmes online.

Education institutions are investing more in electronic teaching tools for lecturers and online learning portals to enhance the online learning experience of working adults.

These learners can expect their classes to be conducted via platforms such as Blackboard, Open Learning, or even Google Classroom.With online learning, the barriers to a quality education are removed to provide an ideal solution for working adults looking to improve themselves and enhance their competitiveness in the current job market.

Assoc Prof Dr Mohammad Firdaus Low Abdullah is the director of SEGiRISE at SEGi University, a higher learning institution approved by the Minister of Higher Education to conduct Open and Distance Learning (ODL) online programmes since 2014. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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Segi , ODL , Covid-19 , digitalisation , IR4.0 , MOOC


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