Customised learning in a pandemic


It’s virtually safer: Online consultations provide students with a higher degree of confidence in objectively approaching their subjects. – Photo: 123rf

IN general, contemporary online teaching tends to take on a push-based structure.

Typically, course outlines, recorded lectures and assignments are made available to students online.

Key student activities include watching the lecture recordings and reading the given materials to produce reports and prepare for tests and examinations.

Online tutorials provide opportunities for students to interact and ask questions in group settings.

In addition, group-based assignments, such as producing video presentations, enable interaction among students and prepare them for real-world experience where working from home and interacting with peers online have become a part of the new normal.

General approaches, however, provide limited opportunities for customising key responses to the needs of specific individuals.

In addressing this, I have found online consultations to be effective in meeting these needs.

Online consultations allow students to engage with their lecturers on a personal basis and increase their confidence in comprehending their course materials.

We can explore their benefits from three perspectives:

> Avenue to raise issues

Online consultations create an avenue for students to interact with their lecturers and clear any doubt they have on the subject matter.

Such consultations have provided an informal and personal interaction between my students and me, be it one-on-one or in a group of three to four students.

This approach also offers students a convenient way to interact with their lecturers and peers from their homes without the need to factor in travelling time to the campus. As such, it saves them time and money.

> One-on-one interaction

Based on my experience, students often refrain from drawing attention to themselves during online tutorials where many other students are present.

Online consultations provide a solution to this. Students can interact with me on a friendly basis without the presence of their peers.

This encourages them to ask questions and discuss complex concepts for better understanding. Indeed, online consultations make students feel comfortable in exposing areas where they need guidance.

> Personalised learning

Such consultations allow students to have an in-depth discussion on the subject matter and to engage with real-world examples that help strengthen their higher-order thinking skills. These sessions provide them with more time to discuss, and seek clarification on, complex issues.

They also boost the students’ confidence in approaching their assignments and in preparing for their examinations.

Generally, my students feel comfortable engaging with me via online consultations, which are as good as face-to-face consultations during pre-pandemic times.

This mode of course delivery has also helped them in accepting the transition to online instruction which may continue in the future.

Online consultations remove the physical barriers between students and their lecturers, and provide students with a higher degree of confidence in objectively approaching their subjects.

Above all, such interactions from home are safer, especially at a time when the nation is facing a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Dr Jothee Sinnakkannu is an associate professor at the School of Business in Monash University Malaysia. He has more than 25 years of teaching experience, and served as the head of the accounting and finance discipline between 2009 and 2011 at the university. Besides teaching banking and finance courses to undergraduates and postgraduates, Dr Jothee is an active researcher in the areas of international finance, capital market behaviour and Islamic finance. He has supervised many research degree students in these areas, and has a portfolio of research publications in top international journals. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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