Edu must be equitable

THE essence of a course is the same whether it is conducted in-person, online or hybrid.

The difference, said University of Reading Malaysia provost and chief executive officer Prof Wing Lam, lies in the manner in which students engage through these methods of delivery.

What’s important, he stressed, is to ensure that students receive equitable treatment and recognition for their academic efforts, while embracing the character-building and positive experiences of campus life, regardless of the methods of delivery.

“Internal moderation processes are indispensable tools for universities to address challenges and ensure equity across modalities.

“Varsities should maintain parity in student learning time (SLT) and assessment rigour to avoid grade inflation or discrepancies in academic standards. “For example, it should not be the case that a course delivered in hybrid mode is less challenging and easier to complete than one delivered in-person,” Prof Lam explained.

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On the development of soft skills, he recommended breaking up extended periods of remote study with regular in-person sessions on campus to address skill development imbalances.

“Studying remotely and on-campus offer distinct experiences; they aren’t interchangeable, just like online interactions differ from face-to-face meetings and cultivate different skills.

“Students who study off-campus in their second and third year of university will not necessarily have the same opportunities to fully develop their social, networking, communication and other skills that are important for character-building at such a young age,” he said, adding that greater clarity on flexible learning is a must if we are to prevent it from hindering the development of soft skills.

The key to aligning flexible study programmes with learning outcomes, said Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) president Datuk Parmjit Singh, is embracing innovation in curriculum design, development and delivery (3D).

A forward-thinking approach anticipates future workplace challenges and societal priorities, surpassing current industry benchmarks to envision the competencies needed for success, he added.

“A learning-centric model acknowledges the dynamic exchange between instructors and learners, catering to diverse backgrounds, goals and learning styles.

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“Technological advancements, including artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) and analytics, empower personalised learning pathways while maintaining academic rigour,” he said.

While competency milestones provide practical benchmarks for achievement beyond theoretical tests, real-world application through internships and projects enriches learning outcomes, and continuous feedback ensures alignment with evolving demands, he added.

Championing a methodology that preserves established learning outcomes while adapting instructional strategies to maximise learning for all students is crucial in a hybrid system, said Parmjit.

“Universal design for learning (UDL) principles must be leveraged. Courses must be inclusive and ensure accessibility and flexibility in materials and assessments to accommodate diverse learner needs.

“There should also be rigorous training in online and hybrid instruction for faculties to cultivate digital proficiency and inclusive pedagogy, thereby ensuring consistent grading policies and aligned rubrics across learning modalities,” he said.

Robust support services, including advising and tutoring, must be provided to enhance the learning experience for every students, he added.

“The multifaceted approach encompassing instructional design, faculty development, and learner support serves as a blueprint for promoting equitable and enriching learning experiences while upholding institutional standards in a blended and hybrid learning environment,” said Parmjit. – By JAAYNE JEEVITA

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