‘Students and varsities are ready’

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 26 Mar 2017

BRING it on.

Our students and universities are ready for disruptive tech, Malaysia’s Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh assures.

The Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) and “Redesigning Higher Education” agenda for this year puts disruptive tech into focus. The priority is the big data programme but emphasis is also given to the liberal arts programme to infuse creativity and innovation into science, tech and engineering-based products.

“We foresaw the challenges of disruptive tech and we’ve got specific initiatives, like the 2u2i programme, in place. These are still relevant.

“But we’re flexible. We’re ready to react to changes in view of the speed at which tech advances,” says Idris.

The 2u2i programme increases the chances of students entering the digital industry after their graduation. Students spend two years at the university to master theories and another two years doing hands-on practice in the industry.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia is collaborating with the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) to develop a data engineering academic programme using the 2u2i concept.

“It’s very relevant for the fourth industrial revolution, which blends technologies with the physical, digital and biological spheres,” he says, adding that 2u2i will be expanded to 16 programmes covering areas like database management, entrepreneurship, oleochemistry, and bioinformatics, in the 2017/2018 academic year.

Recognising that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will disrupt higher education – especially in terms of access, accreditation and the way students learn – the ministry applies disruptive tech advances to allow students free access to discussions, blogs, video lectures and other social media tools.

“We have the first nationally-coordinated MOOC initiative in the world. Over 220,000 students from over 170 countries have participated in Malaysia’s MOOC courses. The highest enrolment is from Australia and the USA,” he shares.

We’re seeing more tech in education, echoes OpenLearning.com CEO Adam Brimo.

OpenLearning.com hosts over 3,000 MOOCs worldwide, with some 750,000 students enrolled.

MOOCs solve some of the major challenges in education: cost, distance, time and quality. But to realise the benefits, learning experiences must be student-centred. The biggest disruptions he foresees in education will come from full implementation of existing technologies and methods, like MOOCs, across the education system.

“MOOCs are disruptive – but established universities are well-placed to benefit from that. Students can join MOOCs for free. But while the university’s brand and reputation can attract, students will only complete the course if the quality is good.”

The Higher Education Ministry is also looking at virtual reality. Other measures include the Integrated Cumulative Grade Point Average (iCGPA) and Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

The iCGPA lets employers assess academic credentials, social engagement and personality traits, while APEL keeps society in touch with technological advancements.

And, launched last year with the Ministry of Education, MDEC’s #mydigitalmaker movement integrates computational thinking and computer science into the school curriculum to groom young digital makers. This, says MDEC chief executive officer Datuk Yasmin Mahmood, has impacted 10,000 schools nationwide.

“We recently sent 10 students to the Silicon Valley (in the United States) to experience real-life digital innovation. The work continues into the higher education space by training lecturers to deliver digital tech-related modules and developing technical and vocational education and training modules for polytechnics.”

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