UM plans to introduce hybrid learning

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 28 Jun 2020

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s oldest varsity is developing a hybrid learning system for the future.

Universiti Malaya vice-chancellor Datuk Abdul Rahim Hashim said lessons and examinations would be fully online until Dec 31, but from next year, e-learning would be blended with socialisation under its 2021-25 UM Strategic Plan.

“People ask how does our e-learning compare to face-to-face sessions.

“E-learning is more personalised and student-centred. Some students even don’t see a need to come back to campus.

“But for holistic development, we need to inculcate values and attributes like communication, volunteerism and teamwork which are part of the socialisation content – you can’t do this online, ” he told Sunday Star.

Admitting that it was a challenge, he said the varsity was working on amalgamating online lessons and socialisation to create a new “hybrid learning” model to provide hands-on learning where necessary.

Some programmes would require students go to labs and workshops, and fields like dentistry and medicine could not be fully online, he said.

“If you don’t practise on people, how are you going to be a dentist? If you don’t talk to patients and ask questions, how will you learn bedside manners?

“We want students to contribute to society by engaging in volunteerism – you can’t do that online.

“Obviously, there are certain technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality that can help, but you still need face-to-face learning.”

Responding to a petition by the varsity’s student union to reduce tuition fees by 25% or RM250, he said the Higher Education Ministry would be issuing guidelines on the matter.

He said fee reduction was a policy issue. “The ministry will issue the guidelines and public universities will determine the amount.

“If fees are reduced, it has to be consistent across the board, and someone will have to fund the difference.”

He also addressed claims that UM, in a bid to manage costs, was hiring lecturers without a masters degree; denying students from using facilities that are being rented to the public, and depriving locals of the opportunity to get into much-sought after programmes like law and medicine by increasing spots for a special open channel for admission into Bachelor Degree programmes (known as Saluran Terbuka Universiti Malaya or SATU).

He said the varsity could admit foreigners, with numbers ranging from 15% to 20% as part of its total enrolment.

“Locals willing to pay more to study under the foreign students category can enrol under SATU.”

“We’re not taking any spots allocated to students applying via the ministry’s UPU (centralised university unit), ” Abdul Rahim said.

“In terms of facilities, let’s take the football field as an example.

“During normal hours, it’s empty because students are not using it, so we reserve certain hours for our own use, but for the rest of the hours, we rent it out to third parties – the university becomes very vibrant and maintenance costs are taken care of.”

As for lecturers not having masters degrees, they were the exception rather than the norm, he said.

“Our lecturers are not just academicians, they also come from the industry, with specific expertise which we require.

“So, we are not just looking at academic experience. Some of them are quite elderly, so we don’t expect them to have masters as long as they can impart knowledge and experiences to our students.”

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