Online learning such as MOOC is key for the future of education.

AS SOON as Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the movement control order (MCO) in March 2020, the lives of every Malaysian were completely changed.

Not only were citizens requested to stay home, but all outdoor activities were also restricted to stem the tide of Covid-19 infections in the country, with one of the affected groups being students at institutions of higher learning (IHLs).

As a result, the teaching and learning process moved from face-to-face to online through smartphones or computers with internet facilities, but most importantly, the MCO did not break the process of teaching and learning at IHLs.

This remained the case even when IHLs were again tested by the conditional MCO starting Oct 14, since extended to Dec 6, with complete execution of online teaching and learning for 14 weeks.

This moment in time showcases the importance of technology in line with the fourth industrial revolution, such as the Internet of Things and big data, simultaneously with the launch of the ninth thrust of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 for world-class online learning, which varies the ways of teaching and learning online for tech-savvy students.

Accordingly, such attention has been given to the platform through the launch of the Data Plan package - in partnership with telecommunication companies including Celcom, Digi, Telekom Malaysia and as well as Yayasan YTL and Lembaga Tabung Haji - to IHL students, where students are given SIM cards.

This is in addition to various assistance and initiatives such as the RM50 cash aid, laptop assistance and special discounts from device manufacturers such as Acer and Samsung, which is intended to ease the burden of IHL students in ensuring smooth and effective online teaching and learning.

It is the hope of the Higher Education Ministry that the assistance provided is leveraged by students to enable the advancement of teaching and learning with the establishment of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in public universities.

According to Kolej Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Selangor senior lecturer Dr Ghazali Zainuddin, the execution of MOOC must be widely encouraged as Generation Y is more accepting of change and innovation and are quick to learn and adapt to e-learning. UPM was among the first public universities actively applying MOOC in its operations, having introduced PutraMOOC in April 2014 as a selected learning tool among students and lecturers. Thus far, around 28 MOOCs have been developed by UPM lecturers.Some may still ask: What is MOOC?

In general, MOOC are courses that are conducted online with trending and current titles to attract student attention. These are developed by lecturers and range from general or niche courses to lifelong skills and professional development courses.

According to the MOOC Development Guidelines, the format of the course should be in the form of a five-minute video on a topic, alongside interactive multimedia content to strengthen student understanding.

Each topic needs to have subtopics, the results of studying the topic and interactive topic content, followed by activities such as quizzes, problem solving and the like. In addition, assessments - including quizzes with multiple choice or answers and fill-in-the-blank formats - are also prepared by lecturers and automatically graded.

To add to the student’s knowledge, the development of MOOC courses must also provide them with additional references like videos, journal articles in PDF and so on.As can be seen, the process of developing an MOOC course is not simple, as lecturers have to choose the right members that are skilled to become graphic artists, video crew, editors and more. that said, the challenge can be overcome as membership is not limited to only lecturers, but also students and support groups that are knowledgeable and skilled in technology.

The quality and originality of topics and content of MOOC courses are vital, which is why every MOOC course goes through a quality control process overseen by the quality assurance committee.

Although MOOC is an alternative for lecturers, it is also important to note that students must be guided in using MOOC as the two-way interaction will boost existing understanding.

As a result, students today known as Generation Y, do not only rely on face-to-face learning, as they require teaching and learning methods that are fast and easy, which is where MOOC comes in.

This means that MOOC will continue growing as the newest and latest concept in virtual teaching and learning, by continuously improving the current systems according to current needs.

As Universiti Tun Hussein Onn lecturer Dr Mohd Erfy Ismail’s research shows, the use of MOOC has managed to raise the motivation and interest of students by making learning more interesting, which in turn means that the usage of MOOC should be expanded further to all lecturers for the future of education.

Dr Akmar Hayati Ahmad Ghazali is an Associate Professor at Universiti Putra Malaysia and a guest writer for MoHE.

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