Hybrid learning being considered

PETALING JAYA: Public and private universities are open to the possibility of allowing students to opt for a hybrid arrangement in which they study remotely for two years while the remainder of the course is completed on campus.

This hybrid learning involving two years at home and two years at university (2H2U) would be considered by Universiti Malaya, said its vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Hamdi Abd Shukor.

He said UM might begin a pilot programme for the Bachelor of English Language and Linguistics using the 2H2U model in the 2023/2024 session.

“However, this concept will only be implemented for specific studies, which are non-professional programmes or courses and accredited by the MQA (Malaysian Qualifications Agency),” he said in reference to Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin’s comments last month about introducing flexible study arrangements to ease the financial burden of students.

As for Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), its deputy vice-chancellor Prof Dr Mohammad Kassim said they were already offering programmes and conducting learning in a hybrid format.

“In addition, from the delivery of lectures to course evaluation, students and lecturers have developed a hybrid teaching and learning culture,” he said.

Prof Mohammad said UKM was of the view that this hybrid approach should continue to be an option for teaching and learning due to its flexibility.

“The latest virtual technologies, including Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, can help students overcome a possible modest loss in the physical learning experience at university,” he said.

“We believe that this flexible study style is workable.” he said.

He added that the infrastructure, procedures, and facilities are already in place.

“The institution has introduced adaptable teaching and learning innovations during the Covid-19 pandemic by utilising digital and futuristic learning. UKM will attempt to put this recommendation into practice,” he said.

He said preliminary calculations showed that students could save up to 25% of their fees for the semesters in which they did not have to pay for accommodation.

Likewise, he said there were advantages of staying on campus as students could save up on transportation and other expenses.

Private colleges, too, are supportive of the dual study model.

Datuk Parmjit Singh, the president of Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities which represents local private universities, university colleges and foreign branch campuses, said they are keen to explore offering “carefully selected” programmes or modules in flexible study modes.

“This would allow wider access to programmes offered by our institutions, including to international students who may not be able to come to the country for the entire duration of the programme.

“However, there needs to be greater clarity on what exactly constitutes flexible learning,” he said, adding that there is a need to align the flexible study programme with learning outcome.

This, he said, is crucial in measuring a graduate’s performance and grasp on learning outcome, including development of interpersonal and communication skills which can be difficult to achieve through online learning.

“It is also important to ensure that students have the opportunity to be part of a campus community,” he said, adding that universities had to ensure flexibility did not come at the expense of soft skills development.

On programmes suitable for flexible learning options, Parmjit said this would lean towards those that did not require significant interaction with others.

“Generally, programmes in the humanities or arts may be better suited for remote learning.

“Those in the technical field that include substantial hands-on or lab work are not suitable (for flexible learning) unless there are alternative approaches available to easily supervise and assess such learning activities.”

From a graduate employability development perspective, he acknowledged that there were concerns regarding the students’ readiness to enter the employment market and to meet expectations of their employers.

“Care should be taken to ensure that examinations and assessments are sufficiently rigorous, robust and fool-proof so as to present the same level of challenge as those carried out physically,” he said.

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