WITH the changes sweeping the world today, the future has changed too fast for the worth of students to be proven by testing how much they understand from the books, classrooms and labs.
For university students in many disciplines, the final challenge they must face to be worthy of degrees are often real-life missions.
This is especially the culture at UOW Malaysia KDU, but many may not realise just how real those missions can get.
In Kulim, Kedah, a hi-tech company engaged the Diploma in Interior Design and Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Interior Architecture students to design the upcoming factory's office, lobby, cafeteria and more.
"The company makes glass sheets that go from clear to opaque in the blink of an eye.
It creates glass fixtures with cutting-edge technology, with product designs that break the boundaries on the use of glass.
“This is a new world design that creates a paradigm shift toward the multiple uses of glass, as these profound ideas can develop in the shaping of a space by making invisible walls that create the pleasure of spaciousness in the home, office or factory while creating privacy when it's needed by immediately turning opaque," explained Dr Yeap Gik Hong, UOW Malaysia KDU head of Penang School of Engineering, Computing and Built Environment.
An enterprise making such a new thing needs a headquarters that is futuristic and for this, the company chose UOW Malaysia KDU's interior design and architecture students to propose the interior design of the spaces within the factory.
"They created a competition for our students. Several teams of students designed in 3D how their office, cafeteria, lobby and so on should look," said Yeap.
The parameters were accurate down to the millimetre. Even cost estimates had to be specified.
The extent of the requirements was so comprehensive that this real-life mission became the students' final project assignment.
As the cherry on the cake, the company gave monetary rewards.
The team with the design the company liked best won RM1,200 and the second prize was RM800, while the third RM500.
"We requested the company to display the names of the students whose design they adopted as bragging rights," Yeap said.
If that challenge does not seem big enough, some of UOW Malaysia KDU's interior design students also had the prestige of taking on final-year assignments at the global home furnishing giant, Ikea.
"Ikea has their catalogue launch four times a year. Their catalogues don't just show the new furniture. They help buyers envision how to use the furniture to create their dream homes/spaces."
Ikea roped in UOW Malaysia KDU's interior design students to design display units for dining, bathing, sleeping, working and even baby rooms.
Again, the Ikea challenge tested the mettle of the students so extensively that it became part of the final obstacle to their academic award.
It is to the credit of UOW Malaysia KDU that its various campuses in the country have built relationships with tens of large businesses nationwide.
"In the old days, if you wanted to be a carpenter, blacksmith, or mason, you had to find a master who would be willing to accept you and spend years under them, learning and working on actual projects until you won the right to be a master yourself.
"We try to preserve that at UOW Malaysia KDU by letting our students interact with our industry partners.
"This allows them to apply what they have learnt in the classrooms to create solutions to overcome real-word challenges," Yeap stressed.
This, he said, leads to one other benefit.
Engineering students of UOW Malaysia KDU are often required to interact with many multinationals, hi-tech corporations to grapple with their production issues.
"They work on problems in factories like Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Keysight Technologies, TF AMD and they get job offers even a year before their final-year assignments.
"It happened so many times that it is almost a common occurrence," Yeap said.
For more insights into the unique learning culture at UOW Malaysia KDU, visit www.uowmkdu.edu.my