By UOW Malaysia KDU
The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed our lifestyle and work environment. In the education industry, there has been a global shift from in-class teaching to emergency remote teaching, mostly in the form of online delivery. This shift has created an increased awareness and need for competencies in online teaching and learning. Many academicians and institutions are facing challenges in its implementation due to the sudden need to embrace online teaching and learning.
Fortunately, at UOW Malaysia KDU, we had started preparing for online delivery before the Movement Control Order was implemented. We are also lucky to have invested and deployed highly regarded learning management systems – OpenLearning and Canvas – which allow online learning and teaching to be more easily managed and more effectively used by both students and lecturers. OpenLearning is an online learning platform that goes beyond content delivery to focus on community, connectedness and learner engagement. Canvas is one of the most highly ranked learning management systems in the world, and it is used by many of the best universities in the United States, including Harvard University, Yale University and Stanford University. We are delighted to announce that we are the only institution in Malaysia that uses this system.
As the nation is coping with the challenges posed by the pandemic and online teaching, UOW Malaysia KDU hopes to do its part by sharing its experiences with the world. Understanding that the switch towards online delivery requires much more than just digitizing notes and lectures, we delivered the Virtual Academic Series, which kicked off on 21 May 2020. This series of webinars is the result of collaboration between UOW Malaysia KDU in Glenmarie and Penang. Its objective is to allow practitioners to share their knowledge and experiences in diverse areas in the arena of online teaching and learning, with the ultimate benefit going to the students. Some of the topics of the first few webinars range from virtual flipped classrooms to implementation of online assessments. UOW Malaysia KDU hopes that by sharing its knowledge base and experiences with the public, everyone can learn together and bring benefit to this world in these trying times.
The series started with a discussion on the “Pre-delivery checklist for online lessons – a UOW(M)KDU UC perspective”. Instead of covering best practices, which had been done by many already, we looked at “housekeeping” elements that would impact the delivery of online lessons. The session stressed two key prongs: first, the restructuring of Lesson Learning Outcomes and second, the choice of the tools used in the delivery itself. The key discussion during the session highlighted the key challenge of the ‘digital divide’ between students of various backgrounds and the ways to mitigate this. Although many participants were not digital natives, they agreed that good preparation is the key to ensure smooth delivery of online lessons.
The second session explored the many challenges in making the transition from traditional assessments to online assessments. One of the most challenging is conducting synchronous online assessments, where students sit for online assessments much like a traditional seated final exam, but without the supervision of invigilators. To mitigate the risks of cheating, various steps were presented like using digital assessment tools, randomizing the questions and MCQ distractors, and breaking the assessments into multiple shorter-duration assessments. Other issues explored included the digital divide amongst students, difficulty in giving answers which require special symbols or drawings, providing feedback to students and the assessment of soft skills. The conclusion was that there is no single silver bullet in solving all the challenges completely, but that educators can take various steps to mitigate the risks posed by these issues, and to reduce the severity of their consequences. Participants responded during Q&A that the session was useful for them.
The final session for this series focused on how to modify a traditional flipped classroom while creating a balance between independent and group work. Edu 4.0 skills were highlights of the session following the basic theory of a properly flipped class. Most times, educators forget that flipping in a remote classroom setting requires more specifics than the traditional method. Remembering that we are facilitating digital natives is of utmost importance as students can be empowered with lower level Bloom’s taxonomy tasks with confidence. Access, flexibility, reassurance, and monitoring have all migrated to online portals, making any plan B an absolute necessity. Facilitating learning in the form of participation and feedback is vital. Samples of an actual modified flipped classroom were shared for clarity and the session received many positive reviews from its participants.
Overall the sessions were a great success, as they gave participants a different perspective of online learning. The question now is ‘Where do we go from here?’ and truth be told, uncertainty is still felt by all. But one thing is for sure, UOW(M)KDU is ready and able to adapt to the new normal.
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