What if the World Goes Online Learning?
Science Café JB with Dr Nurbiha A. Shukor and Dr Jaysuman Pusppanathan
Heraclitus once said, “the only constant in life is change” and it could not be more accurate in today’s world. Currently, the COVID-19 has upended the way we work, live, communicate, and learn. The world is scrambling to adapt to the new normal, including the education sector. Across the globe, 1.2 billion students are no longer attending physical classes. The new norm dictates that no more physical meetings and classes for the time being. Going online is the way forward.
To address this matter, Science Café Johor Bahru has organised a virtual Science Café JB session with Dr Nurbiha A. Shukor titled “What if the World Goes Online Learning?” on 29 May 2020. Dr Nurbiha is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Science and Humanities, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. She is also currently the Manager of Creative Multimedia and Learning Technologies at UTM.
Online learning is a subset of digital learning, where instructions are delivered online. It is also considered as a type of distance learning. Because of the way we are accustomed to receiving lessons and the relative novelty of online learning, steps need to be taken to ensure instructions are received well by participants of online courses.
There are many reasons why institutions offer online courses aside from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a study by Popovich and Neel (2005), offering online courses could increase enrolment, which increases profit in return. This is because the rise in online course enrolment does not entail the increasing of physical facilities such as classrooms. Besides that, offering online courses also extends the university’s reach, enabling students to transcend physical distance and enrol in their courses from other states or even other countries. Offering online courses also improves students’ technological skills, aside from mitigating projected shortfalls in instructors. By offering online courses, universities are also able to eliminate overcrowding of classrooms and reduce infrastructure costs. Online courses also benefit students by allowing them to work at their own pace and adopt their own learning style. Additionally, offering online courses also improves student retention and graduation rates.
To adapt to the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Grajek (2020) has observed that an increasing number of universities have planned to adopt new methods of delivery, such as full-time online courses, multi-modal courses (combines online and face-to-face teaching), , as well as classes that have options to change method of delivery down the line (online to face-to-face or vice versa).
Dr Nurbiha highlighted a survey carried out by MCMC on the online activities of Malaysians and it shows that Malaysians are keen to harness the internet as a source of education materials. The survey showed that 60.2% of Malaysians spend their time online studying, while 56% use their time online to read online publications. Dr Nurbiha also mentioned that MCMC Survey Report in 2018 shows that 61.8% of Malaysians have shared content online, and from that number, 7.3% is of an educational nature.
On the topic of online course availability in Malaysia, Dr Nurbiha mentioned Open University Malaysia, The Open University, The University of Newcastle Australia, Coventry University offer degree programmes that are conducted fully online. Dr Nurbiha reminded viewers that they need to make sure that these universities they choose are accredited and recognised. Accreditation ensures universities meet predetermined standards and is qualified to teach students the programmes that they offer.
Dr Nurbiha mentioned that in the current pandemic situation, graduations are held online too. Some common forms of graduation include pre-recorded graduation ceremonies, live online graduations, and digital celebrations. She gave an example of the Ritsumeikan Primary School in Kyoto, Japan that conducted a physical graduation that only involves the students and teachers; parents are only allowed to watch it online. Meanwhile, Florida State University that offers online programmes for distance learning. For their graduation ceremony, they have utilised the simulation game Second Life to create a virtual stage where students can create their own avatar that represents them and a 3D sequence of them going on stage to receive their graduation scrolls.