Teaching and Learning in New Norm: How do we deal with it?

Kamaruzzaman Ismail, Director Center for Instructional Technology and Curriculum Development, Universiti Kuala Lumpur

Kamaruzzaman Ismail, Director Center for Instructional Technology and Curriculum Development, Universiti Kuala Lumpur

The COVID–19 pandemic that has hits for more than a year has shifted on how teaching and learning (T&L) is normally conducted. Due to this pandemic, typical face- to-face classes had to be suspended to ensure the safety of students and lecturers. And to minimize the impact of Movement Control Order (MCO) towards T&L, online learning has been enabled as an approach to conventional method. The online learning has been taken seriously due to MCO since it becomes the solution to ensure less disruption in T&L processes.

As the Director for Centre of Teaching and Learning UniKL, I was directed to come out with the guidelines on how teaching and learning will be implemented during this period. With the help and support from my team and some divisions, my centre was managed to come out with the guideline that has three (3) main sections: Online Teaching and Learning (T&L) Design; Online Teaching and Learning Delivery; and Online Teaching and Learning Assessment. All measures taken without ignoring the guidelines from accreditation bodies or professional accreditation agencies.

"Lecturers are encouraged to consider including students in designing the best delivery methods to ensure effective, engaging and meaningful learning experience for them"

Each section also addresses the quality assurance of the online T&L and assessment. For the purpose of this guideline, online teaching and learning refers to the teaching and learning activities that take place in an internet-connected environment and/or using e-learning platforms. The students with limited or no internet access could communicate through email, online messaging applications and courier services.

Lectures and tutorials are conducted via synchronous activities i.e. University Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as a main platform and through Microsoft TEAMS for real-time meeting that happens as per academic timetable. This allows two way-real time communication to happen where students can get the feedback immediately from their lecturers. To create better engagement, students are encouraged to turn on the camera to replicate physical-in-class scenarios.

All UniKL academic staff is highly encouraged to combine the online T&L with activities and assessments for effective and engaging learning sessions. Therefore, to support the effectiveness of the online class, relevant contents such as videos from YouTube or MOOC videos are shared during the online class, which later it will be related to the course contents.

At the same time, lecturers prepared online activities and assessments’ (summative or formative) using multi Web 2.0 tools such Kahoot!, Mentimeter etc. The courses are pre-equipped with such tools and it is proven to create an engaging and participative sessions. Lecturers are encouraged to consider including students in designing the best delivery methods to ensure effective, engaging and meaningful learning experience for them.

The course materials such as the presentation slides or any additional handouts are available on UniKL Learning Management System also known as Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)prior to class commencement. Hence, students can easily do pre- study before joining the classes to enhance the understanding. The Flipped classroom was implemented to ensure students are ready during the classtime.

The main platforms are UniKL VLE and Microsoft Teams. It is also supported via communication through emails and instant messaging channels.

Significant additional time is required at the beginning of e-learning implementation. That is mainly due to familiarization with the apps and settings. Lecturers agreed that the skills are mastered once the familiarization period is over and it assist to administer the classes and groups.

Lecturers are required to ensure that the number and complexity of tasks given commensurate with the course credit load and student learning time. Lecturers can plan to conducton line assessments with small groups of students to avoid congestion. If this approach in small groups is implemented, lecturers must ensure that the assessments carried out are fair and equal across all groups.

Main challenges in implementing of online learning are the internet connection and stability of both lecturers and students. As an initiative, UniKL collaborates with Telco CelcomAxiatato provide eligible students with sim card for online learning purpose. This initiative has benefited almost 13,000students for data plan that support their learning.

For practical components, there are few methods or strategies implemented by the lecturers. The strategies are depending on the availability of the resources (software) as replacements

The first strategy is by converting the F2F practical to online practical through a remote lab. For example, this is done in Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). Students are still accessible to the controllers and may perform the tasks from their home with the assistance from a competent personnel or technician that monitors the labs. This remote lab is able to fulfill all the F2F learning outcomes.

Second strategy is by combining the F2F and online practical components. This strategy requires the lecturers to find substitution of suitable simulation tools. Subject to the courses themselves, up to 70% of the practical component are replaceable with simulation tools/softwares. Among the identified software is NI Multisim, Proteus, SolidWorks, Matlab and AutoCAD.

Some of the lecturers also prepared videos demonstration in the lab using the PWS.

Students are required to observe the videos and write a report. To ensure students are getting the required skills as per learning outcomes, students are assessed with online oral presentation or viva after the submission of lab reports. Rubrics are used to evaluate students’ competency.

Similar to theory and tutorial course, all T&L sessions conducted online are recorded, using Microsoft Teams or other recording tools and made to available online for students’ reference and viewing throughout the course duration.

Soft-skills are assessed by observing students’ abilities, works, or participation in online activities using UniKL VLE or Microsoft Teams.

Asynchronous activities such as communication via instant messaging platforms or discussion via forums on UniKL VLE also happens collaboratively as an additional support to the students.

With all these strategies, we have managed to continue T&L activities without any major issues. Thanks to all Top Management Team that always, support all initiatives by my centre. Despite unforeseen forced imposition of online T&L due to MCO restrictions, majority of students have adjusted well to these changes in T&L delivery, as reflected in 2020 Student Satisfaction Index (SSI) (increased from 2019’s 82.7% to 87%).

Based on UniKL Online T&L and Satisfaction Survey 2020, 26.4% of academic staff stated the biggest added value gained from online T&L is that it encourages them to explore new technologies and tools, where technical academic staff need to convert their hands-on experiments to simulation or remote labs. This correlates with the highest vote from students for the same question: most students (27.8%) stated that their lecturers are more creative to ensure students are engaged during class sessions. The second highest value gained from Online T&L rated by both academic staff and students is flexibility in terms of time and space (21.0%and27.7%respectively).

Notwithstanding COVID-19, UniKL has managed to maintain a safe environment and continues to provide an enriching academic and extra-curricular student experience, proven by 2020 Student Satisfaction Index (SSI)’s improvement from 2019.

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