Archive for the ‘Online Education’ Category

Screen time and childhood eye health

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020
ONE of my biggest concerns given the prolonged school closure is how much screen time my daughter is having and the impact on her eyesight.

She was diagnosed with myopia last year and is wearing spectacles and I anticipate that her eyesight is going to get worse with extended screen time.

Online classes mean most children are glued to their computers or tablets on a daily basis and given that most children spend a significant amount of time indoors because of the pandemic, their leisure activities are also on screen.

OasisEye consultant ophthalmologist Dr Manoharan Shunmugam says overwhelming evidence has shown that sustained, intense near-work is significantly linked to the onset of myopia in children and possibly progression of myopia, particularly in young adult-onset myopia.

“Especially with the Movement Control Order and extended periods of indoor activity and gadget use, children are prone to developing refractive errors.”

Numerous studies have consistently shown that children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to become myopic.

Dr Manoharan says with gadgets being increasingly used for education and in classrooms, avoiding them may be impossible. Instead, limiting their use for entertainment, encouraging outdoor activities and ensuring good eye habits such as taking regular breaks, would be more practical.

Dr Manoharan says sustained, intense near-work is significantly linked to the onset of myopia in children.Dr Manoharan says sustained, intense near-work is significantly linked to the onset of myopia in children.


Myopia is a multifactorial condition. Numerous studies have shown that it’s not just related to genetics even though there have been numerous genes found to predispose one to it. Environmental factors have an important effect as well.

Children are most susceptible until the age of 12 but myopia can still rise until adulthood.

Dr Manoharan says uncorrected refractive errors are critical to address as they frequently affect children, who do not usually complain of visual symptoms, especially if it only affects one eye.

If left uncorrected in the first decade of life, it is likely that these children will be left with life-long visual impairment of varying severity in one or both eyes in the form of amblyopia (lazy eyes).

“It is therefore, imperative that children are screened at regular intervals and that this initiative is adopted nationally and executed by all eye care providers.”

Childhood eye screening is important as the treatment is usually simple and the benefits, invaluable.

Dr Manoharan says children are completely and wholly reliant on their parents or carers to look out for them and ensure their well-being and development.

Unfortunately, having no prior experience or reference, it makes it impossible for a child to tell you that there is something wrong with their senses.

“Think about it. If a child’s vision has always been blurry, that’s what they think the world is — a blur. They will never know to ask for spectacles. If they’ve always had difficulty seeing colours like in some retinal conditions, they will never have seen the full spectrum of colours that most of the population see, and so will sometimes get colours mixed up.”

Children need regular eye screening. Children need regular eye screening.


Some children have such poor vision that they are unable to keep up in the classroom as they can’t see well enough to read books or the blackboard. This makes them crave stimulation from other senses and so, they become fidgety and physically active.

Dr Manoharan says they are then mislabelled as attention-deficit or just plain naughty, and punished at school and at home when all they ever needed were glasses.

Some children have a problem in only one eye, but because the vision in the other eye is good, they unconsciously compensate and carry on, unaware of their issue.

Once a child has been screened and is found to have normal vision, one just needs to ensure that this is maintained.

Any child having difficulty with vision such as when reading, or at school, should be examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

A child who requires spectacles should be reviewed at least once or twice a year to ensure that their prescription is stable.

Myopia usually progresses with age and children with confirmed myopia should be monitored every six months.

With online learning now the norm, vision needs to be monitored.  Picture: Created by freepik.With online learning now the norm, vision needs to be monitored. Picture: Created by freepik

Infants and Vision

THE vision of newborns is very blurry and their appreciation of colours is primitive. They can only perceive faces from as close as 8 to 10 inches away.

It is helpful to provide them with a rich, visually-stimulating environment by ensuring the presence of high-contrast, colourful 3-dimensional objects.

Helpful tips to stimulate visual development in infants include:

* Changing cot positions in the room at intervals to provide a different “view”.

* Keep large colourful toys within reach.

* Talk to the child while moving around the room so they learn to track you.

* Let the child creep and crawl on the floor with toys of different shapes and sizes to explore.

* Roll a ball around the room so they learn to track it.

* Play peek-a-boo.

For many kids stuck indoors, even leisure activities are on screen. Picture: Created by Freepik.For many kids stuck indoors, even leisure activities are on screen. Picture: Created by Freepik.

By Meera Murugesan

Kelantan student must climb hill for internet connection

Monday, November 30th, 2020
Nurlieda Khaleeda Mohd Azmi climbing up the hill behind her house in Tanah Merah, Kelantan,  yesterday to get a better Internet connection. -- NSTP/ NIK ABDULLAH NIK OMARNurlieda Khaleeda Mohd Azmi climbing up the hill behind her house in Tanah Merah, Kelantan, yesterday to get a better Internet connection. — NSTP/ NIK ABDULLAH NIK OMAR

TANAH MERAH: WITH a mosquito coil and a small fan beside her, Nurlieda Khaleeda Mohd Azmi calmly answers some examination questions under a tent erected atop a 20m-high hill. On her table is her laptop and a WiFi modem.

The hill, located just behind the 20-year-old’s house in Kampung Bukit Petai Tujuh is the only location in her village with good Internet coverage.

Nurlieda studies medical laboratory technology at University of Malaya Medical Centre.

She is fine with her location despite having to put up with mosquitoes, leeches and possibly snakes disturbing her at the hilly forest area.

She said her village and five surrounding villages faced a common state problem of poor broadband and Internet coverage.

“This makes it hard for her and other students who need to attend online classes amid the pandemic.

The other five villages are Kampung Mengat, Degong, Che Nakaf, Jerangau Dalam and Jerangau Luar.

“I returned to my village in July and since then, I have been following online classes.

“Usually, I would need to travel 3km away from my village to receive better Internet coverage,” she told Harian Metro at her home.

Nurlieda Khaleeda Mohd Azmi studying inside a tent behind her house in Tanah Merah, Kelantan. -- -- NSTP/ NIK ABDULLAH NIK OMARNurlieda Khaleeda Mohd Azmi studying inside a tent behind her house in Tanah Merah, Kelantan. — – NSTP/ NIK ABDULLAH NIK OMAR

She said she would “attend” one or two hours of the online classes while she was in a car, as she had to venture further away from her village for better Internet reception.

Whenever there are online classes at night, her father or a younger sibling would accompany her in the car as they try to find better reception.

Nurlieda, the eldest of five siblings, said a few days before her examinations started on Nov 23, she began to worry about how she would record a live video of herself while taking the examination, which was a requirement by lecturers.

Her father, Mohd Azmi Ahmad, 48, previously placed a WiFi modem on a pole, which was set up behind the family home, but to no avail.

“I’ve been using the tent throughout my exams. We used extension cords so that I can connect my laptop and other items in the tent to an electricity supply.

“For one or two hours when the exam is running, I need to take a video of myself using my handphone, which I fasten on a tripod so my lecturer can see.

“I have taken three exam papers and everything has been running smoothly.”

Her father said Nurlieda shared the same problem with his third child, Muhammad Amein Khalielee, 18, a Universiti Teknologi Mara student.

“He also needs the Internet to complete his assignments,” he said.

By Siti Rohana Idris.

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Embracing online teaching during the pandemic

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020
All academic activities must be carried out via remote format until the end of this year. -NSTP/Muhd Asyraf SawalAll academic activities must be carried out via remote format until the end of this year. -NSTP/Muhd Asyraf Sawal

KUALA LUMPUR: The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the education landscape of the country, accelerating the digitisation of higher education.

Remote learning has become the new norm, with new, more flexible teaching and learning processes, and this must continue even after the pandemic, to ensure that meaningful learning is achieved in the best possible way.

In May, a proposal from the Higher Education Ministry (MOHE) to carry out academic activities in a remote format until the end of the year was approved by the Special Meeting of Ministers on the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) of the National Security Council (MKN).

Following the stabilisation of the initial Covid-19 outbreak, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Dr Noraini Ahmad announced on July 8 that higher education institutions would be reopened entirely in October.

The reopening of these institutions would have meant returning to the face-to-face teaching and learning (T&L) style.

However, in September, MOHE called for all Malaysian Higher Learning Institutions (HLIs) to postpone students’ on-campus registration considering the rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 cases.

The directive urged all Malaysian universities to introduce online registrations for new and returning students for Semester 1 2020/2021 session and to carry out the complete online T&L process until the situation improves.

Due to the risk of Covid-19, it is crucial to replace face-to-face classes and laboratory studies with online classes. Malaysian universities need to continue identifying the best methods to resume T&L while protecting their teachers, employees, and students from the Covid-19 virus.

These HLIs also need to resort to all measures in ensuring that the students’ learning process are not disrupted due to Internet problems, particularly students in the B40 group and those who remain in remote areas.

More flexible T&L techniques have resulted from the pandemic. The use of synchronous and asynchronous teaching modes and online assignment submissions have become a norm in university teaching today.

Due to the risk of Covid-19, face-to-face classes have been replaced with online classes.Due to the risk of Covid-19, face-to-face classes have been replaced with online classes.

Synchronous learning via ‘live sessions’ is recorded and made available to students who could not join the session in real-time. This is followed by shorter engagement sessions like chat rooms and online meetings.

On the contrary, the asynchronous mode allows the students to view the recorded sessions, lecture notes, or online discussion boards in their own time. Additionally, educators also use social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and WeChat to engage students with Internet connection difficulties.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the country’s educational landscape. Shift 9 of the Malaysia Education Blueprint of Higher Education 2015-2025 outlines the globalised online learning (GOL) movement.

Conventional approaches are no longer a likely alternative, and remote learning has become a new norm. More online learning modules, namely Micro-Credentials, Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), MOOC Credit Transfer, Open Online Resources (OER), and OpenCourseWare, are being developed via online platforms.

Dr Aini Andria Shirin AnuarudinDr Aini Andria Shirin Anuarudin

Digitisation of higher education must continue after the pandemic. The provision of an institution’s digital infrastructure needs to be strengthened to increase access to education, enhance teaching and learning quality, and respond to students’ needs. HLIs also need to improve their digital content, create alternative assessments suitable for online learning, and revive their digital learning strategies.

The global online learning environment involves a holistic and sustainable system that needs a paradigm shift from educators and students, namely their use of digital technology and the development of e-content.

They must adapt to this new norm and familiarise themselves with the online methodology to move beyond their comfort zone.

To ease the shift, MoHE, in collaboration with universities, various organisations and Malaysia’s telecommunication giants — Celcom, Digi, Telekom Malaysia and Maxis, have recently launched ‘Data Plan and Device Packages for Higher Education Students.’ This is one of the many initiatives by MOHE to facilitate the online teaching and learning process.

Online teaching may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but embracing change at a time such as this has certainly brought a positive impact in the HLIs’ landscape. This latest trend is likely to inspire educators to explore more online platforms for them to engage in more online classes and activities.

Assoc. Prof. Dr Marlia PutehAssoc. Prof. Dr Marlia Puteh

There is no right or wrong answer to which remote teaching activity, online platform, or conferencing tool is best. Still, educators need to be flexible in improvising their teaching and ensuring that meaningful learning is achieved in the best possible way.

The pandemic has triggered a lot of creative teaching and learning, and we need to leverage that even after the pandemic has ended.

Dr Marlia Puteh is an Associate Professor at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and Dr Aini Andria Shirin Anuarudin is a senior lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM). Both are guest writers for MoHE.

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NUTP urges MoE to review instructions for completing PdPR report

Friday, November 20th, 2020
NUTP has asked the Education Ministry (MoE) to review the policy for teaching and learning at home (PdPR) report due to the different struggles that both the teacher and student face during this pandemic. - NSTP/GHAZALI KORI.

NUTP has asked the Education Ministry (MoE) to review the policy for teaching and learning at home (PdPR) report due to the different struggles that both the teacher and student face during this pandemic. – NSTP/GHAZALI KORI.

KUALA LUMPUR The National Union of The Teaching Profession (NUTP) has asked the Education Ministry (MoE) to review the policy for teaching and learning at home (PdPR) report due to the different struggles that both the teacher and student face during this pandemic.

In a statement, the NUTP said teachers are required to complete the PdPR report on a daily basis using the links provided from Nov 17 until Dec 17 based on the notification letter issued by the MoE.

NUTP secretary general, Assocciate Lt. Col. Harry Tan Huat Hock said although the union was not completely against the directive, it urged for it to be reviewed due to problems faced by both teacher and student while they are going about the teaching and learning process at home.

“On Nov 18, we took an initiative and approached teachers to give their opinions and comments on the issue.

“One of the key points that were discussed based on feedback from teachers is that the MoE should focus on the main issues: internet accessibility, ability to purchase internet data and types of devices used.

“Teachers should be given the freedom to implement the PdPR because there is ample time for students to complete their daily homework. This is something which is not subjected to any 8am to 5pm regulation.

Tan said teachers are willing to receive their student’s homework at night as they understand the hardship that they have to go through.

“One of the difficulties that the teacher has to go through is when students are unable to submit their homework based on their deadline, which will hold up the reports that are needed to be submitted by the teachers.

“For example, there are students asking for permission if they can submit their homework at night due the father having to work and the unavailability of the mother, who needs to be at the clinic for dialysis.”

Tan added that overlapping reporting is not practical as teachers have to provide their reports to the school and fill out their online reporting.

“Our suggestion is for MoE to get the reports from the respective schools. The teachers have to fill in as many as 12 pages and the same thing needs to be filled in every day. It is burdensome to teachers who have a lot of classes on that day.

“The options in the reporting menu are also limited and confusing to teachers. They only fill in the report to meet the conditions which are far from what the actual target set by the MoE.”

He added that the NUTP urged Senior Education Minister Dr Radzi Jidin to look through all the necessities for the implementation of PdPR in the current education system.

By Irfan Izzuddin.

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As JB schools close, pupils resort to online/home based classes

Sunday, November 1st, 2020
Chan Li Mynn takes to online learning as Covid-19 cases increase drastically.– NSTP/VINCENT D’SILVAChan Li Mynn takes to online learning as Covid-19 cases increase drastically.– NSTP/VINCENT D’SILVA

JOHOR BARU: With the Education Ministry resorting to temporarily closing schools after Johor Baru district was designated as a red zone following a rise in Covid-19 cases, many students hve taken to home based learning.

The Education Ministry announced that all 376 educational institutions, including government and private schools, vocational colleges and teaching institutions, in the Johor Baru, Kulai and Pasir Gudang districts would be closed for two weeks, starting today.

Following the announcement, the state government has also made a similar decision to close kindergartens, childcare centres (taska), community rehabilitation centres (PDK), children and senior citizens activity centres as well as religious schools in the Johor Baru district.

Students preparing for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination scheduled for January next year have now taken to self-learning and with most schools having online teaching.

Chan Li Mynn, 17, from Sekolah Menengh Kebangsaan (SMK) I.J. Convent, said she was leaving no stones unturned and wants to ensure she prepares well for the SPM examination.

“Despite not being able to go to school for the next 14 days, I am able to do my own revision and spend time picking up what I have left out earlier,” Chan said.

She said it will not be a problem learning online as we are already used to it and we know the teaching styles of our teachers.

“With a laptop on my side I can do online learning with our teachers and if we have any doubts we can then email our teachers or ask them via the Google Meet,” she said.

Zain Azhar Nasseruddin and  Muhammad  Hilmi Ismail - NSTP/VINCENT D’SILVAZain Azhar Nasseruddin and Muhammad Hilmi Ismail – NSTP/VINCENT D’SILVA

Chan feels that the pandemic has brought lots of hardship and finds less time for relaxation, having fun or even play games.

“My parents are very supportive and give me lot of help during this time as I plan to prepare well before the impending SPM examination,” she added.

Zain Azhar Nasseruddin, 17, of SMK Bandar Baru Uda, said he has reduced his free time with friends and focuses more on home based learning.

“The ball is in my court and its up to me to make the scoring for my final year examination,” he said.

Azhar said he doesn’t see online learning as a time to relax, have fun or play games but to put in extra effort of his own to prepare for the SPM examination.

He feels that online learning enables them to study in a relaxed manner and was less stressful.

Muhammad Hilmi Ismail, assistant director of student talent development at the Johor Education Department, said the closure of the schools was to control the spread of the virus.

He noted that the number of Covid-19 cases was quite high involving schools, hence the Education and Health Ministries sought to keep the students safe.

Hilmi said even though the schools were closed, online teaching would proceed and students should make every effort to learn from home.

“The Education Ministry’s “Teaching and Learning From Home Manual” was released early last month and the manual was developed to help teachers implement home-based teaching and learning (PdPR) as an alternative method in the new norm,” he said.

Hilmi said the 20-page manual serves as a guide for teachers and also enables students to follow the PdPR optimally.


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Jumping onto online platforms is the new norm

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020
Going online can help businesses stay afloat during the Covid-19 crisis.Going online can help businesses stay afloat during the Covid-19 crisis.

THE end of the bank loan moratorium last month would be one of the reasons for consumers to be more cautious about spending.

Retrenchments and pay cuts have their shares in affecting spending as well.

Even before the moratorium ended, the Retail Group Malaysia (RGM) reported that the industry registered the worst contraction in 33 years at 30.9 per cent in the second quarter of the year. Retailers and shopping centres are suffering as they are not allowed to operate at full capacity during the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO).

Given the current economic conditions, RGM has revised its retail growth projection for this year from a contraction of 8.7 per cent to a worse outcome of -9.3 per cent growth.

To make the situation worse, the series of Covid-19 infections detected at shopping malls since late last month, particularly in the Klang Valley, which account for part of the retail sector, have intensified the fears among shoppers.

It was reported that the shift in retail landscape since the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to lead to the closure of more than 51,000 retail stores in the next four to five months.

All economic sectors in the Klang Valley are allowed to operate as usual as long as they adhere to the standard operating procedure but after being placed under the Conditional MCO (CMCO), the performance of retail stores there would eventually depend on consumer behaviour.

Rising Covid-19 infections and less spending at brick-and-mortar stores will undeniably affect many livelihoods in the sector. According to the Preliminary Report on Wholesale and Retail Trade Census released by the Statistics Department, there are 870,814 full-time and part-time employees engaged in the retail trade sector up to 2018.

The revival of the retail sector pretty much relies on the responsibility of each individual in society to mitigate the number of infections by following the SOP strictly as our actions affect one another.

Up until the current status, new Covid-19 cases have been at three digits and should this continue, the cautiousness among consumers to be out and visit the shopping malls will remain, hence dampening the recovery of the retail sector.

Besides that, it is important for businesses to leverage on technology, that is, e-commerce because most people have adapted better to the new habits of shopping online and it does not require consumers to be physically at the retail stores all the time.

Based on EMIR Research’s poll for the third quarter, respondents agreed that Covid-19 has resulted in the emergence of an economy that is reliant on technology.

A respondent said: “Now it seems that in the surrounding suburban areas, with the onset of Covid-19, we see a lot of these kind of businesses; suddenly many entrepreneurs have appeared. This means that (Covid-19) has created an economic opportunity and we now see a lot of online businesses and these online businesses are doing very well.”

Another respondent said: “This MCO has made Malaysians more creative, for people to do online business, especially pasar malam operators. People sell online and delivery is arranged online.”

The government, through the Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana), has allocated funds to businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises, to encourage onboarding to e-commerce platforms in collaboration with the e-wallet companies.

Various benefits have been made available to the businesses such as training programmes, seller subsidy and sales support, matching grants and automation grants, as well as loans for businesses to digitalise their services. E-commerce discount vouchers were also provided to consumers via e-wallet companies to boost online consumption.

However, the benefits lasted only until last month. So in order to prop up online businesses and consumption further, given the uncertain outlook for retail sector, the incentives should be open or extended at least until the end of the year.

New norms are emerging across all parts of the world and technology is driving the process. Thus, going online should be made the new norm for businesses to weather the unprecedented crisis and to survive.

The writer is a research analyst at EMIR Research, a think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research

By Nur Sofea Hasmira Azahar.

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Confidence rising with open distance learning

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020
With ODL, students get the opportunity to learn from the comfort of their own homes with their family close to them. - NST/file pic

With ODL, students get the opportunity to learn from the comfort of their own homes with their family close to them. – NST/file pic

LETTER: In most public universities, Open Distance Learning (ODL) is going to take place once again due to the increasing and never-ending cases of Covid-19.

Even though many were not prepared to go through it last semester, somehow, everything went smoothly despite the pandemic that is still haunting us with its new clusters and virus mutations.

With ODL, students get the opportunity to learn from the comfort of their own homes with their family close to them. Learning materials have become a lot easier to access as students can do their own readings and research on the internet.

However, communication is limited compared to having face-to-face classes, because students can only communicate and see each other on online platforms such as Google Meet, Webex, WhatsApp and Telegram.

The good side of this is the use of online platforms, enabling students to communicate with their lecturers and friends at almost any time, and encourages more than two-way interactions.
For educators, the knowledge of conducting online classes has become better, with all sorts of webinars and trainings held to assist lecturers in teaching and assessing students online.

At the same time, the needs and limitations of students via ODL will surely be taken into consideration while planning and administering the content. The assessments too have to be adapted to suit the current online semester.

For this upcoming semester, it is hoped that both educators and students will be more prepared to continue with ODL once again.

Based on previous experience, ODL will help both parties manage and organise teaching and learning better for the best outcomes.


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Classes at higher learning institutions go online until further notice

Sunday, October 4th, 2020
UiTM says it will continue with its Open and Distance Learning from Oct 12 until further notice. - NSTP/AZRUL EDHAM MOHD AMINUDDINUiTM says it will continue with its Open and Distance Learning from Oct 12 until further notice. – NSTP/AZRUL EDHAM MOHD AMINUDDIN

KUALA LUMPUR: Public and private higher learning institutions (IPT) are now conducting their classes and registration of students online, following the advisory by Higher Education Ministry (MoHE).

Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in a statement said it would continue with its Open and Distance Learning (ODL) from Oct 12 until further notice.

“Face-to-face meetings are to be postponed and all approved activities are advised to be put on hold, including those that had the vice chancellor’s earlier approval.

“This decision was made with everybody’s health and welfare in mind. UiTM will be monitoring the Covid-19 situation closely and update its students and staff from time to time,” it said.

International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) Kuantan campus said student registration would be conducted online, involving over 803 students.

In a statement today, its Kuantan campus director Professor Dr. Kamaruzzaman Yunus said the university would conduct online classes until further notice.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia vice chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Hamdi Abd Shukor said the university would allow students who arrived at their residential colleges from yesterday, to stay put.

“However, they have to comply to the standard operating procedures (SOP) strictly.

“We will also help arrange the accommodations for our new intake students, who have arrived at the campus or are on their way.

It also said the orientation programme for new students, Minggu Mesra Mahasiswa (MMM), from Oct 3 to 7 would be conducted online.

“As for our teaching and learning (PdP) programme for existing students, they will be conducted online starting Oct 12. Any programmes or activities that involve gathering of people on campus will be postponed until further notice,” he said in a statement today.

For a private learning institution Heriot-Watt University Malaysia, classes will also be conducted online.

In a statement posted on their official Facebook page today, it said online classes will be conducted for the next two weeks.

“The university has decided that effective Monday, 5 Oct 2020, all classes will be conducted online, only for the next 2 weeks, until Oct 18.

“We are taking this precautionary measure in the interest of our students’ and staff members’ health and safety.

“With responsive blended learning (RBL) in place, you will already have access to the online resources on the Virtual Learning Environment. Your school will provide you with the necessary instructions,” it said.

Universiti Malaya also issued a statement to inform that student registration and orientation for the new intake students would be conducted online.

It said students who have checked in to their residential colleges or were on their way to register for their rooms were allowed to remain on campus.

“However, we advise that those who have yet to return to the campus to stay at home until further notice,” it said.

Universiti Malaysia Kelantan will also be conducting their October intake students registration online, while Universiti Kuala Lumpur will inform its students on its plans in due time.

By Farah Solhi.

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Of brick and online learning spaces

Wednesday, August 5th, 2020

Photo: Bernama

As the online semester comes to a close, there are many different feelings that go through the minds of academics.

While conducting online classes, we are reminded on a daily basis of the number for COVID-19 victims that has fluctuated during this Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO). This RMCO was supposed to be imposed till 31 August 2020, but with the steady stream of double digits of late, the condition is still worrying.

New vocabulary

If COVID-19 came up with terms we didn’t know, now we have terms such as – flattening the curve, pandemic, mortality rate, cluster, hotspots or red zones, lockdown, stay at home or movement control order, social distancing, contact tracing, reproductive numbers and zoonotic diseases.

The world of academia also has its share of new vocabulary during COVID-19 – online classes, Internet instability, Zoom or Microsoft teams, Facebook live or Discord, private breakout rooms, personal meeting ID, webcams, webinars, marking online and Digital Open Days.

I believe many academics will agree with me that the online semester that is ending soon was nothing but intense. Intense with the keeping up with the semester, intense with the number of Zoom/Teams sessions for live lectures and/or tutorials. Some even used Facebook ‘live’ or for the gamers at heart, Discord. Believe me when I tell you, if there was a technology out there that would help the delivery of classes, the chances are, most of us have tried and used it. And don’t even get me started on the recording software and devices.

The marking online was equally intense (intense being the operative word here). Gone were the days where you could laze on the sofa armed with a red pen and scribble your comments. Now you actually have to conduct your markings on the documents itself and make sure feedback was on time. Of course most of us managed in due time with the steady stream of assignments coming in, in order to guide the students through different phases of the semester. No doubt, some of us would also need a new pair of lenses before heading into the new semester.

Well at least I no longer have comments from the students that they don’t understand my cursive handwriting as I scribbled red ink all over their assignments. I used to tell the students that I have a different font that runs with my brain and my hand is too slow to catch up. They used to laugh at me but took that in stride.

Online classes

It’s also a different story when we just look at these online classes from the lecturer’s perspective. What about things that the students don’t quite understand from the delivery of online classes? Questions were in abundance and that would only mean that you had to take time to answer queries from different learning platforms. Hence, the need for rules of engagement, as we’re not online like 7/11.

The broadcasting kids that I had this semester were pretty laid-back so it was fun teaching them. I could imagine how much ‘funner’ it would have been doing this particular class face to face. I did tell them that I was from the old school of thought and that seeing them and doing discussions in class physically was preferred. But despite the challenges, they came out on top with fantastic projects.

So as I bade my students good luck for the upcoming semester, of course the burning question was “will next semester will be online too?”

Return to classes

A few days later Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad announced that higher education campuses would fully reopen in October, while 30% of private higher education institutions could start returning from July, in line with the Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities’ request.

Universities have already started to plan this out with social distancing for classes, labs and studios. Face masks, sanitisers and temperature sensors need to be in place before all universities are opened for face-to-face lectures as per normal in two months’ time. That would be a different kind of challenge as we go forward with the global classroom of a combination of brick (face-to-face) and online learning spaces.

I was chatting with an old friend recently and he gave me this analogy for COVID-19. He said the pandemic is akin to driving a car. You need to be careful when you drive but you can never foresee accidents that are caused by the other drivers. It’s the same thing with COVID-19; you can be careful and follow all the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) but if other people don’t do the same, we would be infected anyway.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also reiterated this when he said, “We’re asking everyone to make the decisions about where they go, what they do and who they meet as life-and-death decisions – because they are. It may not be your life, but your choices could be the difference between life and death for someone you love, or for a complete stranger. We all have a part to play in protecting ourselves and one another from COVID-19″.

So stay vigilant coz it’s still out there, lurking at every corner. And to all my fellow academics, it’s time to renew your licences for the next round of classes.

By: Bernama.

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Let Malaysian students continue with online studies, US urged

Friday, July 10th, 2020

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian government is hoping that the United States will find a “feasible solution” for Malaysian students to continue pursuing their studies online and remain in the country.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the United States hosts the third largest population of Malaysian students studying abroad.

“Given the importance of the United States as an education destination of choice, the government of Malaysia encourages the US authorities to reassess the need to end this temporary exemption, and find a feasible solution for our students to continue pursuing their studies online and remain in the United States,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Hishammuddin added that they were deeply concerned over the fate of more than 6,000 Malaysian students who are pursuing their studies across the United States.

On Monday, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced an end to the temporary exemption for foreign students taking online classes for the fall 2020 semester, which begins in August.

These exemptions were previously permitted by the Student and Exchange Visitor Programme due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has sued the US government over the move.

Meanwhile, several Malaysian students told The Star that they are in the dark over the ruling, which is expected to have far-reaching implications for international students studying in the United States, especially those resuming lessons this fall semester.

According to the new ruling, international F-1 (academic) and M-1 (vocational) students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States.

Malaysian embassy in Washington has advised Malaysian students to reach out directly to their respective universities, as the status of their fall classes will be crucial in determining their immigration status.

“The embassy is seeking to obtain further clarification from ICE on its latest decision.

“The embassy is also working closely with the Education Malaysia Office and the National Assembly of Malaysian Students in America to monitor the well-being of Malaysian students in the United States,” it said.

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