Archive for the ‘Online Education’ Category

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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Turn your skills into money-making online courses with OpenLearning

Thursday, July 9th, 2020
Organisations can now take their certifications, training and accredited programs online. - OpenLearningOrganisations can now take their certifications, training and accredited programs online. – OpenLearning

WITH the current economy experiencing a downturn, many people are turning to side hustles to diversify their sources of income. One of the upcoming trends gaining popularity is content entrepreneurship, also known as contentpreneurship.

So, what is contentpreneurship?

A contentpreneur is someone who earns income through creating online learning content. Anyone with the skills, experience or knowledge on a certain topic can become a contentpreneur. All you have to do is use your expertise to create short, highly-focused courses online. For instance, if you’re proficient in the Iban language, or if you enjoy baking traditional Nyonya kuih, you could turn these skills into online courses or tutorials.


There are many ways you can become a contentpreneur, be it through your own YouTube channel or your own blog. However, these methods are not entirely suitable for online learning. An online learning platform like OpenLearning is designed to make it easier for you to turn your passion into profitable online courses by crafting an engaging learning experience for your audience.

OpenLearning has all the tools you need to create your very own online tutorials. In fact, you can tailor your courses by adding rich multimedia content of any type like text, audio and video. Besides that, the platform also lets you customise the look and feel of your course by adding logos, banners and colour schemes. Learners can also actively share and collaborate with each other.

Here are some additional benefits when you use Open Learning:

  • You can add value to others by offering certificates to those who complete your course.
  • You can collect payments directly through OpenLearning’s online payment gateway.
  • You can connect learners from around the world with user-friendly social learning tools. You can also keep track of their progress and encourage learning together in an active online community.
  • You can quickly and flexibly personalise or update your course content for different groups of learners.

One of the people who have put their courses up on OpenLearning is Norizan Sharif, who offers online self-development courses in Bahasa Malaysia. In less than a month, his first course, Interpersonal and Human Relations, priced at RM30, attracted more than 2,000 students, earning him over RM60,000 in income.

“I did not expect to gain over 2,000 learners in less than a month after launching the course. This proves that there is high demand for professional development courses in Bahasa Malaysia,” said Norizan.


Now, you can also become a contentpreneur on the OpenLearning platform with their comprehensive free 30-day trial. During the trial, you can take part in the 30-Day Creator Challenge, a guided challenge that will direct you to build and launch your online course.

Besides that, you can also apply for the RM100,000 Creator Fund Program as a creator on the OpenLearning platform. The fund offers additional support and incentives to help selected high-potential creators, trainers and educators take their existing content or training material, and convert them into sellable online courses or programs.

Successful applicants to the fund will receive course building support worth up to RM100,000 through:

  • A seat at one of OpenLearning’s exclusive digital workshops where you will learn the A-to-Z of online course creation
  • Access to community consultation sessions with OpenLearning’s team of expert learning designers and digital marketers
  • Full or partial course building sponsorship by OpenLearning

Being a Creator on OpenLearning means you could stand a chance to benefit from revenue share opportunities and extra marketing boosts on, an online skills portal. Launching soon, this portal will host a collection of high-quality, skills-based courses and certificate programs for Malaysians. This will give you even greater exposure for your online content.


For businesses that are interested in positioning your business online, the team at OpenLearning can assist you with strategies and team onboarding to help you get on your feet quickly. Now, instead of spending endless hours on face-to-face training, businesses can also provide training online, efficiently saving time and reducing costs as well.

“Businesses in the education sector can look into offering fully-online short courses and microcredentials, whilst training businesses can start to diversify their offerings by building online versions of their services,” said Sarveen Kandiah, Managing Director at OpenLearning Malaysia.

OpenLearning is currently offering a live system walkthrough and complimentary personalised consultation on ways your organisation can move online. Plus, for a limited time only, Malaysian organisations stand to receive an exclusive discount (valid on a first-come, first-served basis) on subscription plans.

Click here to find out more about OpenLearning’s Digital Transformation initiatives.

Take advantage of these offers that will only run from July to November 2020. Start your free trial now to become an Official OpenLearning Creator, and get your course featured on

Find out more via OpenLearning’s website or by emailing

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Sustaining online teaching, learning during and after pandemic

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020
The pandemic quickens the journey toward online learning. -File picThe pandemic quickens the journey toward online learning. -File pic

COVID-19 pandemic has unquestionably affected the education sector. There is widespread disruption amongst the teachers and schoolchildren, and of course the universities worldwide.

About 1.5 billion students globally are affected, thus creating a vacuum and a time of uncertainty with respect to their learning processes.

The disruption exposes the “digital divide” between the developed countries and developing countries; hence, reflecting the gap between nations and even regions and communities within a nation with regards to access to information and telecommunication technologies such as personal computers and the Internet.

The pandemic quickens the journey toward online learning. University management has to re-examine existing organizational or faculty structures to support online learning, investments and allocations for technology, staff training, and establishing rules to support the urgency and requirement for online-based learning platforms.

University students are thus exposed to a newer paradigm. They are in an advantageous position to utilize Open Educational Resources (OERs) that are already in the public domain and thus guiding them in their courses and subjects that are of interest to them.

Besides OERs, students can also have access to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). For example, Malaysia MOOCs, started by the Ministry of Higher Education some years ago, is offering more than 450 courses by numerous local universities and has catered for nearly 400,000 students thus far.

While technology is a major ingredient in this paradigm shift, let us not forget the content development and learning analytics that every university should focus on.

In a new approach of being more student-centered, universities should be ready to prepare detailed and well-structured lesson plans at every faculty before furnishing their learning management system (LMS) with the appropriate content.

One may add that the LMS must be well-organised so as to stimulate self-learning amongst students.

Similarly the Deans of each faculty and the supporting staff especially the academics will have to play their role as well. Meticulous planning and implementation at the faculty level is the essence of ensuring success in this endeavour.

The content of every course must reflect the need for independent learning after which it will be uploaded into the LMS.

It is also for this reasoning that student learning activities must be engaging and encourage collaborative learning. Universities must not only be concerned about the students getting high grades but more importantly taking care of the weak students whose academic journey must be made equally rewarding.

One of the most important issues with respect to adopting this new mode of teaching and learning is the question of online assessment and examinations. This has to be done with meticulous planning and monitoring by the university’s examination department with regard to concerns over efficiency and accountability.

These will include compliance with regulatory requirements and Quality Assurance at all times and ensuring that online examination is highly assessable and available, and technical issues such as Internet access and system failure must be minimized.

With respect to online teaching and learning, like most Malaysian universities embarking on this mode of learning, for example University of Cyberjaya has been adopting the various platforms and methods to ensure that online teaching and learning are functional and operational throughout this pandemic period and thereafter.

These include having interactive e-classes and comprehensive e-exams utilizing Microsoft Teams in addition to establishing extensive e-library resources and a flexible self-paced learning.

Many local universities are embarking on this while more enhancements are needed so as to ensure quality delivery of lectures and courses.

Equally significant for the university management and faculty team is to determine the proportion of face-to-face lectures or interaction and the part meant for online learning as we know the needs of each faculty for this exercise will be distinctly diverse from each other.

Looking at the bright side, Malaysian universities that are successful in this transition will certainly enhance their image as providers of quality education catering to the needs of their future graduates.

The increasing importance of open and distance learning as a feasible learning platform will allow universities to attract overseas students to enroll in Malaysian universities, either in situ or at their countries of origin.

There are three parties that are distinctly recognised as the major players in ensuring the successful transition to a more flexible and sustainable teaching and learning environment in our universities. The management team of each university must be able to determine the extent of the change needed and supported by the Faculty Deans and the academic.

By Tan Sri Anuwar Ali.

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Online platforms erase barriers to learning

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020
Online learning will be a new norm for teachers and students, even when the pandemic is over.  - Pic source: freepik.comOnline learning will be a new norm for teachers and students, even when the pandemic is over. – Pic source:

EDUCATION has undergone an abrupt change from physical classroom to online platforms at scale.

In meeting the urgent demand for online learning, the development of digital collaboration and communication tools have accelerated.

According to Alibaba Cloud Intelligence Malaysia general manager Jordy Cao, Alibaba Group has initiated an “Online Classroom” programme for free via DingTalk — a communication and collaboration platform.

The programme has benefited six million teachers from 140,000 schools across China, who are conducting online classes for 130 million students.

“DingTalk can deliver low-latency, high-definition video conferencing involving more than 300 people simultaneously at no cost. It also allows free group live broadcast to up to 45,000 audiences at the same time,” said Cao.

He added that DingTalk has also been recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) as an effective digital learning solution as schools face closures over the Covid-19 pandemic.

Online learning is a great supplement to conventional teaching methods, Cao said.

“It allows students to arrange time flexibly, reduces the cost for textbooks and lowers the threshold for accessing educational resources.

“Schools, universities and students are encouraged to be more open-minded and make better use of digitised tools and resources to make the transformation to online learning easier and more efficient,” he said.

Recently, Xiamen University Malaysia signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Alibaba Cloud to enhance education and cloud computing skills of its staff and students.

Cao said the collaboration between universities and enterprises will benefit both sides and empower future generations.

“Such tie-up allows students and staff of the university to get unparalleled access to resources put together by Alibaba Cloud. Besides, our team plays an advisory role to ensure that the course content remains updated, relevant and focused on the future needs of the industry, so students can better plan their careers in a competitive job market.

“To date, 12 Malaysian universities have joined the community, and over 800 students have benefited from the online training to pursue a professional certification to better prepare them for their future in the digital era.

“Online learning will be a new norm for teachers and students, even when the pandemic is over.

“Meanwhile, developers of online learning tools will strive to improve user experience, thereby increasing their popularity further,” he said.

By Murniati Abu Karim.

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Teachers deliver homework by hand

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

Dedication to service: Nazmi delivering homework to students in a remote village in Sarawak.

KUCHING: For the past three months, SK Long Sukang teacher Muhammad Nazmi Rosli and his colleagues have been delivering homework to their students in 13 villages in Sarawak’s remote Lawas highlands.

Nazmi initiated the homework delivery in early April after the movement control order (MCO) started, as the pupils had no access to the Internet for online learning.

The weekly delivery used to take two days as the villages could only be reached by four-wheel drive vehicles, with the nearest three to four hours from Lawas town.

But since teachers were instructed several weeks ago to go back to their schools, the process has become easier.

“From the school in Long Sukang, we can now do the delivery within one day. We divided the villages into three zones; around eight of us distribute the materials in three teams, ” Nazmi said.

Over weeks of distributing homework, one of the challenges he came across was that the students did not have anyone to ask for help if they did not understand the materials.

“Sometimes the teacher delivering the homework is not the subject teacher. For example, if I’m the one delivering it and they have a question about Mathematics, I would tell them to wait until the following week after I get in touch with the Mathematics teacher, ” Nazmi, who teaches English and Art, said.

To overcome this, the school decided to complement homework distribution with a new initiative dubbed “ruai classroom” – small classes in the “ruai”, or verandah, of teachers’ homes in the village itself.

“We have three teachers who live in Long Sukang, so the school administrator saw the opportunity to conduct small classes.

“The village headman also agreed to this, ” Nazmi said.

He explained that the teachers allocated separate times to conduct the classes three to four times a week for 58 students in Long Sukang, which is about half of the school’s students.

“We started this two or three weeks before the ministry told teachers to return to school. The three teachers teach Bahasa Malaysia, English and Mathematics, so three major subjects are covered.

“Now, using the ruai classroom, the students’ homework projects are monitored by the teachers. The kids are also more motivated to do their work with someone there to help them, ” he said.

For Nazmi, putting in these efforts during the MCO period is part of his job as a teacher.

“I often get invited to give online talks and everyone is sharing how they are adapting to the new norm of teaching and learning using online platforms.

“But me and my kids, we don’t have the chance to use all these online platforms, so we just want to make use of whatever we have.

“We don’t want to abandon our kids. It wouldn’t be fair to them. As teachers, it’s our job to do our best, ” he said.

He also credited an officer, Hazelyn Rimbar, from the state Education, Science and Technological Research Ministry, with encouraging the school to come up with these initiatives during the MCO period.

“She’s been really helpful, not only for my school but other rural schools stuck in the pandemic. She’s the one who suggested doing the ruai classroom and she keeps checking on us to see how our schools are doing, ” he said.


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Humble Malaysians who inspire us to be resilient

Saturday, July 4th, 2020
This piece goes out to Veveonah Mosibin from Pitas, Sabah who posted an 11-minute video entitled “24 hours on the tree challenge” to gain strong Internet access to answer examination questions. -File picThis piece goes out to Veveonah Mosibin from Pitas, Sabah who posted an 11-minute video entitled “24 hours on the tree challenge” to gain strong Internet access to answer examination questions. -File pic

LETTER: This has been a difficult year for Malaysia, largely since the Covid-19 pandemic started. To navigate the new normal of complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity, we need leaders of humility.

We should start by being humble in admitting our shortcomings and welcoming constructive feedback. Humility will heal us economically, politically and socially.

There is something comforting about humility that brings about a caring side in a leader that can’t be faked or contrived. We must be humble in correcting the lack of equity in this country.

We have seen the disproportionate impact and great adverse conditions on vulnerable Malaysians living in urban poverty, rural and remote places, destitute and disengaged from the mainstream.

There are still those among us who have limited access to healthcare, affordable wages, decent livelihood, transportation, technology, and inequity within the educational system that render them less competitive than their peers who have it.

These challenges reared their ugly heads, thanks to Covid-19. Policymakers have extended exposure and opportunity to assess the disparities that have catapulted us into this place and correct the prevalent inequities.

We need a thoughtful analysis and policymaking that acknowledges the challenges when intervening in a complex and changing society like ours.

This piece goes out to Veveonah Mosibin from Pitas, Sabah who posted an 11-minute video entitled “24 hours on the tree challenge” to gain strong Internet access to answer examination questions.

It is also in remembrance of my aunt whose space rental and event business were severely affected, forcing her to repurpose her business strategy.

I am also cheering for Muhammad Zahir Abd Rahman, the blind masseuse who is excited to resume his business after a three-month closure as reported on June 30.

The media should publish more stories of heroic Malaysians to remind us of the positive values, such as kindness, humility and gratitude.

They are a testament that the most resilient among us don’t spend time dwelling in the negative. They are patient enough to look for opportunities even in the darkest times.

In the book Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, authors Steven M. Southwick and Dennis S. Charney said that: “If you can cope today with all that’s happening in the world around you, then when you are on the other side of it, you’ll be stronger”.

We must be resilient and stay humble in navigating life post-Covid-19 because humility will open more doors than arrogance ever will.


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Staying motivated with online learning

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020
The feeling of  loneliness or isolation may set in as students tackle new topics and assignments without the support that they are accustomed to. - Pic source: unsplash.comThe feeling of loneliness or isolation may set in as students tackle new topics and assignments without the support that they are accustomed to. – Pic source:

STAYING focused and motivated are the two main challenges university students are experiencing ever since they had to switch from face-to-face learning to the virtual and remote method due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While some have adapted well to this new norm, many are still grappling with technical issues, as well as the solitude and isolation, while trying their best to keep on track with their studies.

The feeling of loneliness or isolation may also set in as students tackle new topics and assignments without the support they are accustomed to, particularly the physical and immediate communications with lecturers and peers.

With the Higher Education Ministry deciding that online teaching and learning in tertiary education would continue until Dec 31, their concerns are even more accentuated.

For third-year Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) chemical engineering student Muhamad Rithaudin Rosman, 22, the persistent problem for someone living in the rural area is stable and strong Internet connection.

This makes getting clear explanations from lecturers through video calls difficult, said the student who lives in the outskirts of Kota Tinggi in Johor. While he always tries to find other alternatives, like referring to textbooks and notes, it is not the same.

“The situation can be quite disheartening and can affect focus and concentration, especially when carrying out self-directed tasks and projects. But I try to stay positive and make the best of the situation,” he said.

Having the self-discipline to keep to lecture or class schedule is what university mate Nur Syazwina Md Azaham, 22, struggles with.

The law student, who is in her third year, misses the company of friends and classmates, who were her constant motivators to keep on track when on campus.

“Online discussions don’t really give me the same degree of understanding as in real life, which then makes me feel down. I also don’t have some of my books, causing me to flounder a bit as I personally prefer to read them and highlight the important notes,” she said.

However, she appreciates the fact her lecturers do take the time to ask for feedback on how to improve classes.

“Having understanding and compassionate lecturers goes a long way in helping students be more determined to do our best despite our struggles learning online.”

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) third-year agribusiness student Fatin Mohd Farid Rozaidi, 22, keeps her focus during online classes by writing notes based on the presentations by lecturers and classmates.

“There is no daily routine as some of my classes are conducted by giving assignments and daily homework as a majority of my classmates have poor Internet connection. But it would be much more interesting if lecturers use games instead of just viewing and listening to presentations,” she said.

The urge to do something other than study is always there, said David Chooi Xian Loong, a 21-year old Diploma of English Language Teaching student at UCSI College.

“I love cooking, watching movies, playing with my pets. But, somehow, I get the job done because of a promise I made to myself that I will do whatever it takes to provide for my family and my loved ones,” he said.

“If I feel lost in my studies, I try my best to engage a friend in a video call to discuss the topic or assignment. After all, two brains are better than one.”

Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) psychology officer Nur Farhana Sulaiman said when physical class cannot be implemented, there would be some elements that cannot be controlled by the lecturers or tutors, like students’ attendance, participation and attention.

“Students must be responsible for themselves. At this point in time, we all must adapt to the new norm and for students that means not relying on a ‘teacher’ who will direct them on what to do and what to prepare for next. If they focus and stay motivated, they will be successful, It all depends on ‘me, myself and I’,” she said.

Nur Farhana said students can choose to live life in positive vibes or dwell in the negative.

“The option is in our hands not others. If we want to succeed, then we must take it on ourselves to make it happen,” she said.

“Students must be more disciplined, resolve their technical issues and create the mood to enhance the motivational level. Make a proper schedule just like when attending normal face-to-face classes.

It may be putting a little bit of effort to dress for class to get into the mood. You know yourselves better and what works for you to stay focused and motivated.”

UPM psychology officer Siti Fatimah Abdul Ghani advises students to not overthink the situation and handle the issue at hand in a practical manner.

Siti Fatimah said motivation often dips when students fail to find a purpose in what they are doing. This is followed by anxiety caused by what is actually happening and also what may happen in the future due to the current situation. Then comes boredom and distractions.

Siti Fatimah Abdul Ghani.Siti Fatimah Abdul Ghani.

“When we look at major changes, a period of adaptation and transition is needed. This takes time and comes in phases, and this applies to e-learning too,” she said.

“On top of that, there are some cases where students lack the devices and Internet access to be able to participate in online classes. This leaves many students in a bad spot where they are unable to receive an education.”

She suggests students look into ways to find some motivation if they feel down or confused.

“Find the same drive and purpose you’ve always had inside you, even if classes/university doesn’t feel as important right now. Why are you at university? What are your goals?

“Set daily goals by having a to-do list to give some direction. Pair your work with something fun and interesting like setting up your workspace in a special theme or plan a reward for yourself after completing a task.

“Build study habits that set yourself to autopilot to make it easier to say no to temptations and get tasks done. But remember to take a break to reduce feelings of fatigue.”

Planning ahead and setting goals is now both possible and necessary, said Siti Fatimah.

By Rozana Sani.

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Making the best of online lessons

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020
To reduce distractions, the microphone function should be muted during an online lecture.To reduce distractions, the microphone function should be muted during an online lecture.

AS universities put classes on hold until the end of the year, lecturers and students are forced to adopt online teaching and learning with little to no preparation at all.

The sudden venture into remote education may present unique challenges to both academics and students. Physical and mental preparation are crucial to navigate the world of e-learning.

Universiti Sains Malaysia School of Languages, Literacy and Translation senior lecturer Dr Alla Baksh Mohamed Ayub Khan said there were some things that students needed to be aware about online lectures.

“First is to obtain reliable technology and good Internet connection. Where there is a will, there is a way.

“Students should try their best to attend synchronous (real-time interaction) sessions and participate in asynchronous (without real-time interaction) activities.

“Next, strike a balance and stay focused. Things can be different at home compared to the environment in hostels and rented houses near campus.

“They may have to help their parents and family members with chores and errands.

“However, the onus is on them to find time and space to focus on their studies. Communication and understanding among family members are of utmost importance here.

“Students also need to stay motivated and organised. They should not feel discouraged in meeting many deadlines for different courses.

“At times, there may be technological glitches. But I am sure lecturers are aware of this, and therefore, should give allowance to students.

“Lastly, be active in online lectures. In face-to-face settings, some do consult their lecturers immediately after the lecture is over, but such thing rarely happens online.

“However, I urge students to be brave and try to engage in discussions with their lecturers,” he said.

As for real-time sessions such as teleconferences, he encouraged students to be punctual or, better still, log in to class earlier.

“It would be good if students could dress up properly too.

Those who have no issues with their cameras or bandwidth are advised to turn it on so that the lecturers may not feel odd as there are live faces on screen.

“It is hard to identify who is speaking when it involves a large class. Therefore, students need to introduce themselves before speaking up during the video conference.

“Some lecturers prefer having students ask questions in the chat box, whereas some prefer oral interactions.”

Alla Baksh said normal lectures were conducted in a formal setting. But in online classes, a blend of formal and informal teaching and learning could be more effective.

Dr Alla Baksh Mohamed Ayub Khan.Dr Alla Baksh Mohamed Ayub Khan.

“I make use of social media platforms to assist my students to learn better. For instance, every week, I will select two students to record video reflections of that week’s lecture and upload it on the class Facebook page.

“Almost every one of them is engaged in social media, mostly for entertainment. When we tap on those platforms, chances for them to respond positively are higher.”

Universiti Putra Malaysia Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology senior lecturer Dr Hizmawati Madzin had started conducting online lectures since 2015 and now, with the university closed, she ran her classes fully online.

Hizmawati shared a few tips to create a sustainable and engaging distance learning experience.

According to her, the key to a successful online class was proper planning.

“Plan the lessons by chapters. Think ahead about the types of materials that are suitable and how to assess the students’ understanding.

“Next, create the digital teaching materials in creative ways.

If the lesson requires a video, the suitable duration is not more than six minutes as students can easily lose focus.

“Do monitor students’ progress and give flexible time for them to access the materials. Be sure to regularly ask the students’ condition and give them ample time to complete and submit the assigned tasks.

“At a time like this, don’t expect students to submit their assignments on time as some of them may not have access to a good Internet connection.

“It is also advisable for lecturers to create digital materials that are of low capacity or small file size so students can download them easily,” she said.

Hizmawati added that in keeping students’ motivation high, she usually allocated extra marks for those who actively participated in lectures.

“When teleconferencing, the students should be told to mute their microphones or else there would be distractions due to many people talking.

“In Zoom, however, there is a ‘raise hand’ function for students to ask questions.”

She said while students were responsible for completing their assigned tasks, parents’ cooperation was also needed to monitor the students’ progress at home.

By Murniati Abu Karim.

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50 broadband towers for Sabah schools

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

Yusof (fourth right) presenting the face masks and hand sanitisers to SMK Entabuan.

TENOM: Some 50 broadband towers have been approved to benefit Sabah schools while another 115 are still under consideration, said Education and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob.

“The towers cater to 3G, and 4G systems,” he said after the presentation of face masks and hand sanitisers in SMK Entabuan.

These towers, he said, will involve a cost of RM400 million to construct.

“School students must be exposed to the internet as proficiency in it is important,” he said.

While the towers are important, he noted that there are limitations, in terms of internet or broadband coverage in rural areas.

“For example, the viral UMS Kudat student Veveonah who were shown facing internet connection problem (within her home area) and hence, why we continue to provide internet centres in villages as well as other programmes,” he said.

In the same breadth, Yusof reminded schools to obey the regulated standard operating procedures (SOPs) during teaching and learning sessions.

“During the Movement Control Order (MCO) period, we learn to adapt to the ‘new norm’ where Covid-19 has affected the lives, economy and social landscape of the people.”

Meanwhile, he said that only half of SPM school leavers in the State continued their studies to higher level while the rest were either unemployed or have secured employment.

“Actually there are many activities, courses or skills that they can acquire after completing the SPM.

“The State and Federal Governments are cooperating beyond its political differences as we want Sabahans to have education,” he said.

He reminded the students not to be selective when choosing careers and they should give entrepreneurship a chance.

“Schools should organise career talks by inviting school alumni to share their experiences during sessions,” he said.

He also handed face masks and hand sanitisers to SM Chung Hwa in Tenom.

Also present was Tenom Education Officer Ridhuan Yusof.

By: Yayasan Dalimpos.

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