(25-26 February 2016)
Some 50 practising educators from WOU and other private institutions attended a roundtable workshop on ‘Emerging Trends in Higher Education Pedagogy’ at the main campus over two days. The workshop themed “Innovative Learning Environments in Higher Education” was organised by WOU’s School of Education, Languages and Communications (SELC), and funded by the Institute for Research & Innovation (IRI).
Five top academicians who were experts in their respective areas gave keynote addresses regarding pedagogy, leadership, use of technology and research. They included WOU Deputy Vice Chancellors Prof Madhulika Kaushik and Prof Mohandas Menon.
Earlier in his opening speech, Vice Chancellor Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye mentioned the need to develop new pedagogies because the higher education landscape is fast changing, namely due to blended learning; proliferation of mobile devices; innovation based collaborative learning (e.g. social network platforms); Internet enabled OERs and MOOCs; learner’s demands for more flexibility, choices, affordability, personalised learning and ubiquitous learning; employer’s demand for job focused learning and training; need for new forms of assessment to ensure accountability; and student engagement.
He said institutions of higher learning must come out with a suite of pedagogical strategies to engage students, and teachers must acquire appropriate knowledge and skills to avoid becoming irrelevant. The new pedagogy is one that is irresistibly engaging for students and teachers, efficient and easy to access and use, allows 24/7 learning, and is steeped in real-life problem solving, Prof Ho added.
At the closing, SELC Dean Prof Santhiram told the participants to reflect on their own practice and hoped the workshop discussions will lead to shifts in practices when they return to their own class environment.
He also called on WOU to introduce a Certificate in Higher Education Pedagogy programme for its lecturers who do not have any professional-pedagogical training to teach in higher educational institutions. This can be part of the Professional Development/Enhancement initiatives of serving lecturers.
Meanwhile Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Gajaraj Dhanarajan, Chairman of WOU’s Board of Governors and Honorary Director of IRI, remarked that through his experience of chairing audit panels for the Malaysian Qualifications Agency on compliance, an important aspect of good practice that always confronted institutions was the quality of teachers/lecturers and the teaching and learning.
He said, “Malaysian academics are good content providers. They are reasonably good in the knowledge of the subject they teach, but are mostly illiterate as good instructors, and the way they construct the assessments does not reflect the kind of good practice you’d want from academics.” He felt the induction of training academics in higher education institutions is critical; however not many have formal training programmes to induct good teachers, lecturers or professors.
Highlighting the new generation of students who are digital natives and multi-taskers, he asked: “Are we using their language, the technologies that they are comfortable with? Are we utilising their behaviours to engage with them, or are we still going back to the practice we are comfortable with?” He said students may even record or google as educators speak and know more on the subject than them, and therefore knowing content may not be as critical as the exposition given.
He continued, “So what are the skills a new lecturer, teacher need? Does she have to be a good communicator? Is that something you include as part of your training curriculum? Is she an effective and productive user of learning technologies besides the PowerPoint? Is this person a good blogger, Twitter, has own Facebook account? Are these the skills that we are training, or are we just training them how to write a good learning project? Is the new teacher required to be a good facilitator, a good collaborator?”
“Is this person the new lecturer we are producing for the new pedagogies? How good is the lecturer in organising a lesson, a programme, a project? Are we teaching our new staff the value of ethical behaviour or are we encouraging plagiarism?”
Prof Dhanarajan concluded: “Be a group of concerned academics. We need to have regular conversations like this among those of us who are especially interested in improving the professionalism of our vocation.”