Wawasan Open University hosted the visit of a 10-man delegation from Papua New Guinea to the main campus today for a first-hand look on setting-up and running an open distance learning (ODL) university.
The head of the delegation, Mr. Charles Mikel Mabia, Director of Higher Education Division, Office of Higher Education (OHE), Boroko, was accompanied by OHE colleagues, representatives of universities, and the Second Secretary of Papua New Guinea High Commission in Malaysia, Stanley Arua. The WOU team included Vice Chancellor Prof Dato’ Dr Ho Sinn Chye, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic-ODL) Prof Madhulika Kaushik, and Chief Administrative Officer Yeong Sik Kheong.
Prof Ho briefed on ‘WOU’s Open & Distance Learning Environment’ where he highlighted the ODL model, establishment history and the quality culture of the University, including receiving accolades recently on the local and international arena.
“Our ultimate goal is to go full-stream online but we are constrained by the broadband penetration in the country. Especially for new institutions going into ODL, they must be mindful of current market trends, such as mobile learning, OERs and MOOCs, flipped classroom, virtual tutorials, social networked peer-to-peer learning, alternative credentialing, and ‘credits’ banks,” he stated.
Responding to queries, Prof Ho shared on the University’s governance structure and applauded the fore-planners behind the setting-up of WOU, including Tan Sri Emeritus Prof Gajaraj Dhanarajan. “We have the Advisory Peer Groups, the framework, and a QA culture backed by SOPs and SOPPs; all our activities have standard operating practices and procedures, where everyone knows what to do for each activity. If you don’t document into SOPs, once the person who initiated it leaves, then you have lost that.” He said WOU is owned by Wawasan Education Foundation through a private limited company, WOU Sdn Bhd.
Yeong mentioned the need for a start-up university to have “assured funding” to support growth in the initial years. Prof Mahdulika added that an ODL university cannot function or roll out programmes without course materials. She suggested obtaining ready licensed courseware from established providers or other open universities, including WOU, and adapting to fit the local context and WOU’s course credits structure.
The delegation also enquired about WOU’s IT features and learning management platform, its stakeholders, government support, Open Entry, financial assistances available to students, fee structure, duration of programmes, course modules, and regulatory requirements and external audits.
Yeong invited some form of collaboration, stating, “We are looking to go offshore, whether through collaboration with recognised partners or shipping our course materials offshore. If you think there are opportunities where WOU can fit in and complement, you can link us and we can bring forth our know-how over to Papua New Guinea. We can have students enrolling at WOU in Papua New Guinea in collaboration with local partners.”
Mabia was happy with the meeting at WOU which he found useful, particularly the IT platforms, systems and processes, as they plan to establish a new ODL university in Papua New Guinea – having a 7.5 million population, 6 universities and 23 colleges – by 2015. “We are faced with a great influx of students coming out of secondary schools and only a small percentage of them go into our tertiary institutions. This new university will absorb not just the school leavers but also the working class.”