WOU must become more open and innovative if it wants to cater to future education needs and confront the impact of technology on future careers
This was expressed by Registrar cum Director of Quality Assurance and External Relations, Dr Andy Liew Teik Kooi, in his talk on ‘Making Education more Open and Innovative’ at the in-house seminar themed ‘The Future of Learning: Learning from Others’ at the main campus today. He based his presentation on the practices and feedback of participants of a recent international conference.
Dr Liew elaborated on careers of the future, innovative approaches to make higher education more enticing, and capacity building. Among the 72 future careers were early childhood educator, teacher, accountant, personal web manager, big data analyst, and police officer. The careers of the future shed light on the type of courses and programmes to offer, he added, while data analytics will enable WOU to understand and customise the delivery of the learning support services based on the needs of individual students.
“Future education will be student centred, a hybrid of online and in-person classes, be it through physical or virtual mode, and will allow people to accumulate credits at their own pace and time. WOU must keep these three pillars in mind for its learning activities,” he remarked.
He stressed the importance of having a proper learning design to create an excellent learning environment. “Learning design covers content design and development, implementation and delivery, and assessment,” he clarified, calling for improved learning support at WOU as learning design significantly affects student satisfaction, retention and success.
In highlighting the use of technology to innovate learning designs to make education more appealing, he mentioned digital uplift like mobile learning and social media, and creating a multimedia-rich learning environment like enhanced PowerPoint slides, podcasts, augmented reality, virtual reality, gamification (using game principles in education) and online assessment.
Dr Liew underscored the need for WOU to have continuous capacity building of academic and operations staff, and to enhance its learning design, learning analytics, social networked learning and assessment. “The vision of becoming open and innovative can only be realised if we are supported by adequate resources and funding,” he concluded.
WOU consultant Wong Hun Heng meanwhile shared lessons from the example of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), located in the USA, which initially delivered only on-campus learning (OCL) but expanded into open distance learning (ODL). In the last 8 years, its ODL programme has grown very rapidly to about 90,000 students.
“They transformed the university by recognising that the primary competition is not so much the other online universities but non-consumption or untapped potential,” he said, posing the question of what WOU could do to attract the untapped potential.
Wong attributed SNHU’s success to “customer focus” and “technology and data analytics”. Research conducted by SNHU showed that adult learners want convenience, customer service, credentials, and speedy completion times. A key way they addressed ODL student needs was by employing personal student advisors who can respond fast to enquiries and proactively call students every week if needed. They also utilised data analytics techniques to identify and diagnose students’ problems faster. And they revamp their systems and processes regularly to ensure students are effectively and reliably served.
Some 50 people attended the seminar, including WOU Board of Governors Chairman Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon who acted as moderator, academics and the heads of departments.