A three-member delegation from Universiti Malaya (UM) paid a benchmarking visit to WOU for the purpose of improving the university’s offering and delivery of programmes via the open distance learning (ODL) mode.
The delegation also discussed future collaboration with WOU to offer joint programmes, leveraging on the latter’s vast experience in the field of ODL.
The UM team comprised of the Quality Management and Enhancement Centre (QMEC) director, Prof Ts Dr Rafidah Md Noor, along with the centre’s Analytical and Quality Enhancement Division head, Dr Ng Siew Cheok, and the Quality Standardisation Section coordinator Dr Elsa Haniffah Mejia Mohamed.
The visitors met with academics from the School of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences (SEHS), led by the Dean, Assoc Prof Dr Thomas Chow. Also present at the meeting held at the main campus on 7 February 2023 were Head of the Centre for Foundation Studies (CFS), Jasmine Emmanuel, the Director of the Centre for ODL Experiences (COLE), Dr Dewi Amat Sapuan, and representatives from the other faculties.
Prof Rafidah presented the following objectives of their visit to WOU: to benchmark best practices for the implementation of programmes via ODL at UM; to benchmark the process, system and documentation in preparing self-instructional materials (SIM) for the programmes; and to build a collaborative network with WOU for the ODL programmes.
She said that UM established the ODL Centre in 2017, and they currently offer four approved ODL programmes – two in engineering, one in English language, and one in Islamic studies – while nine more are in the pipeline.
In his briefing, Dr Chow highlighted the support system provided by WOU in ODL, including tutorials, self-instructional materials and the interactive learning management system, FlexLearn, which was adopted in September 2020.
Emmanuel stressed the need for best practices in: tutor management; learning management system; student engagement; building a supportive community for the learners; teaching styles for ODL; and dealing with attrition and maintaining retention.
Dr Dewi elaborated on the timeline and progress of WOU’s transition from the Moodle-based learning platform to FlexLearn, informing that further user engagement and user experience enrichment are respectively planned for this year and next.
During the discussion, Prof Rafidah asserted that UM is in need of experts in ODL from WOU for their Master of Data Science programme, and has plans to invite more experts from WOU to give talks and training to develop their learning management platform.
Dr Ng added that they would also need ODL subject matter experts in their panel to evaluate the ODL programmes, including ascertaining whether the SIMs are up to standard.
Dr Chow and Prof Rafidah concurred on the potential areas of collaboration, namely exchange of expertise, and offering a joint WOU-UM programme. Another suggestion from Dr Chow is for UM to channel any overflow of PhD students to WOU.
Further discussions are however needed with the top management of both institutions in ironing out the details, and working towards forging a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to facilitate collaboration, beginning with the data science programme.