From the Dean's Office

Interview with Prof Dr Mohd Kidin
Interview by Teo Hui Thian

PROF DR MOHD KIDIN SHAHRAN is the Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology. In this interview, he explains about the development of modules at OUM.

Teo: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Prof Kidin: Prior to joining OUM in 2003, I was in UKM for 29 years. I was with the Department of Statistics, Faculty of Science and Technology. Towards the end of my service in UKM, I was made the coordinator of the Mathematics Programme for UKM's Distance Learning Education from 1996 to 2003.

So, when I joined OUM it was easy for me to adapt my experience to the distance learning education environment.

Teo: Do you think online learning is the way forward?
Prof Kidin: Yes, I do. This is because the Malaysian public is familiar with and has access to the Internet and mobile technology. The infrastructure is already there, so what we have to do is to make our programmes available through the media.

This goes well with our motto, "University for All," whereby we provide opportunities for the public to access our programmes in e-learning mode without having to go to a physical campus.

Teo: OUM, being an open and distance learning university, relies heavily on self-study, thus making course modules a crucial aspect of the total learning experience. What is your comment on this?
Prof Kidin: Yes, for the open and distance learning mode practised by OUM, quality modules play an important role. Ideally, the modules should be self-explanatory and userfriendly to enhance self-study. However, this apparently made the modules very thick and bulky.

So, the module writers/ moderators have to scale down the content by retaining only the gist of the subject. To achieve this, the faculty usually engages quality writers who are experts and very experienced in their areas. These are usually lecturers and professors from public universities.

Teo: In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good module?
Prof Kidin: It is self-explanatory and user-friendly. In addition, it is written in simple language and could be easily understood by our students. It should have the necessary information such as facts and figures.

It is also good to have hyperlinks to Internet resources and supplementary e-content to explain diffi cult concepts. This is especially helpful for technical subjects. Some of our modules are already accompanied by CDs, for example, the Biology module comes with a virtual lab.

Teo: What are the processes that a module has to go through before reaching learners?
Prof Kidin: Currently, the Centre for Instructional Design and Technology (CIDT) and the faculty work hand in hand to produce quality modules. The faculty ensures that manuscripts are audited against the table of contents (TOC) of the subject, moderated and edited by faculty experts.

Then, the manuscript is sent to the CIDT for further development including instructional design work such as drawing fully illustrated graphs and providing fi gures. After meeting all the requirements and obtaining the faculty's endorsement, the CIDT would produce the modules. The printed modules would then be distributed to registered students well before the fi rst tutorial.

Teo: What are the challenges and issues your faculty faces when dealing with modules?
Prof Kidin: The main challenge is getting qualifi ed and good writers. Not many subject matter experts are good writers. Thus, some of the common issues are matching the contents with the TOC and meeting deadlines. However, with the good work of the programme coordinator and good collaboration with writers, we manage to settle these issues.

Teo: How do you navigate past these issues and how successful are you in doing so?
Prof Kidin: Sometimes, although we advertised, we could not fi nd writers for a specifi c course. We would then look for a textbook that matches the course TOC very closely. This is a temporary measure and we will continue looking for good writers for that area.

Another step that we have taken is to team up with publishers and get professional writers. We have been quite successful in this, whereby we collaborated with a publisher for some of our modules and managed to upgrade them to textbook standard.

Teo: What are the improvements you would like to see in the modules?
Prof Kidin: There is always room for improvement as we believe quality is an ongoing process. Besides wanting more of our modules upgraded to textbook standard, I would also like to see our modules being improved in terms of the content to match students' needs.

As students are mostly working adults, they do not have much time to look for more information from various other sources. So, the modules have to be comprehensive. It would be good if we can have a "one-stop module" or "selfexplanatory module" from which our students can get all the information they need, especially for diffi cult subjects.

Teo: What is your plan for future module preparation and development?
Prof Kidin: One of the plans for module preparation is to have ongoing training for writers, moderators and editors for subject matter experts. Next, we will engage them very early, such as one year ahead, to give them ample time to produce good and quality manuscripts. Another plan is to review current modules and upgrade them to textbook standard, which will be useful especially when we offer our programmes abroad. However, this plan will be done gradually.

The more immediate plan is to have study guides for more modules uploaded onto the online system where tutors can access them. We are also moving towards providing e-content where we would have hyperlinks and multimediarich features as I explained earlier.

Teo: Do you have any advice for tutors in using modules to enhance students' learning experience?
Prof Kidin: I would like to advise our tutors to read beyond the modules so that they are more knowledgeable in their subjects. Since there are only fi ve face-to-face tutorials, they should prepare ahead of their tutorials so that they can explain things better to their students within the limited time.

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In order to benefit both tutors and learners, OUM modules should:

Be concise and touch on fundamental facts and theories
Cover important facts in greater detail, like a textbook
Touch on fundamental facts but include more thought-provoking questions
Include content and exercises that are relevant to real-life situations
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