From the Dean's Office

Interview with Prof Dr Shaari Abd Hamid
Interview by Dr David CL Lim (

PROF DR SHAARI ABD HAMID has been the Dean of the Faculty of Business and Management (FBM) since October 2001. He was in charge of the Centre for Graduate Studies (CGS) from June 2006 to August 2007. He was also the Director of the Centre for Assessment of Prior Learning (CAPL) from September 2007 to December 2007.

Dr David: What is the most satisfying achievement you have had as Dean of the FBM?
Prof Shaari: At OUM, everyday is a satisfying day. We are reminded to be cognizant of what we are doing each day. In one way or another, we are making history in many respects as we chart our journey in this ever expanding ODL world. As OUM makes its mark in the market, I am very pleased to note that FBM has been a formidable enabler in that process. I believe that it’s going to remain that way as we try to strengthen our hold in the market at large.

Dr David: Can you share with us your idea of “learning”? What is “learning” to you personally?
Prof Shaari: To me, learning is acquiring something new with respect to knowledge, skills, attitude, behaviour, etc. Personally, I feel that in this ever competitive world of ours, continuous learning is a must to enable one to remain relevant, either as a member of an organization or as an individual.

I am very conscious of the fact that I have to continuously learn about various things to enable me to perform sufficiently well in the multiple roles that are expected of me as a dean, an administrator, an academician, a member of the organization, an individual, and so on.

To illustrate, the current addendum to my portfolio as the Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment (CTLA) requires me to possess new knowledge with regards to course assessment at university level. I have been able to respond to those requirements through independent learning, assessing information through the facilities that have been made available to all of us in our respective learning spaces.

In a number of cases, I have been confronted with situations where I am expected to contribute ideas involving aesthetic elements in a number of OUM events. This is something which is at variance with the kind of training that I have gone through in my academic pursuits. It requires me to develop skills that are unrelated to the academic training that I have had in the past. Again, the fulfillment of this expectation would not have been possible without the appropriate learning spaces.

Dr David: Different people have different ideas about what kind of learning spaces suit them best. What is your ideal learning space, and how challenging is it for you to construct one each time you need it?
Prof Shaari: “Where there is a will there is a way.” So far, with respect to the expectations on me as the Dean of FBM and the Director of CTLA, I am quite comfortable with the virtual learning space that is readily available to all of us as academicians. It has enabled me to learn about assessment practices in other higher education institutions (HEIs), both local and abroad, without much hassle.

With respect to the aesthetic aspect, the knowledge acquired “virtually” sometimes has to be complemented by viewing real exhibits. I believe one has to be willing to bear some costs in order to reap the benefits.

Dr David: Do you think that our society pays sufficient attention to the importance of individual learning spaces? In other words, does society sometimes expect individuals to perform at their peak irrespective of whether the required learning spaces are available?
Prof Shaari: I believe that I have answered this question in part above. I would just like to add that there is no free ride in this world of ours. One has to bear the costs to reap the benefits. However, costs and benefits are dubious concepts, sometimes involving indirect and non-obvious out-of-pocket costs which are difficult to quantify in order to influence society to share the costs for sharing the benefits.

Learning may be a hassle for adult learners but they need it for career progression. This is why we have cases of adult learners cheating or plagiarising. A person can attain academic excellence when he or she enjoys learning. I believe the onus is on the learning institution to make learning enjoyable for learners.

Dr David: What role do you think OUM tutors can play in helping their learners to think about and construct their own learning spaces so that they may learn at the optimum level?
Prof Shaari: One of the richest learning resources available at OUM is the students themselves. Each one of them possesses a wealth of experience which in many cases has not been beneficially tapped. In the context of learning spaces, I believe that tutors can play a lead role in promoting learning among students and between students and the tutor. This is done by creating a physical and psychological environment which promotes in-class learning among them. I believe that if this is done concertedly, it could be developed into a culture which may well extend beyond the bounds of the tutorial classes.

Dr David: Aside from helping learners to construct their own learning spaces, which other areas would you personally like to see our tutors play a bigger role in helping learners?
Prof Shaari: Tutors play a crucial role in helping learners construct their own learning spaces. They must be seen to be doing so by learners. We often experience situations in which an oversubscribed class gradually dwindles in numbers as the semester progresses. Our ability to maintain our students’ interest throughout the course of a semester has a lot to do with how we help them create conducive learning spaces.

Dr David: Any last words for our tutors?
Prof Shaari: It is important for us as tutors to receive feedback on our performance from students to enable us to maintain our relevance as an important element of our students learning experience. Good luck to our tutors and I hope that we can contribute more productively to students’ learning this year than we did last year!

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As a tutor, I believe that I can help learners to create learning spaces by:

Encouraging them to think independently by giving them short essay tests
Encouraging them to work as a group
Adding variety to the assignments and encouraging them to think from a different perspective
Ensuring that the tutorial room is always conducive for the learners
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