Feature: Learning To Learn

By Dr Safiah Md Yusof (safiah_mdyusof@oum.edu.my)

As tutors, our primary responsibility is the sharing of learning with our learners. Beyond the four walls of the tutorial room, though, we are also expected to assist our learners to make full use of their learning opportunities. Its not just about teaching them what they need to learn, it’s also about teaching them how to learn. There are three ways in which tutors can assist learners to maximize learning.

Firstly, let’s begin with the premise that people are unique individuals and thus have different ways of dealing with their life experiences. It makes sense then to celebrate difference as a virtue in learning instead of viewing it as a learning impediment. Some learners prefer an open, interactive learning space where they are given room to voice their opinions and challenge received ideas. Yet others would be intimidated by such a volatile atmosphere, requiring more private spaces to process their ideas quietly. Given the myriad differences in learning styles, tutors would do well to vary their teaching approaches to accommodate learner diversity. By being flexible teachers, we help the learners to develop at their own pace in their own space.

Secondly, tutors also serve as role models for learners. We were once learners ourselves before we became tutors, and the truth is, we still are learners because learning is a life-long journey. In OUM, learning is sharing: everybody participates in a learning community which synergistically produces and refines knowledge by bouncing ideas off each other.

For example, one tutor found it useful to keep mind-maps and study notes in his pockets. In the bus, while waiting for a friend, whatever free time comes his way, he will flip through his learning materials and slowly but surely accumulate knowledge. He practically creates a personal learning space for himself regardless of where he is because the desire for learning transcends any spatial or temporal bounds. He makes it a point to share this tip with his learners: always make use of pockets of time. Steal a little bit of time before time steals away from you!

Thirdly, we can also introduce learners to various learning spaces that are available to them. More often than not, learners require some encouragement and coaxing to set them on the right path. This is especially true of our open and distance learning (ODL) environment where learners are exposed to advanced modes of sharing knowledge. With the advent of new technologies in education, learners no longer have to be physically present in a classroom to gain knowledge. They could be reclining on a couch at home, cradling their laptops, clacking away at the keys, communicating with tutors and fellow learners who are separated miles away .

For example, myLMS provides learners with discussion forums for each course. Learners have the opportunity to learn from their peers and tutors through exchange of ideas and notes, Q&As and collaborative work. All these new forms of learning allow for more efficient and effective sharing of knowledge in an age where information is constantly changing at an unprecedented rapid speed. Thus, ODL is the learning space of the future, best adapted to this modern mode of living.

In conclusion, tutors as facilitators are called upon to help their learners maximize learning by making learning spaces for them to grow. A push in the right direction makes a world of difference. Once put on the right track, our learners can slowly but surely learn to fashion their own unique learning spaces and gradually become independent and resourceful individuals.

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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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