Letters to the Editor

Fast-Track PhD Programmes?

Nowadays, we hear our Prime Minister emphasising the importance of education, especially pre-school education and lifelong learning. To establish a highly educated society focusing on human capital, OUM should consider offering more opportunities for lecturers to further their studies by, for instance, coming up with an MOU with Institut Pendidikan Guru (IPG). Maybe an arrangement could be made to open up centres in IPGs during weekends to enable interested lecturers to study for their PhDs.

OUM should also think out of the box to come up with schemes which would appeal to tutors. Perhaps OUM could offer tutors who have served for more than five years the opportunity to enrol in a fast-track PhD programme to be completed within two-and-a-half to three years. Would this be possible?

Yeoh Siok Tee
Batu Pahat Learning Centre

Dear Mr Yeoh,

You would be pleased to know that OUM already has a long established relationship with Kementerian Pelajaran, mainly BPG and IPG. The arrangement thus far covers specific programmes for undergraduate in-service teachers. Your suggestion that OUM provides opportunities for interested lecturers to pursue postgraduate studies is most welcome and very encouraging indeed. OUM has pitched the idea to the Kementerian but no agreements have been reached yet. Be assured, nevertheless, that the matter is being discussed.

On fast-track PhD programmes, it is worth noting that PhD programmes are normally research intensive and that the length of time required to complete a PhD research depends very much on the nature of the research and the pace at which learners are able to work. Nonetheless, OUM is continuously coming up with new structures for graduate programmes to best assist learners in a way that does not compromise on quality. OUM is always open to new ideas and your suggestion for a fast track PhD is certainly appreciated.

Prof Dr Shaari Abd Hamid
Deputy Vice President,
Institute of Teaching and Learning Advancement (ITLA)

Taking Plagiarism Seriously

I refer to the article Copying and Its After-Effects: Notes from the Field featured in TCX28.

I totally understand the writer?s situation. I have advised learners not to plagiarise. I have even taught them the proper way to cite sources and write the bibliography, even if this is not one of my subjects.

Yet, there are those who still fail to understand or perhaps pretend not to understand the concept of plagiarism. I suggest that tutors should be strict when marking assignments, paying close attention to whether references and citations are done according to the recommended APA style.

Perhaps some learners take for granted the seriousness of this matter and do not appreciate the implications of their actions. At the end of the day, if their thesis, project report or assignment is found to be plagiarised, then there should be dire consequences. If they have graduated, their degrees may have to be withdrawn. If they have not graduated, they should be penalised. This should be impressed upon all learners. Thank you.

Hanizah Abdul Bahar
Perak Learning Centre

Dear Hanizah,

Bravo for doing your part in tackling the issue of plagiarism on the ground level. If everyone does his or her bit, just like what you have done, I believe the problem will be checked. You probably will have noticed that the nature of the tasks for our assignments has changed lately. We have introduced, for many courses, authentic assignments, which entail the use of rubrics in communicating our expectations to learners as well as using the said rubrics in grading. We hope that this will have a positive effect in reducing cases of plagiarism. At the same time, we have also introduced online submissions and centralized grading, thus enabling us to run similarity checks to detect copying and collusion in assignment writing. Penalties will also be imposed on those found to have violated the University?s stringent plagiarism rules and regulations.

Prof Dr Shaari Abd Hamid
Deputy Vice President,
Institute of Teaching and Learning Advancement (ITLA)

Quizzes to Circumvent Plagiarism

I agree with Prof Mansor Fadzil?s statement in TCX28 that OUM should build ?personal integrity? among the learners.

Some of the learners actually ?outsource? their assignments which can be very difficult to detect. Therefore, the assignment is not a good form of assessment in this case. I think quizzes are better because they will ensure learners? attendance in class. This, of course, requires the tutors to prepare the quizzes beforehand.

Ling Hau Ching
Sibu Learning Centre

Dear Hau Ching,

Thanks for your concern and suggestions to address the problem associated with the use of the assignment as a tool of assessment.

As you may have noticed, starting from the May 2010 semester, a number of steps have been put in place to reduce the malpractices associated with assignments. First, we have done away with assignments for a number of courses. Assignments would only be continued for higher level courses, whose learning outcomes call for them to be used in order to bring learners to higher level of learning.

Second, the nature of the assignment questions posed has changed from highly specific questions looking for specific answers to more authentic questions. In many cases, this entails the use of rubrics as a mean of conveying to learners the SMEs? expectations as well as the standards for grading.

Third, in a majority of cases, assignments are to be submitted online and are centrally graded by qualified and experienced academics. The assignments are subjected to similarity checks and the degree of overlaps between assignments are determined. Those with a significant degree of overlaps will be reviewed by the faculty for further action.

We are monitoring the effects of these changes with a keen eye. Hopefully we will be able to reduce malpractices among learners and enable them to acquire a rewarding learning experience instead.

As for quizzes, they may be good in the conventional setting where a lecturer or tutor has the sole responsibility of managing his or her relatively small class. It is, however, quite a problem to manage in the case of distributed learning such as ours. We had quizzes as a component of assessment in our early years. We had to abandon them because of the variable manner in which they were dispensed.

Prof Dr Shaari Abd Hamid
Deputy Vice President,
Institute of Teaching and Learning Advancement (ITLA)

Psychometric Profi ling and Certifi cation for OUM Tutors

In TCX27, Assoc Prof Dr Santhi Raghavan, then the director of the Centre for Tutor Management and Development (CTMD), mooted the idea of introducing Psychometric Profi ling and Certifi cation for Open and Distance Learning Tutors (CODLT) as means to screen tutors at OUM. Personally, I believe that both these instruments would be ideal and wish to see them implemented.

Since there is a new change in CTMD management, I wonder whether the new director, Prof Zoraini, will still be implementing these changes? What are the future plans for tutor development in OUM?

Roziah Uji Razalie
Sabah Learning Centre

Thank you, Roziah. OUM is committed to continually enhancing the quality of our tutors. On the benefi ts of both Psychometric Profi ling and Certification for Open Distant Learning Tutors as ways to screen, train and upgrade the tutors, we couldn?t agree with you more. We will look into the idea to see how best to implement it. Meanwhile, do have a look at the feature in this issue of TCX on ITLA, which supersedes CTMD

Prof Dr Shaari Abd Hamid
Deputy Vice President,
Institute of Teaching and Learning Advancement (ITLA)

Building Better Tutors at OUM

I?ve been reading TCX for some time and I fi nd the articles interesting and useful for tutors like me. One such article is Jimmy Teo Hui Thian?s ?10 Steps To Better Tutoring? in TCX27.

However, I believe that 10 steps are far too many and should be reduced to fi ve easy steps. I would also like to propose that these pointers be printed on a small card for OUM tutors to bring and refer to during tutorials.

Atchuthan a/l Chandu Nair
Kedah Learning Centre

Thank you Atchuthan. Your suggestion will be seriously considered. OUM always welcomes any ideas to help our tutors perform optimally on the job

Prof Dr Shaari Abd Hamid
Deputy Vice President,
Institute of Teaching and Learning Advancement (ITLA)

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Tutors can ensure that learners continue their studies in OUM by:

Ensuring that learners can reach tutors most of the time for consultation
Making sure that learners understand the course material during tutorials.
Setting easy questions as assessment so that learners are not discouraged by the subject.
Designing the tutorial activities in such a way that learners appreciate the subject.
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