Feature: Introducing The Institute Of Teaching And Learning Advancement (ITLA)

By Dr David CL Lim (david@oum.edu.my)

Interview with Prof Dr Shaari Abd Hamid, Deputy Vice President


Dr David: Please tell us about the newly established Institute of Teaching and Learning Advancement (ITLA), which you're heading as Deputy Vice President and the rationale behind it.

Prof Shaari: The new ITLA is basically an amalgamation of three previously-existing but separate units, namely the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Assessment (CTLA), the Centre for Assessment of Prior Learning (CAPL), and the Centre for Tutor Management and Development (CTMD). The ITLA organisation chart above shows the structure of this new institute.

It is felt that the services of these centres could be more effectively and efficiently delivered if they were combined and run as a single integrated unit.

Apart from the amalgamation of the three now-dissolved centres, ITLA also pools together tutor management-related functions. As well, it streamlines the two avenues of course accreditation, namely prior learning credit and credit transfer.

Dr David: If active tutors have queries about administrative matters and would like to seek clarifi cation, whom should they approach?

Prof Shaari: Tutors could contact Mohd Syalazi Aris (syalazi@oum.edu.my). He would be able to answer general questions or direct tutors to the appropriate officer. If tutors have questions on e-tutoring, then they may be directed to Dr Safi ah Md Yusof (safiah_mdyusof@oum.edu.my). Queries related to face-to-face tutoring can be directed to Siti Farina Sheikh Mohamed (sitifarina@oum.edu.my).

Dr David: What new plans does ITLA have in store for the next 12 months?

Prof Shaari: Activities have already started even before the establishment of ITLA. In essence, the establishment of ITLA will enable OUM to deliver teaching-learning activities in a more focused manner. With respect to assessment, OUM has embarked on its initial phase of improving assessment practices since May last year. During that semester, we adopted the multiple choice question (MCQ) format for seven courses. The number of courses with MCQs has gradually increased.

Plans are in place to introduce a more varied blend of assessment tools, thus offering the faculties a wider variety of choices to choose from, depending on the specific learning outcomes of the course. We hope to be able to finalise this before the end of the year, and we are poised for implementation beginning January 2011.

Since May this year, we have also embarked on a new form of assignment, the authentic assignment. For this form of assignment, our expectations and grading practices are made explicit to the learners through the use of assessment rubrics.

You may have also noticed that the nature of our online learning has taken a different form since last semester. With the detachment of online learning from face-to-face tutorials, a number of benefits have been made evident. A major shift has been observed with respect to the quality of discussion in the forum.

Dr David: Any advice to our tutors on their role in helping learners realise their potential, a goal which is effectively contingent upon the latter remaining in the system until they graduate?

Prof Shaari: I believe that our learners have the latent capacity to be great achievers. Many of them may not have been that illustrious in their earlier phase of education.
However, their work and life experiences would have more than compensated for this. All they need from us is some form of facilitation to enable them to capitalise on the rich learning experience that they have acquired during the intervening period before they enrol with us at OUM.

Tutors are the direct interface between OUM and its learners. They are in the best position to provide learners the support and cooperation that learners need while studying with us. Besides, tutors are best qualified to provide them the coaching that learners need in order to excel in the respective programmes in which they have enrolled. We have a special corps of tutors, highly qualified and with extensive teaching experience, quite unlike tutors in a conventional setting.

Dr David: Thank you, Prof Shaari for the overview of ITLA and advice for tutors.

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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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