By AP Dr Tan Toh Wah (firstname.lastname@example.org) with input from Dr Kuan Soon Lye, Dr K. Kuperan Viswanathan, Oh Ee Teik, and Teo Chuen Tick
All the tutors with whom I discussed the issue agree that universities of tomorrow will continue to be centres for generating and acquiring knowledge, and that the amount of new knowledge will grow exponentially, making knowledge management a basic skill required by all.
Learning to Learn and Solve Problems
There will be fundamental changes in the setup and mode of delivery and learning. According to Dr K. Kuperan Viswanathan, a facilitator for Managerial Economics at the Penang Learning Centre, "knowledge on any subject is already readily available to all who have access to broadband connection and some computer literacy skills. Teaching will have to move away from just providing knowledge to learners to providing opportunities and encouragement for learners to teach themselves."
Problem solving and decision making will continue to be key. As knowledge will be in abundance, it is vital that learners know how to gather, filter and then use the relevant knowledge for particular purposes. Dr. Kuperan adds that the challenge will be in teaching learners how to learn by themselves and not to depend on teachers alone.
In short, future universities will be focused more on teaching learners problem-solving skills than on providing them content knowledge. Tutors will have to be more active in providing examples and developing learners' capacity of learners to use knowledge to solve problems rather than spending most of the time in providing learners with facts and information about a particular subject.
Technologies Bridging Time and Space
Oh Ee Teik, a tutor in IT at the Penang Learning Centre, feels that with the current advancement of electronic communications technology, high speed and efficient connectivity will make remote learning even more effective. The new technology will enable new knowledge to be disseminated almost instantaneously. Knowledge will be available 'on-demand' - when and where it is needed without the need to go through the print media, thus becoming more economical and instantaneous.
Oh also opines that future universities will no longer depend on traditional face-to-face classroom lectures. Conventional face-to-face interactions will be significantly reduced and will be used only to add a 'human' touch to the learning process. Lecturers and learners will interact with one another virtually using new technologies yet to be developed. Remote or distance learning will become the norm. Distance and space will no longer be a challenge and university education will be accessible to all. This will enable more universities to be set up as they will only require minimal space with several administrative offices and space for state-of-the-art ICT infrastructure.
Openness and Flexibility
Dr . Kuan Soon Lye, a lead tutor at the Penang Learning Centre, feels that 'open' and 'flexible' will be the keywords to describe the structure and learning environment of future universities. Other than flexibility in terms of entry requirement and courses of study, learners will be able to choose and take control of how and when they want to learn and to be assessed. They will take control of their own learning. This is further reiterated by Mr. Teo Chuen T ick, a tutor in Mathematics Education, who foresees that universities of the future should be a place where learners are empowered to learn at their own pace.
From the above, it is evident that OUM is already on-track to be the university of the future. Tutors are thankful that they have been exposed to the fundamentals underlying the technologies and methodologies that will be utilized by universities in the future. What they need now is to further develop their attitudes and skills in learning how to learn for they will need to be facilitators for subjects and knowledge that have yet to be discovered.