Feature: Embedding The Culture Of Online Learning

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

According to Senior Vice President, Prof D r. Mansor Fadzil, from the January 2011 semester, OUM's practice of blended learning pedagogy will shift more towards online learning. The challenge, then, will be for OUM to ensure that quality and meaningful online learning takes place. Steps in that direction include but are not limited to the following:

  • making sure that the myVLE platform for online learning is tip-top, user-friendly, easy to navigate, and functioning with no major hiccups that will disrupt the learning process;
  • training and preparing e-tutors so that they will be well-equipped with the skills and know-how to work in an online learning environment and to effectively manage their virtual classrooms (i.e., forums);
  • preparing learners for the online learning environment and increasing their technological awareness;
  • developing courses that utilize technology and encouraging learners to explore and engage in online discussions;
  • developing learning materials with suitable content for online learning, taking into consideration the different learning styles of learners; and
  • providing continuous support to learners and tutors.

The key players in OUM's push for deeper and more extensive online learning are the online tutors, now known as OUM e-tutors. They play a critical role in helping to build a learning environment that is meaningful, enjoyable and rewarding for learners. The e-tutors must be able to manage and facilitate their online forums well, participate in rich discussions with learners, and guide, motivate, engage and stimulate learners to construct knowledge.

The myVLE discussion platform cannot be left to run on its own. E-tutors must be active and should be role models since not all learners are familiar with how the online environment works in an educational setting. Some may think the forum is merely a chat room, which it is not. With plans to offer more courses fully online, OUM must have a pool of e-tutors who are not only qualified, but who are also skilled online facilitators.

To be realistic, not all courses can work fully online in the OUM context, at least for the time being. The reality is that not everyone can be successful online learners. Although gaining momentum, fully online courses are relatively new in our country compared to other universities abroad with a head-start. Nonetheless, OUM is taking steps to embed the culture of online learning now, ensuring that, when the future arrives, it is in a position to take full advantage of the promise of online learning.

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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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