Before joining OUM, Prof Dr Mansor Fadzil, OUM's Senior Vice President, taught at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels for 16 years at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Malaya. Prof Mansor has accumulated more than a little knowledge and experience to say a thing or two about what it takes to be an inspiring educator.
Tengku Munira: Let's get straight to the point, Prof. In your opinion, what can OUM tutors and facilitators do to inspire their learners and make learning contagious?
Prof Mansor: I think there are three fundamental characteristics that a tutor must encourage in a learner. First is the spirit of inquisitiveness. Learners must be inspired to be inquisitive and curious about everything; they must want to seek knowledge all the time, even outside the classroom. Second is passion; they must have a real sense of zeal about learning. Third is value; learners should understand that the value of learning is not just for the sake of getting a diploma or degree; they must see it as a truly useful vocation in their lives. They must be inspired enough to take to learning naturally and as a reward in itself, not as a burden.
Tengku Munira: What is the tutors' role in all of this?
Prof Mansor: First of all, as educators, tutors must embrace these three fundamental characteristics for themselves. Apart from teaching with fire, they must know how to leverage on these characteristics to guide their learners in the same direction. By projecting these values, tutors can thus provide the push factor, and they can also be role models in order to 'infect' their learners in the same way.
Tengku Munira: Can you illustrate how tutors can actually do this?
Prof Mansor: Tutors can organise activities to inspire learners. Connect with them by using examples that relate to their own lives. Keep reminding them of these three fundamental characteristics and look for ways to include them in any teaching and learning activity. Most importantly, tutors must encourage learners to read all the time, beyond their modules and textbooks.
Tengku Munira: What about the ODL environment? How does OUM help tutors to become inspiring educators?
Prof Mansor: OUM has implemented a number of plans to assist the tutors and learners. We try to provide good modules for every course we offer. We maintain a well-stocked physical and digital library so that both tutors and learners are within easy reach of knowledge. We have also designed our system in such a way as to promote a rich teaching and learning environment. For instance, assignment questions are developed to encourage learners to be more inquisitive. We also explore using exam questions in this same way. The online forum holds the same value; and the role of e-tutors here is paramount - they must use this platform to interact with their learners and encourage them to communicate with each other too. I would also like to reiterate the importance of reading. By encouraging the love of reading, the self-managed component of the pedagogy will surely be easier on the learners.
Tengku Munira: Are there other factors or variables that you consider important?
Prof Mansor: There are certainly many variables that go into creating an engaging, enriching and fulfilling teaching and learning environment. OUM provides the system, but the tutors must use it, and everyone must work together to bring this environment into actuality. A tutor must know how to leverage on the system and remember that what is important at the end of the day is producing a graduate with a complete 'package' - having not only the knowledge in his/her field, but additional soft skills as well. The institution and the tutors must be there to nurture learners to become such graduates.
Tengku Munira: Has OUM done anything specific about that?
Prof Mansor: Yes. For example, we include additional components in the curriculum to teach learners these additional skills, including financial intelligence, environmental awareness, and so on.
Tengku Munira: Any final words for the tutors?
Prof Mansor: I have but one advice that applies to everyone: always think positively. I truly believe that positive thinking can overcome anything. Embrace good values and put your best foot forward all the time. Ultimately, you must always aspire to reach new heights and always be true to yourself. For tutors, remember the three fundamental characteristics: inquisitiveness, passion and value. This is how you can really ignite the passion in your learners.