Here's a little academic puzzle: how do you
fit an additional four courses (12 credits)
into an existing programme of 120 credits
without exceeding 10 credit hours per semester
within 12 semesters?
This was the puzzle that the Faculty of Education
and Languages (FEL) had to solve when Bahagian
Pendidikan Guru (BPG; Teacher Education
Division, Ministry of Education Malaysia) asked
us to incorporate four additional courses into the
Bachelor of Teaching programme we run for BPG
The solution, as the Faculty worked out, was to
offer the four courses online instead of in the usual
Based on this principle, a team of us from FEL
started working on a new OUM learning portal.
Our challenge was to design a suitable conceptual
framework, restructure content delivery, rebuild
learning support, and rethink assessment.
After tackling these challenges one by one, the
Education Portal for Internet Courses (EPiC)
began to take shape.
The idea of EPiC is to enable learners to control
their own learning time by utilising the time
pockets they have in their daily schedules.
A parallel analogy of rocks, pebbles and sand
explains how learners can utilise time in this
The rocks represent the learners' work and
personal demands; the pebbles their existing course
demands; and the sand their new, fully online
course demands. The spaces between the rocks can
be filled with pebbles and the spaces between the
pebbles can be filled with sand.
Coming up with the portal concept and design was
a big challenge that took up most of the EPiC's
After toying with several ideas, we decided that
simplicity and the fun factor should drive the
design and learning environment. To achieve
this, we thought of Datuk Lat, whose cartoons
are not only renowned and much loved, they also
represent Malaysia's multicultural identity which
fits perfectly with EPiC's design concept.
We approached Datuk Lat to enquire if he could
contribute to the design. After some convincing,
he finally agreed to contribute fresh characters to
adorn EPiC because he believed in the noble cause
of training teachers who in turn will be educating
generations of young Malaysians.
With the design direction set, we then considered
the critical importance of scaffolding the learning
process of our target audience, namely in-service
To put this into practice, we structured their
learning material in such a way that learners
are guided to progress from the simpler Virtual
Learning Environment (VLE) to the more complex
Extended Learning Ecology (ELE).
To alleviate the potential loneliness of doing
the courses online, two networking platforms was introduced. The first is a discussion forum
that enables learners to interact with their peers
and online supervisors. The other is called EPiC
Community, which is a social networking site
created on the Google+ platform. It is an informal
avenue for learners to discuss non-academic
matters, voice opinions, provide feedback, and so
EPiC also provides learners with an e-portfolio that
collates all their work submitted online. Learners
can download their e-portfolios at any time for
their own records.
Our work on EPiC has been highly rewarding.
It is still work-in-progress, which we aim to
improve over the coming semesters. If anything,
we have come to learn that technology can really
do wonders when it is strategically employed to
address educational demands.