Fireworks Taking Education To The Future

In The Press: Taking Education To The Future

23-29 November, 2013 Source: The Heat

Open University Malaysia is constantly striving to support the growing needs of its learners. It has long grasped the significance of bringing innovation into the education industry, which explains its e-learning and blended pedagogy approach.

The OUM App (e-launched in July this year) has proven that the university is now at the forefront of open and distant learning(ODL). A step in this direction makes sense for OUM as the current trend seems to show worldwide media, industries and educational sectors taking an increasingly avid and aggressive interest in mobile application.

The App, previously available on iOS, is now available on Android tablets and phones as well. As of last Sunday, the App ranks number 353 (on iPad) and 36 (on iPhone) out of 500 education apps in Malaysia.

Moreover, there are already 914 downloads just shy of six months since the launch. The Centre for instructional Design and Technology (CiDT) at OUM is responsible for the creation and development of the App. CiDT Director Dr Janet Woo Tai Kwan credits her dedicated staff and support from top management for making this project a success.

“CiDT is committed to developing quality learning materials for OUM learners,” she says. “The App is the brainchild of the university’s Senior Vice-President Professor Dr Mansor Fadzil. Since November last year, we have been collaborating with IT solutions specialist Fireworks International, who developed the platform while we developed the content.”

“At OUM, the emphasis has always been on quality. The development of the OUM App is testimony to our commitment to providing a quality learning environment for learners and members of the public,” says Professor Mansor.

CiDT is the production and clearing house for all learning materials used by OUM learners including print modules and e-content.It boasts a strong staff force of more than 50 people who strive to support the blended pedagogy approach. Blended learning is where students attend a bimonthly, face-to-face class followed by an online discussion, while the fully online learning mode lets learners study 100 per cent online.

The App allows learners to download modules at any time. Once downloaded, students can access these materials even without an internet connection. As OUM learners come from different parts of Malaysia, including the interiors of Sabah and Sarawak, which only has limited internet access, the App is one way to ensure that OUM learners have their modules readily on hand as everything can be downloaded into the iPad, tablet or mobile phone.

So far, CiDT has incorporated 55 modules into App. By the end of the year, 17 more modules would have been incorporated making a total of 72 modules this year alone. Most of these are business and management-releted modules.

But the App provides so much more compared to print modules. There are coloured PDF modules as well as interactive workbooks, video lectures, podcasts, and audio books. This e-content incorporate coloured graphics, links to website, 3D images, tooltips, animations, audio, video, interactive activities and self tests. Features such as hover definitions, copy-and-paste and note-taking are very useful for learners and should especially appeal to IT-savvy learners and those constantly on the go.

To date, CiDT is produced more than 1,500 print modules, which in itself is very comprehensive and is 95 percent of what a student requires. Each module has a development time of between four and six months and involves a large investment of resource. Plus, its web-based modules amount to more than 600. All these, Dr Woo says, will slowly but surely be converted into the App.

The need for such an application was born out of the growing number of learners keen to improve themselves academically and professionally. Most are working adults who come from all walks of life and face constraints in committing to a full-time study mode. They have to juggle career and family with studies.

Some are constantly on the move due to the nature of their work. They cannot be expected to lug around heavy books and materials wherever they go. Now, with the App, all they need is a smart phone and they can access learning materials wherever they are, be it abroad or at home.

Learners who enrol in the university are also entitled to their own four gigabyte email account on OUM’s domain. They will also gain access to OUM’s comprehensive Tan Sri Dr Abdullah Sanusi Digital Library, which has more than 30,000 volumes of printed books in the main campus and learning centres nationwide.

The digital collection consists of more than 82,000 e-books and 32,000 e-journal titles. Also included are electronic theses, newspaper articles and legal acts.

The university has also started to translate its modules into Bahasa Malaysia. Student have requested the local language mainly out of preference. Usually, students will receive modules in English unless specially requested. The translated learning materials will be made available gradually, but estimated to be completed within two years.

CiDT’s vision for the app for the coming year is to not only develop more modules for the App but also to enhance the user interface by coming up with more features such as annotations and highlight. OUM believes that e-content will soon change the infrastructure of education all over the world. The App is expected to be incorporated into some courses in January.