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At HWUM They Teach Students How to Fish for Life

At HWUM They Teach Students How to Fish for Life

As a global institution with 200 years of Scottish Heritage, Heriot-Watt University Malaysia puts a lot of emphasis on independent learning, but they also teach students how to fish for a living!

Our students are told from Day One that we will challenge them, but we will also support them.
So, in a way, our students have the expectation that it is their responsibility to learn as students and recognise that the teachers who teach them to fish for life are the ones that they will remember for the rest of life,” says Prof Dennis Wong, HWUM Deputy Provost.

He told WorldFuture the institution puts strong emphasis on students’ development both within and out of the curriculum.

“Our EmPOWER programme is designed with holistic development in mind. All our students undergo an IMPACT statement workshop which helps them to verbalise their purpose and their commitment to putting their purpose into action.

“As the students understand their purpose better, they can combine what they learn with their purpose and become active learners themselves,” he says.

We wanted to know how teaching and learning have changed since the pandemic, and what the future holds.

For the professor, COVID-19 was a catalyst for the implementation of Inspiring Learning and Teaching Strategy for Heriot-Watt University, “and it helped in our transition to a digital first delivery.”

“in-person see that Hybrid Learning; the blended delivery of digital and in-person as the way forward for learning in the 21st century. Students have embraced the flexibility of digital delivery; online synchronous lectures, pre-recorded video and multimedia teaching materials, asynchronous interaction through online forums, etc will be here to stay in all leading universities,” he says.

Individual Choices

Students at the University – Picture is taken before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak

Hybrid learning is also part and parcel of the GoGlobal transfer programmes, where students are given exposure and access to courses that are available in other HWUM global campuses.

With schools reopening and most situations returning to normal, we wanted to learn how the new normal will affect students. Will there be a shutdown of online learning?

Prof Wong says It is the choice of the individual institution on whether to continue the current hybrid arrangement or to revert to its previous practice.

There are determining factors to consider, such as the SOPs that everyone must follow, which take into account the actual capacity on campus, the requirement of physical separation, international border regulations, and much more.

“While we can support both modes, it is projected that fully online delivery will be a separate provision to the current responsive blended learning model.”

Extraordinary Measures

Within the first few weeks of the global lockdown, HWUM moved quickly to support the student learning online model (SSLO).

Because it was nearing the end of the academic year, the University made special provisions and arrangements for students affected by this change, and limited examinations were held with alternative assessment arrangements in place.

The summer break provided the University sufficient time to launch the responsive blended learning model. It also had ample time to upskill the academic staff around the world to teach using proprietary digital classroom solutions and virtual learning environments. Altogether, the teachers were making pre-record lectures for the subsequent academic year.

Now, teaching online wholly or blending it with face-to-face teaching is a tool of the trade that all academic staff are familiar with. All the digital tools that we used currently were here before COVID-19, says the Prof.

He says the pandemic had just merely accelerated the usage of these tools. “Thus, I don’t see them as a stop-gap measure. Throughout the pandemic, more and better tools also emerged in the market. I think education technology will continue to be a booming industry for the next 3 to 5 years.

Flipped Classroom

As Malaysia rebuilds our question is whether students and parents are ready for a fully digital learning environment?

“I think different learners will prefer to learn differently, generally I think students and parents prefer some face-to-face interactions and we are here to offer them as much face-to-face support as necessary.

“However, it may not be in the form of one-way lectures. One way communication for teaching delivery can be done better and more consistently is through short videos.

“Face-to-face time is so valuable that we should utilise them for more value-added activities such as action-based learning, consultation, flipped classroom, and much more,” he says.

He adds that fully digital (online) learning however will also have a demand for working adults who are better at managing their time and learn at their own pace.