Activ(e)-Learning for Malaysian Higher Education Institutions by Alwyn Lau, Manager, Teaching and Learning Centre KDU

University College, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia 13 Oct 2011 Teaching and learning in Malaysia is experiencing an exciting time of transition. Our country‟s educational system is gradually moving away from the conventional „spoon-feeding‟ ethos to one characterised by learner-centeredness, self-regulated learning (Azlina, 2007), and e-learning. It may be surprising to note that as early as 1979, the government had already introduced educational reforms which sought to shift the focus of education from the teacher to the student and today the KBSR and KBSM system openly advocates learner-centred education for Malaysian schools. We can, however, cautiously conclude that active learning is not as regularly practised in Malaysian educational institutions as one would like (Zakaria & Iksan, 2007; Neo & Neo, 2003).

This paper modestly proposes that an emphasis on active e-learning, a concept which combines active learning supported by the latest in Web technology, will go a long way towards establishing Malaysian as an educational leader in the region. The following will then briefly discuss collaborative (or cooperative) learning, peer assessment, Web 2.0 and outcome-based education, all the while recognising that active learning and e-learning themselves are by their very nature prone to evolving expressions (the now-classic text on active learning is Bonwell & Eison 1991; Graeff, 2010; see also Jackson & Matthews, 2011 for a timely assessment of the concept).

The primacy of collaborative learning deserves continued emphasis, if only because of its relative newness in the Malaysian education system with its largely individualistic bent. Our students have not been exposed to concepts and practices like team-learning, online collaboration and peer-assessment, all of which are not only emerging trends in higher education but are also of paramount importance in today‟s globalised world. When students work together, as opposed to working alone, it can be said (albeit cautiously) that results normally improve. The benefits include positive inter-dependence, faceto-face promotive interaction, individual and group accountability, inter-personal skills and group

Nevertheless. especially with the rise of „creative industries‟ in Malaysia (Synovate Business Consulting. teachers are usually concerned of the drawbacks that come with enabling collaborative learning e. If nothing else. Playing well may soon become a non-negotiable. Churches 2007). it‟s nevertheless instructive to note how major offerings like Survivor. loss of syllabus coverage and the overall lack of familiarity. signs are good that small-group discussions and presentations. team-teaching. Web technologies that allow users to manipulate. The explosive growth of the Internet and social networks represents an invaluable tool for educational development. Beyond ubiquitous Facebook (itself part of the phenomenon known as Personal Web i.g. Apprentice. These is thus an urgent need to ensure our higher education facilitators develop a working knowledge related to the use of mobile devices in the classroom (Chong et al. both inside and outside the classroom (Lau 2010. with at least one study reporting that the use of these devices produced better results (Saipunidzam et al. These reservations notwithstanding. cloud-computing. Closely related to the idea of collaborative and cooperative learning is that of peer-assessment. black-berries and iPads. Hell‟s Kitchen and so on rely extensively on the contestants evaluating each other. guided discoveries. 2008).processing and reflection (Frusher et al. dramas and role-playing and many more collaborative learning activities are being adopted by more Malaysian teachers (Nayan et al. . geo-locational technology and gamification (Cohen.e. 2011). mobile-learning – learning via mobile devices like smartphones and Personal Digital Assistants – have already hit Malaysian primary schools. political skills and friendship-building. Education can no longer be merely about the learner. buzz groups. 2010). reorganise and re-create – instead of merely use . 2009). it must also include the learner‟s relationships. 2011). To take one example. It is also now relatively commonplace to see many students in a typical higher-education classroom surfing the Web with their i-phones. 2010). studentled discussions. Without drawing entirely from reality TV programs. peer assessment cultivates cooperative behaviour. loss of control.data) lies technologically enabled options like mobile-learning.

train our facilitators to be more Web-savvy and yet. open courseware (i. Churches. is outcome-based education (OBE). if nothing else. To this extent. Seng & Mohamad. Our lecturers must be more gallant in becoming experimenters of the very tools their students are often experts at. Web tools reflect not only fresh androgogies. too.g. the making available for free of previously copyrighted educational material). teaching and learning should begin intensifying its Web 2. via the use of online assessment. on one hand. the Malaysian Engineering Education Model (MEEM) adopted OBE as a means of producing more industry-capable graduates. the cultivation of digital skills of lecturers to facilitate the embedding of the cyber into the very taxonomy of education (Lau. The idea behind OBE is to set the outcomes of the programs as a base by which to subsequently plan learning approaches. Chief among the obstacles (which include a lack of educational content. obviously. Not directly tied to either active learning or e-learning. blogging. e-forums (including popular tools like Moodle and various other learning portals). In this .e. student-focus and interactive materials) is the difficult transition of students‟ mindset from a „spoon-feeding‟ culture to one where independent thinking is the norm and where student reliance on the facilitator is greatly reduced.0 applications as Twitter. e-teaching cannot take off if a culture of e-learning isn‟t first cultivated.0 form e. 2010. It has become imperative for higher-education providers to engage and exploit the potential for innovating with learning afforded by such Web 2. on the other. Facebook. This is not to say. that e-learning (especially in a form which takes into account the latest in Web technologies) will be an easy affair. entrench social networking deeper into educational institutions. In 2000. we can surely assist them in learning on the Web. 2010). to encourage our students to be self-learners. 2010. YouTube and so on. Puteh & Hussin (2007) reported a number of problems encountered by selected Malaysian universities hoping to implement virtual learning practices as an integral part of their institutional philosophy and vision.Mobile devices. In a word. they‟re also often integral to student identity and form the preferred learning environment (Firth. It is thus an urgent prerogative of the private sector to. yet critical in the design phase of learning. Our students practically „live‟ on the Internet. 2002).

In Malaysian entrepreneurial education at least. President Bill Clinton . 2005). a correlation between active teaching and learning and intention and interests has already been documented (Shariff et al. course objectives and course outcomes.way. program leaders and facilitators could both ground and continually improve their academic offerings in a systematic and consistent way (Hashim & Mohd Din. This paper thus concludes on a bright yet urgent note that we never stop incessant enhancement of teaching and learning given that . it is certainly conceivable that this could apply to other disciplines as well.as per the anonymous quote which found its way into a speech by former U. even more so once the Web factor has been included.S. all delivery and assessment methods would ideally be tied to the program objectives and outcomes. 2009.” . 2010). By keeping outcomes in mind.“Teaching creates all other professions. Aziz et al. curriculum structure.

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