The world has truly gone online. Online shopping has become the norm for people of all ages and backgrounds, offering ease and convenience and allowing them to enjoy more quality time with their families.

Gone are the days when one has to endure unpredictable weather, traffic and parking woes just to get groceries. Nowadays, everything can be done online using a smartphone or desktop computer.

The same goes for learning. Thanks to advances in educational technology, one can easily study in the comfort of her home. Open University Malaysia (OUM) is leveraging this online revolution to introduce a “beyond blended” approach, a delivery method that brings the present face-to-face delivery mode to an engaging online environment, where learners can interact with facilitators and peers in real time.

For this year’s May semester, two programmes – the Master of Islamic Studies (MIST) and Master of Early Childhood Education (MECHE) – will be offered via this new approach. The innovative delivery mode requires learners to attend eight hours of live forum every semester. A concept similar to webinars, this live forum replaces the face-to-face component of the blended mode. Besides live forum, learners also have access to the e-forum, which supports asynchronous modes of interaction.

While online learners do not physically attend classes or lectures, they have everything they need to learn independently. These multimedia-rich resources include e-modules, video lectures, digital library resources and discussion forums. As they study, learners can test their knowledge through self assessments.

Learners will be well guided via lesson plans that will ensure coursework and assignments are submitted on time. Most importantly, this will ensure that by the time learners sit for their examinations, they will have thoroughly engaged with the course content.

The e-tutors assigned to these programmes will ensure learners do not encounter drawbacks in their studies. Selected from a pool of academic and industry experts, they help guide learners to achieve learning outcomes and support them so they remain motivated and committed throughout their programmes.

Our e-learning platform, myINSPIRE, is also instrumental in this approach, providing round the-clock access to resources and support services. The system is continuously enhanced to ensure a learner-friendly and content-rich learning environment. Through myINSPIRE, learners can be assured of a truly accessible and flexible learning experience that will allow them to study without compromising their professional or personal responsibilities.

MIST and MECHE are open for registration for the May 2019 intake. Those who choose the online mode will be entitled to a 15% rebate on existing fees, meaning they will pay lower fees than those opting for the blended mode.

At this point, the question often asked by many is this: Can one really learn better without actually meeting her lecturers or peers? Research has shown that online learning is no less effective than classroom-based learning. In a 2017 article published in CPA Journal, American researchers revealed that online learners learn just as well as those in conventional settings. Other than that, other studies suggest that online learners may even perform better as they are mindful of a personal need to be self-reliant in their studies.

For those who cannot commit to programmes requiring face-to-face interaction for various reasons, our “beyond blended” mode gives them the chance to earn a degree anytime, anywhere, using any device.

OUM’s “beyond blended” mode allows people from all walks of life to obtain tertiary education qualifications anytime, anywhere, using any device

Whether you enjoy studying on the go, live in a remote area or are simply a self-sufficient learner, online learning can make anyone’s tertiary education dreams a reality. What’s more, to do so, you won’t even have to step outside your home, except when you have to sit for your examinations!

– By Prof Datuk Dr Mansor Fadzil, president and vice-chancellor of OUM