The university of the future is increasingly online. Learners attend virtual classes, hold discussions in online forums, and study using e-learning materials. This radical break from conventional face-to-face classes and interactions may be gradual but for Open University Malaysia (OUM), it is also inevitable as we have been on the frontier of sustainable digital education and transformation in Malaysia since 22 years ago.
“We are moving towards 100% online, independent, and self-directed learning in this era of globalisation. This is the way forward and maybe 40 to 50 years down the road, the physical university will no longer be relevant. In fact, we might have virtual universities with all the faculties in the cloud. I believe some universities around the globe are already moving in that direction,” says OUM Vice President (Academic and Research), Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Tajudin Md Ninggal.
The students of today are mostly conversant in using the Internet in daily life. By providing them with digital education, OUM is making it easy for them to learn and earn a degree in the way they are most comfortable with.
Datuk Tajudin admits that not all students might feel the same. “There may be some students who prefer face-to-face classes and there are many other universities that can cater to them. At OUM, our focus is on preparing our students for a digital future.”
More than 20 years ago when OUM began operating, it offered a blended mode of learning which combined face-to-face tutorials with online learning. This model became a hit with working adults as they needed to attend only a handful of classes each semester, and that too only on the weekends. When Covid-19 struck, the university moved all of its classes online. Even examinations began to be conducted in cyberspace.
“Attendance is not compulsory in online learning. The beauty of the system is that students can view videos of their online classes. They can watch them as many times as they wish to improve their understanding or prepare for their assignments and exams. This is not possible with physical classes – you cannot replay them.”
Online learning does not mean that students are left to fend for themselves. All students are registered with a learning centre, of which OUM has 35 nationwide. The learning centres serve as focal points which students could visit to obtain help for study matters.
Datuk Tajudin, who has more than 30 years of experience as an academic, is a firm supporter of lifelong learning. “Before coming to OUM, I worked at a public university, where my last position was as a Deputy Vice-Chancellor. A few months of leisure taught me that not doing anything could make me unproductive. So, I took up an offer to become a professor in counselling psychology at OUM and helped to improve the existing programme and at the same time, offer new specialisation programmes to meet the demand of industries, professional bodies, and our prospective students.
“I found my students to be much more professional. Most of them have good jobs as doctors, lawyers, senior managers and professionals. They were very active, focused, and determined to succeed.”
Reiterating OUM’s philosophy of democratising higher education, Datuk Tajudin says, “We prioritise working people who wish to improve their lives but do not want to quit their jobs. We make it possible for them to learn by holding online classes in the evenings and during weekends so that these do not clash with their working hours.
“University places used to be limited but times have changed. We now have people going back to school to learn and do what they could not earlier. To succeed in life, you can start anywhere and at any age in your life. It is better late than never. OUM is there to support you and make your dream a reality!”
A private university owned by a consortium of 11 public universities, OUM offers 54 programmes in the fields of education, business and management, technology and applied sciences, and social sciences and humanities.
For more information on OUM programmes, call the speedline at 03-7801 2000, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.oum.edu.my.