Approaches to teaching and learning have evolved in recent years: from a focus on educators serving students with knowledge and information, to a more interactive form that encourages peer-to-peer collaboration with students learning from each other as much as from the teacher; from students learning in classrooms at scheduled times to being able to choose when and where it suits them to learn.
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The increasing role that technology plays in every aspect of our lives is accelerating these changes and the digital revolution has encouraged the development of alternatives to classroom-based learning.
Online learning has liberalised education and made it a more personalised experience. Students can learn at their own pace, wherever they are. Online technology gives them access to courses and programmes at a relatively low cost. This is especially relevant for working professionals who want to undertake further learning and professional certification courses while managing their careers and personal life.
The Malaysian connection
Malaysia enjoys a high broadband penetration with 72% of the population having access to high-speed Internet. The familiarity with the Internet has impacted the way Malaysians approach learning.
Where once online learning was viewed with uncertainty, a recent survey by Kaplan showed that students today are more open to the idea of online learning with 94.5% of the respondents surveyed indicating that they are receptive to online courses.
Combining the flexibility and convenience of online learning with education in a physical classroom, or blended learning, is an integral component of Malaysia’s National Higher Education Blueprint. This plan includes the conversion of common undergraduate courses into MOOCs (massive open online courses) and the introduction of a target requiring up to 70% of programmes in national higher education institutions to use collaborative learning models. It also encourages the use of new and existing technological tools to enable more personalised learning.
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There is an increasing number of working professionals who are studying for advanced qualifications part-time. They need the flexibility of studying anywhere at any time, so an entirely online learning experience is a huge plus point.
It is important for these learners to maintain the social contact and collaboration possible in a physical classroom. In the same survey, 40% of respondents cited the need for a personal and interactive experience as a concern when considering online learning.
Benefits of online learning
Online learning platforms deliver an interactive experience that transcend geographical constraints and collaborate with peers and lecturers in an online community. This brings a richer learning experience to online learning, opening access to a collective treasure trove of resources. Online learning platforms offer a variety of options for individuals with diverse learning preferences to interact with instructors and peers in real time through features such as the instant messenger or the chat panel.
Online learner communities also serve as a support system for those who may miss the social aspects of learning. This is especially true for students in their 30–35 age range as a majority of them are studying part-time.
Since they have limited physical interaction with their peers due to commitments such as family, work and social life, virtual classrooms provide the support that they need to supplement their learning experience. A community built around online forums is a convenient space for students, tutors and lecturers to interact and be part of a joint collaborative learning experience.
Bringing it all together
As technology continues to disrupt every aspect of life, online learning platforms are providing a useful alternative to the traditional way of learning. Working professionals can still enjoy an interactive learning experience without losing the much needed flexibility in how they learn.
Are you ready to embrace such learning experience?