Traversing Online Learning with Ease

Digital learning is no longer seen as the domain of technology-savvy educators alone. The decision by the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) for university lectures to be conducted fully online for the rest of the year means that all educators and students have to adapt to a new learning norm.

Integrating electronic learning highlights the reality that we are living in the 21st Century and training 21st-century learners. Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed) lecturers share their insights about online teaching and strategies to help students cope with the change from studying on campus to studying from home.

NUMed has been utilising several platforms since the campus moved to online classes in April. The Microsoft Teams video call feature and Zoom are popular choices, mainly due to the platforms’ screen-sharing features, ability to record meetings, and interactive chat features. Zoom, for instance, has icons which students can click as if they are raising their hands to ask questions.

Dr Ma Brenda Pancho, an associate professor and Dean of Student Affairs, said, “In terms of adaptation, I think it was me as the lecturer who had difficulty with the online platforms initially.” She attended webinars on Zoom and Microsoft Teams arranged by Newcastle University, UK, and asked for help from her co-lecturers to show her how to use the Panopto personal capture software (Pcap) to record herself discussing each slide of her PowerPoint presentation. Dr Pancho also conducted several practice runs with other lecturers on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and experimented a lot with Zoom and Microsoft Teams recordings, before transferring them to Pcap/Recap.

Dr Jhoram Funtanares Nufable, an associate professor at NUMed advises students to “download, learn and play around with the software/platform”. Familiarising oneself with the software’s features will lessen any technology anxiety one might have, he explained.

NUMed also makes use of its Medical Learning Environment (MLE), which was developed by its Faculty of Medical Science to enable students to see their timetable, to do list, marks, guidelines and more. Socrative Quiz is also used to create online quizzes, which students answer at their own pace.

Dr Ratnadeep Saha, a senior physiology lecturer for both medical and biomedical courses at NUMed, explains that with online learning entering its third month, lecturers and students alike are finding it easier to adjust to the new norm. “While challenges like unstable internet connection and time transition across the border can be frustrating, students should take ownership of their learning,” he observed.

“Read the topic beforehand, and clear doubts during class if possible. Do not wait too many days before sending an email or text,” added Dr Rosita Louise, a senior lecturer for the MBBS programme at NUMed. She advises students to have student buddies to discuss the topics covered for the day. “Teamwork makes studying faster and more interesting.”

Whether learning happens in real time – from a specific virtual place and time – or asynchronously at students’ own time, the change from campus environment to studying in the comfort of their own home should not hinder their progress in learning. NUMed will continue to support its students to traverse online learning with ease as it explores innovative ways that technologies can be used to facilitate digital learning.

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