Tuesday, January 22

A Comparative Study of E-Learning Practices at Malaysian Private Universities


  • Marlia Puteh, Ph.D. College of Science and Technology, UTM
  • Supyan Hussin, Ph.D., Institute of the Malay World and Civilization, UKM

"This paper analyses the development of the e-learning strategies that have been introduced into Malaysian private universities. Using three case studies of Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (UNITAR), Multimedia University (MMU) and the Open University of Malaysia (OUM), this paper examines how Malaysian private universities have introduced e-learning strategies into their undergraduate programs. It also analyses the policies that UNITAR, MMU and OUM developed to promote IT teaching and learning strategies. A critical view of the problems that these universities face in implementing their vision statements is presented. The conclusion comments on the mixed experience of e-learning at these private learning institutions: UNITAR, MMU and OUM."

This article provides some useful information and reflections about UNITAR, MMU and OUM's e-learning delivery, experiences and implementation problems. Though, I would have liked to know a bit more about the demographics of the participants in this qualitative research study. Also, I found that the authors should have cited from more relevant research references with quantitative research data (found in other research papers like this one about OLT. It is not a great paper, but it provides some concrete data to work with.) to support their views and findings from the qualitative research.

Actually, some of the information about UNITAR (e.g. 60% online, 40% face-to-face learning) is inaccurate. In reality, UNITAR has adopted several different e-learning approaches throughout the years to improve and cater to the students' learning needs (e.g. more face-to-face classes for 1st year undergraduate students). The amount of Face-to-Face (F2F) learning hours per course (42 hours) has varied from 8 - 28 hours (19% - 67% F2F). In other words, UNITAR has never had a fixed blended (or hybrid) learning strategy, which was adopted by all courses, programs and faculties. One can argue that it was messy (and not always clear to the students and educators), but it was not a one-size fits all kind of approach.

Interestingly, UNITAR is now increasingly becoming more conventional (3 hours F2F classes per week, per course), especially for the undergraduate level. This is probably partly due to the fact that most of our undergraduate students (90%+) are full-time students.

Also, some of the reflections about UNITAR, MMU, and OUM in this paper are rather confusing. For example:

"The UNITAR case indicates that the online learning approach might not have achieved its goal, and implies that the change from virtual to online learning (conventional to online learning?) may not have been a good idea after all. Perhaps, in UNITAR’s case, it would have been better to have selected a more stable technology (teaching and learning approach?), rather than investing so heavily in virtual learning, which at the time was a largely untried technology (learning approach?)..."

Having said that, you should read this paper (if not, I would not have posted something about it here!), because it provides some useful information about UNITAR, MMU and OUM's e-learning or blended learning approaches, which we can learn from. Though, if you are looking for an in-depth and constructive case study about any of these Universities, you might need to look elsewhere.

Finally, I believe one of the toughest challenges in implementing e-learning in Malaysia (and beyond) today, is finding a cost-effective blend that motivates the educators, and meets the learning needs of the students. I would argue that there are plenty of excellent easy-to-use/learn e-learning tools (free and commercial) and tons of open/free educational resources easily available, and the Internet infrastructure is improving, so the real challenge will increasingly boil down to the human and pedagogical factors. Perhaps, the main e-learning implementation challenge today would be to convince and motivate educators to participate and explore full-heartedly the fruits of e-learning (especially those that are not IT-savvy), and equip them through training and support with the necessary skills to facilitate effective learning. If you are looking for some tips, I could always share a few :)

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