Covid-19: When Investing in Online Teaching & Learning Pays Off

April 3, 2020

As the country pushes through the second week of the Movement Control Order (MCO), Malaysians are forced to improvise, adapt and overcome challenges in many aspects of their daily lives.

From being confined within four walls 24/7 to working from home, from hoarding essential items for fear of uncertainty to jumping on the e-learning bandwagon, there is a lot for people to digest in these trying times.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lee Kar Ling

Following efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19, over a billion students around the world are unable to go to school or university . So, in a bid to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on education, schools and universities have turned to technology for education continuity.

While some institutions scrambled to get their educators and students ready for virtual classes, some took things in stride, a payoff for the years they have invested in establishing a familiarity for online teaching and learning.

The Educator’s Perspective

Online learning is nothing new at INTI International University. In fact, because of initiatives made since 2012 to guide academicians, they have been able to use the Blackboard LMS (Learning Management System) in a more effective manner.

Faculty of Business, Communication and Law lecturer, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lee Kar Ling, noted that interestingly, students recorded better attendance when everything is online as compared to having face-to-face classes.

“This is the new generation. They are much more comfortable with anything online, and those who are shy tend to find that online learning allows them to contribute and share their views and questions without being judged for saying the wrong things or making a mistake.

“They feel that there is a sense of anonymity,” she remarked.

Taking attendance is also a breeze, she claims, saying that an attendance report can be generated from Blackboard at the end of the session with details on how long they were in the session and how many times a student had to re-login due to unstable internet connectivity.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lee said it was about three years ago that the university required students to participate in two-hour lectures, while one hour was allocated for tutorials and another hour was dedicated to self-directed online learning.

“It is during the one-hour of learning that students engage in activities on Blackboard such as self-check quizzes, additional review of articles, case studies as well as video assignments,” she said, adding that she has been advocating the platform since its presence at the university and she makes it a point to conduct online sessions for further discussion with her students.

Online learning sessions are more convenient and saves time compared to traditional face-to-face sessions.

As Blackboard allows for online assessments, tests can be done online. While some may be skeptical on how well it is facilitated with concerns on cheating, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lee assures that it is doable.

“My tests are open book. You can have all your notes in front of you, but it does not guarantee you can answer. My questions are more on application and requires you to understand what is happening,” she grinned, saying some students would rather avoid the online tests as they were more challenging since it involved problem solving and critical thinking.

She said that students can even sit next to each other during a test with multiple choice questions, since the questions are randomized by the system and additional questions can be set so that students all receive different sets.

When it comes to marking, Blackboard allows in-line marking of tests and assignments, cutting down paper usage and lugging around stacks of documents.

“Those who are not used to the system may find in-line marking slower and challenging, but for us who are accustomed to it, we find it easier than dealing with hard copies. Students also like it because they don’t have to worry about having a printer or paying to print and bind. Furthermore, once the marking is completed, the students can instantly review the marks and the feedback to help them improve in future assignments or tests.

“It’s easy for them and easy for us, not to mention it is also environmentally friendly,” she said.

The Student Experience

For 26-year-old Abdul Samad Akhunzada, or Sam as he is fondly known, he only experienced a slight hiccup on his first day of online class through the Blackboard Learning Management System (LMS), which he managed to sort out on his own.

“I faced some difficulties getting acquainted with the platform itself, but within minutes I was able to cope. Later I checked some tutorial videos and guides to boost my understanding in the utilization of the platform,” said the INTI International University Master of Business Administration student.

Sam, who hails from Pakistan, contributes the ease in which he uses Blackboard to early introduction to the platform, even before the existence of Covid-19.

“We were already using the Blackboard platform before for our coursework such as assignment submission and online learning sessions,” he said.

His classmate also shared the same sentiment, saying she felt positive when full-on online learning was implemented at the university on March 24th.

“Having online classes is better for our safety given the current situation. Plus, this is a new experience for me as I have never experienced full-time online classes before,” said Kalzhan Mukhanbetzhanova, 27, who is also known as Zhan by her peers and lecturers.

She said online classes are more convenient and saves time rather than traditional face-to-face sessions, especially since the online classes are recorded and can be viewed again later.

The native of Kazakhstan also pointed out that traditional classes can be disruptive at times with people talking at the same time, ending up in neither the students nor lecturer understanding what is said.

“They should use the ‘raise hand’ button before talking!” she laughed as she referred to a feature on the Blackboard platform used to ask or answer a question during a session.

Bachelor’s in accountancy student Choo Shi Hang shared that one of the interesting features of learning online is the ability to ask questions in the chat room while the session is going on.

“If we were in a normal classroom full of students we might not ask questions because we would feel shy or awkward,” said the 22-year-old, adding that he wouldn’t mind continuing a combination of online classes even after the Covid-19 situation has subsided.