The Open University Malaysia (OUM) is the largest Open and Distance Learning institution in Malaysia with over 50,000 students. In terms of teaching and learning, the OUM utilises the blended approach that combines printed learning materials as the main learning resource supplemented by face-to-face interactions at regional centres and online learning through specially designed Learning Management System. In a conversation with Professor Tan Sri Anuwar Ali, the President and Vice-Chancellor of Open University Malaysia, Digital Learning tries to elucidate how Open University empowers a geographically dispersed group of students to participate in a collaborative learning environment.
Could you elaborate on how and why the OUM was established? What are the various programmes of the Open University?
Open University Malaysia or better known as OUM was established in the year 2000. It was born from the idea of our holding company formed by the consortium of eleven public universities in Malaysia. The main objective for the establishment of OUM is to democratize education, by which we mean that education should be made accessible and available to all. We are offering a second chance to people from all walks of life to pursue an academic qualification which they had missed without having to offer themselves for full time programmes at a single designated location.
In terms of programmes, OUM offers from diploma right up to the PhD level. Our popular programmes are Business and Information Technology related degrees, and our degree in Education has the most number of enrolments.
What are the approaches employed in OUM, for the process of teaching and learning, and how do they meet the needs of ever-changing borderless world?
At OUM we adopt the blended pedagogy in the delivery of all our programmes. We have developed comprehensive printed modules, which were designed on the basis of self-managed learning. We have developed and implemented Learner Management System to provide the platform for on-line learning, and at OUM, we still do offer the face-to-face sessions. This approach that we have taken helps us to meet the changing scenarios in this field, especially in our programmes conducted outside of Malaysia. We find that this blended approach can be catered (based on the location) in deciding on matters
What have been the milestones for the OUM?
Looking back, we have come a long way, and looking ahead, we see a longer path. We are fortunate that we have supportive academics and staffs who constantly strive to bring out the best in them. As mentioned earlier, if the enrolment forms a basis for success, then we have one. Our ISO certifications for Tan Sri Abdullah Sanusi Ahmad Digital Library and the Center for Instructional Design and Technology are our milestones. Accreditation of our programmes by the National Accreditation Board is another. OUM had won the Asian Association of Open Universities’ Best Paper Award, Merit Award for Education & Training Learning Management System from MSC Asia Pacific ICT and also the Technology Business Review Award for Excellence in Education (Provision of Continuing Education).
such as whether the face to face sessions should be increased or whether the on-line component be reduced.
Who are your target group? Has the OUM been successful as an alternative channel for tertiary and life-long education?
OUM’s target markets are the working adults, who for some reason or another had missed the opportunity to obtain the academic qualification and some who intends to enhance their current qualifications. We are stepping into our sixth year of operations, and we have an enrolment exceeding 50,000 students. If this means that we are successful (for having the largest number of adult learners at a single institution in Malaysia), I would definitely attribute this to our government’s initiatives to promote human capital development and the concept of life-long learning in our race to achieve the developed nation status. Being the nation’s pioneer Open and Distance Learning institution, we are proud to play a small role in this.
We are stepping into our sixth year of operations, and we have an enrolment exceeding 50,000 students. If this means that we are successful (for having the largest number of adult learners at a single institution in Malaysia), I would definitely attribute this to our government’s initiatives to promote human capital development
Where do you see the main challenges for such Open University programmes?
In terms of challenges, this makes a few. The quality of learning materials is very important. We strive to provide the best in terms of content, with good support during the delivery of the courses. The other challenge would be the attrition rate of students. In open distance learning institutions throughout the world, the attrition rate of students can be as high as 40%. Fortunately, at OUM we manage to cap to less than half of that industry rate. This could be attributable to the positive steps taken by the Learner Services Center that provide counseling and advisory services.
How far has the national policies supported such Open University initiatives?
As I had mentioned earlier, the Malaysian government’s emphasis on human capital development and life-long learning had placed the importance of academic qualifications to face the future challenges. We have the various ministries’ support to implement programmes for their staff. Financing for our programmes are available and further, the fact that OUM had been appointed by the government to be the national center to assess prior learning clearly shows the seriousness of our government in this matter.
How do you see the market for private ventures for online or distance education in Malaysia? How do you compare Malaysia’s market to the rest of Asia?
The market in Malaysia is big enough for private ventures for on-line or distance education. The issues that I could foresee would be the high capital investment and sustainability. In this business, the return on investment is not immediate. Comparable to the rest of Asia, many universities in other countries are also going on this open and distance learning mode. It is a good step, and we are willing to share our experience and expertise in this industry with others.
How has been OUM partnering with the industry? In what way has the industry supported the university?
The industry-academia partnership could be interpreted in many ways. We do work very closely with the industry by offering programmes that are designed and developed based on the input from the industry. The Ministry of Defence is one example, the other being Nestl