Open University Malaysia (OUM) was established on August 10, 2000 as the seventh private university in Malaysia. Although incorporated as a private university and established under the Private Higher Education Institutions Act 1996, OUM leverages on the quality, prestige and capabilities of its owners - a consortium of the 11 Malaysian public universities. Today, there are more than 24,000 students enrolled in OUM programs.
OUM's vision is to be a leader and innovator in open learning.
- To be the leading contributor in democratising education
- To develop quality education through multi mode learning technologies
- To develop and enhance learning experiences toward the development of a knowledge-based society
- Their learning methodology consists of self-managed learning, online learning, and face-to-face interaction.
In this review we will focus on three (3) key areas of OUM:
- Learning Management System (myLMS, myMail, myProfile, myLibrary, and Learner Conexxions)
- Open & Distance Learning Pedagogy Centre
- Centre for Quality Management and Research & Innovation
Other key areas not discussed in this review include Centre for Instructional Design & Technology and Learner Services Centre.
Let's first look briefly at OUM's Learning Management System (LMS). In general, the LMS is reasonably user-friendly, has a pleasant interface, and is integrated (single-login). If we decompose the LMS, it is divided into five (5) main components, which are briefly explained below:
Consist of myCourse, myUniversity, myCommunity, and myMail. myUniversity module has features such as user directory, task, student online progress, calendar, personal address book, and polls. It serves as the first point of contact between the university and the student. Here announcements are posted, university-wide polls are taken and personal calendars updated. As for the myCourse module, it includes features such as course summary, announcement, course content, support materials, references, staff info, coursemate, forum, chat, quiz, digital drop-box, etc. Their course content comes mostly in the form of PDF files.
Is the student/staff e-mail component.
Includes my profile, credit transfer, courses undertaken, performance (course results), and payments (invoice/financial status).
Includes digital collections such as OPAC, e-Library, 24 x 7, Infotrac, Proquest, EBSCO, Emerald, Engineering Village, Springer, IOP, NSTP e-Media, ACM, ERIC, InfoSecurity, IT Knowledge, and Tailor & Francis. The digital library has access to more than 36,000 titles from e-books and 50,000 titles from e-journal databases. The available databases cover all courses offered by OUM. Physically, They have more than 7,500 volumes of books located at the Central Library and Learning Centres.
Includes learning issues, tips and pointers, facts on learning, LMS FAQs, Bookmarks, Netiquette, Abbreviations and Smileys, My Stories, Creative corner, Snapshots (of new students at OUM), etc. An excellent component, which provides useful guidelines and tips on education and life in OUM.
Overall, OUM's LMS single-login (integrated-system) and ease-of-use strategy is good.
Ok, let's move on to their Open & Distance Learning (ODL) Pedagogy Centre. It was set up with the purpose of enhancing the pedagogy of face-to-face tutoring, online tutoring and self-managed learning in an ODL environment.
It's mission is:
- To provide innovative quality services and products that exceed tutors? expectations
- To continuously attract, retain and develop tutors
- To research into ways of increasing the quality of tutor interactions in the actual and virtual classroom environment
- To help tutors integrate new and innovative print and e-content learning content into their tutoring processes
It's objectives for 2004 are:
- To come up with a working model of managing various tutor related processes.
- To set up a comprehensive tutor database that is accessible to stake holders.
- To create a complete set of training materials to enhance tutor performance in all areas.
- To complete at least three research studies:
- Effectiveness of online discussion forum (ongoing)
- How Effective are Tutors in Facilitating Knowledge Enhancement Among Students (proposal ready)
- The Effectiveness of SCORM compliant Intelligent Learning Objects (Proposal in progress)
- To create and make it effectively reusable a suite of 20 learning object templates.
ODL Pedagogy Centre's organizational structure consist of three units or departments:
- Tutor Management Unit Manages, guides and coaches OUM tutors towards achieving OUM's vision and mission.
- Training Consultancy - Provides quality training and consultancy in ODL Pedagogy.
- Research and Development - Evaluates current processes and propose strategies to improve and innovate ODL pedagogy.
There current activities include:
- Create Repository for Learning Objects
- Develop innovative methods for e-content
- Create resources for tutor training
The future R&D plans are to:
- Incorporate intelligent agent into ODL pedagogy
- Ensure the essence of life-long learning principles are truly practiced by OUM students
- Conduct research that will bring profitable gains and returns to OUM
The ODL pedagogy center is still in its infancy, but is a great initiative, which will bring OUM to new heights in teaching and learning.
Finally, let's look closer at their Centre for Quality Management and Research & Innovation.
The Centre's objectives are:
- To provide Quality Assurance services including planning, facilitating, supporting and monitoring OUM?s quality assurance processes.
- To provide Pre-award Management Services for research and innovation including contractual and information dissemination.
- To adopt strategies to gradually grow from a cost centre to a cost recovery centre in the shortest possible time.
The Centre consist of two major operational units:
- Unit for Quality Management (UQM) - Is responsible for all quality initiatives at OUM, and facilitates with other responsibility centres to ensure that all the university's operational processes are quality assured. Services include quality assurance, best practices and benchmarking, SOPs and ISO, documentation and database, and consultancy.
- Unit for Research & Innovation - Is responsible in the management and planning of research and innovation in the university. The research focus areas are:
- Online Assessment ? quality moderation, satisfaction of the online discussion forum, quality participation, and state of readiness.
- Effective Student Support Services - Online support services and Service Centre.
- Standards of e-Learning Management System - Best practices, Specification for learning materials, and Learning Content Management System.
- Open and Distance Learning Pedagogy - Management of internet based open learning, Virtual learning, and Blended and hybrid pedagogy.
- Assessing Methods for Adult Learners - Learning style, Instruction / teaching method, Learning discipline, and Psychological and motivational drive.
- Effective Use of Learning Technologies - Technology sharing, Reusability and practically for learning objects, and Instructional use of learning objects.
- University Leadership and Management in ODL - Change Management, Risk Management, and Creative Management.
Again, OUM has a clear vision and plan with the Centre for Quality Management and Research & Innovation, which hopefully will benefit OUM and other educational institutions in the future. Especially, their research focus areas will be interesting to keep an eye on in the coming months and years.
Overall, it has been interesting reviewing OUM from a macro-level. However, there is so much more to OUM that needs to be discovered and shared. OUM is evolving fast, and I see no reason for them to slow down in the near future. There is so much quality from management to financial support that will push OUM to new heights, breakthroughs and innovation. They will in the near future (if not already) most likely become a benchmark or reference-point for other educational institutions in Asia for open and distance learning. It is just a matter of time! We wish OUM the best!
Warm Regards & Sincerely,
Zaid Ali Alsagoff