Global BUKA Research Effort ‘Opens’ in Malaysia

An important global research project supported by the European Union (EU) on Advancing Equity and Access to Higher Education through Open and Distance Learning has successfully taken off after its first meeting was hosted by Wawasan Open University (WOU) in Malaysia.  

With funding worth almost a million Euros under the EU’s Better Universities and Knowledge for All (BUKA) scheme, the three-year project sees a collaboration between eight institutions.  

Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic & Educational Technology) Prof. Zoraini Wati Abas led the WOU team in partnership with the Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) of Finland and the others to secure the grant. Each participating university has been allocated a percentage of the grant based on their job tasks and responsibilities.  

The other European institution involved is Dublin City University (DCU) of Ireland. The rest, all from Southeast Asia, are Open University Malaysia, Universitas Terbuka (Indonesia), Universitas Negeri Padang (Indonesia), University of the Philippines Open University and Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (the Philippines).   WOU organised the inaugural meeting at Penang Parkroyal Resort from 4 to 6 February 2020 to work out the research agenda, project timeline and the collaborative approach among the partner institutions. WOU Chief Executive and Vice Chancellor Prof. Lily Chan presented an overview of the University during the meeting.  

Over the next three years the BUKA project will focus on developing two interventions on Inclusive Instructional Design and Learning Analytics. On its part WOU is required to set up a learning studio to conduct studies on these two interventions, with the pilot study expected to commence sometime this year at the main campus in Penang.   In her recent comments, Prof. Zoraini stated, “It is a rare opportunity for WOU to be a part of an Erasmus+ funded project to work on customised learning innovations for our students.  Inputs from DCU and TAMK will be valuable as we try to further innovate learning for WOU students.    

Dr. Marko Teras, the Project Leader from TAMK, has been innovative in the way the project is being implemented.  It is expected that the Covid-19 pandemic will contribute, in spite of the added physical challenges, to a richer learner experience for both the researchers in re-designing learning and the students who will experience a more engaging learning approach in 2021.”  

Meanwhile Prof. Daryono, Head of Research and Innovation Centre from Universitas Terbuka, remarked, “The BUKA Project aims at removing the barriers of access to online learning facilities for disadvantaged students living in remote areas without Internet coverage. The pilot on Internet offline/online is designed to develop a local network named as BUKA to targeted areas.  The BUKA is initially designed as a learning clinic to provide student information and support services.” 

The Erasmus scheme is an EU programme open to a number of countries across Europe and beyond that enables organisations, including universities, to collaborate with international partners to drive innovation and share best practices.