The Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) took part in hosting the Satellite Engagement Event initiated by the International Council of Open and Distance Education (ICDE) called AAOU Virtual Talk Show themed “Reshaping Resilient Open Education Leadership in Asia During COVID-19”.
The virtual talk show was conducted on Zoom Meeting application and broadcasted LIVE on Youtube UT TV Channel on Tuesday, 17 November 2020.
Three speakers who are expert in open and distance higher education were presented in the programme; they are:
1) Prof. Tian Belawati, Senior Professor at Universitas Terbuka
2) Dr. K. C. Li, Research Director of Open University of Hong Kong
3) Prof. Dato’ Dr. Mansor Fadzil, the President of Open University Malaysia
And Prof. Dr. M. Gorky Sembiring, the Head of Research Department at Universitas Terbuka, as the chair of the event.
This virtual talk show was done by AAOU to support ICDE, as one if its best partner, as an initial event preceding to its big event which was conducted on 25 November 2020, ICDE President’s Forum. The purpose of this event is to share and open up some ideas to maintain the leadership of open and distance education, and also providing some illustrations on the challenges encountered by the open and distance education institutions, especially in Asia, and how the education process, service, and quality could carry on despite the Covid-19 situation.
Prof. Tian Belawati highlighted that Covid-19 pandemic has suddenly changed the conventional education system to become online system. Meanwhile, it can also be seen that Covid-19 pandemic has promoted the online education rapidly. For Universitas Terbuka (UT), it has nurtured its competitors in distance education and at the same time, gains the number of its collaborating partners. Universitas Terbuka opens its LMS free for other universities as this is how collaboration develops. She also thinks the online learning will stay long even after the Covid-19 will be gone. Furthermore, regarding to how the Indonesian government responds to make efforts in coping with learning during Covid-19 situation, Prof. Belawati mentioned the steps taken by Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture has launched Merdeka Belajar programme (in English: Freedom to Study programme) which provides the liberty for the university students to take semester credit units or satuan kredit semester (SKS) for two semester at other universities, and such credit units can be converted or transferred to the original campus of the students. It is also added that the students will be happier to study through e-learning which provide more flexible time to study.
As for Hong Kong, the government there has also performed the same as that Indonesia has done in terms of providing the education facilities for the students and instructors more effectively and efficiently during the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Li stated that the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK) has been working together with the Government of Hong Kong in coping with Covid-19, particularly in education sector by adding more education facilities that support learning and teaching processes. He also mentioned that students have faced a lot of challenges/difficulties in the shifting mode of learning that has been happening now, like the use of devices, their mental, and psychological as well. However, for their end, different learning tools and materials are made available for the students. This kind of development can be very expensive, but the collaborations between institutions can help to deliver and enhance the quality of education given to the students. Furthermore, in regard to laboratory work in university which also becomes the issue, the government in HongKong allows it but only in a very small group.
Similarly, the same things are currently being done by Open University Malaysia (OUM), as Prof. Dato’ Dr. Mansor Fadzil said that OUM is now more prepared in implementing the higher education programs during this Covid-19 pandemic. OUM has been preparing online classes which are adjusted with the students’ aspirations. The effort was done by doing Surveys to the students regarding how they want the education to be delivered, how the assessment to be offered, and OUM follows 90% of what the students asked. He mentioned there has been 34 learning centres provided across Malaysia now. OUM has also improved its Data Centre and staff capacity, as well as provided a number of more affordable facilities, like new laptops with better quality for the staffs.
In conclusion, despite of the pandemic, ODE-based institutions have been well prepared in facing it. Not only doing their best to provide quality education to the students, but we all have been trying to develop more collaborations with other conventional universities, in order to gain more success in carrying on the education for everyone.
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