Wawasan Open University Prioritises Research With Revamp of CeRI

Wawasan Open University (WOU) aspires to raise its profile in the field of research and innovation, and thereby improve its academic stature among prospective students, the community and the population at large.

In days of yore, universities in general were able to subsist and even thrive by merely focusing on teaching and learning. Circumstances, however, have altered significantly today. 

There are now no two ways about it. Current developments in the higher education industry demand that research is also made an integral function of any university worth its salt.

Prof. Dr. Balakrishnan

WOU, in recognising the importance of research and aspiring to expand its contributions thereto, has rebranded and revamped its research arm, the Centre for Research and Innovation (CeRI).  Through the Centre’s initiatives and accomplishments, the University seeks to strategically position itself as an established, forward-thinking and leading institution of higher learning.

The success of any research cannot be left to chance. There must be foresight, planning and concrete steps instituted and implemented in the right direction to bring about optimum benefits for industry, society and academia.

With robust and effectual research, WOU can apply its findings to deliver up-to-date knowledge and skills to its students. The research can also contribute towards developing the most appropriate, engaging and effective teaching and learning platforms, so as to enhance the experience of students.

Attesting to the University’s commitment in making research a priority, the Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Lily Chan will be chairman whilst the management of CeRI’s overall operations is in the able hands of Prof Dr Balakrishnan Muniandy, with his decades of experience in research, who serves as its Head.

The Centre’scommittee members include the Deans and at least one academic representative from each of the four Schools – School of Business & Administration (SBA), School of Science & Technology (SST), School of Education, Humanities & Social Sciences (SEHS), and School of Digital Technology (DiGiT). 

Driving the research agenda

In the bid to promote its research agenda and improve capacity-building of WOU’s faculty and staff in the field, CeRI provides grants and technical assistance for various projects.  It also assists academic staff in applying for external research funding and grants, such as from the Fundamental Research Grants Scheme (FRGS) managed by the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), as well as grants from local industries and international bodies.

Research thrust and focus

CeRI encourages faculty members to undertake collaborative research projects on open distance learning (ODL) and the specialisation areas of the four Schools. 

The ODL research areas may focus on:

>ODL systems and theories – e.g. access, equity and ethics of ODL; education delivery systems and institutions; theories and models of ODL; and research methods in ODL and knowledge transfer.

> Management, organisation and technology – e.g. costs and benefits; educational technology; professional development and faculty support; learner support services; and quality assurance.

> Teaching and learning in ODL environment –e.g. instructional design, interaction and communication in learning communities, and learner characteristics.

Greater faculty involvement

CeRI is tasked with developing relevant infrastructure and infostructure support, while guiding faculty/staff in specific areas of research and innovation. 

Prof. Dr. Balakrishnan at an event in WOU

Prof Balakrishnan explains: “We want our faculty and staff to participate in research activities and publish, so as to share their findings with fellow colleagues locally, nationally and internationally.”

At WOU, faculty members are encouraged to do more research in areas related to ODL, Prof Balakrishnan stressed. “We hope to have a repository of research findings related to ODL,” he said. “WOU can apply the findings to help solve problems and make decisions, thus improving the quality of our teaching and learning.”

“We aim to position WOU as an academic institution that supports and excels in research-based activities,” Prof Balakrishnan said in summing up the University’s challenge to shine beyond just teaching and learning.