Sustaining Teaching and Learning Amidst COVID-19 the SUSS Way

It has been two years since the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 as a pandemic. This crisis has changed the structure of teaching and learning; online learning and online engagement have become pervasive and are the new normal.

Just like many other universities all over the world, the pandemic presented Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) with new challenges. The campus had to be closed, and lessons and examinations moved online. Despite this, SUSS has largely been able to maintain its education delivery in a seamless manner as it had been ahead of the curve in embracing technology and integrating online learning in its curriculum well before Covid-19 struck to cater to its large proportion of part-time students who are full-time working adults. As these learners need to strike a balance between studies, work, family and social commitments, online learning has been an option for SUSS students even before the pandemic.

Faced by the disruptions caused by Covid-19, SUSS replaced face-to-face classes with live virtual classes conducted via Zoom, which was integrated within the University’s learning management system. This was scaled up from the start of the pandemic, with all classes fully and successfully online by the time the SUSS campus was closed. SUSS enhanced and eased the teaching and learning experience by ramping up the Zoom training for its academic staff and providing guides to students on how to use the web-conferencing platform. SUSS also moved its students’ assessments and examinations fully online using its existing learning management system. Some issues and considerations surfaced, which were not anticipated earlier, with them addressed quickly and properly to enable the continuation of the education services.

Beyond just teaching academics, SUSS also fosters students’ development in other areas and looks after their overall well-being. It adopts a holistic approach to education and came up with additional initiatives to address the students’ well-being and support systems, which may have been affected adversely during the Covid-19 pandemic. These include:
• granting SUSS graduates from the Class of 2020 and 2021 complimentary access to four courses to deepen their skills and knowledge, including soft skills, under the Resilience Scheme. Upon successful completion of the course, a certificate is issued together with the relevant credit units, which can be stacked towards other higher-level qualifications such as Master or Doctoral degrees.
• converting experiential learning and community engagement, in Singapore and overseas, to virtual mode to enable students to learn the importance of, and to make, a positive impact in people’s lives;
• switching internships and work attachments, local and global, to virtual mode to provide students with the continued opportunity to work with diverse talents and get first-hand insights into the working world;
• setting up a Student Care Fund to help students who may be facing sudden or immediate financial hardship, arising from unexpected family and life situations because of Covid-19; and
• stepping up counselling services and life coaching online to students to discuss their concerns in a safe environment, especially as mental health has declined since the pandemic began.

SUSS has been reviewing its responses to the pandemic with a view to adopting good practices that have been innovated during the crisis. It is a golden opportunity for SUSS to re-imagine how it can and will do things differently in future. Post-Covid-19, the world will be different – the challenge for everyone is to change and adapt in the new paradigm. And, everyone, including SUSS, must!