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Upclose with Dr Rehman

 

Dr Rehman is an assistant professor and researcher at the Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR). He holds a PHD and a MSc with specialization in Knowledge Management and also holds a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). During these years, Dr Rehman has taught many subjects relevant to Knowledge Management and Information Systems. His core research areas include Knowledge Management, human factors in Information Systems , Software Engineering, and cyber-psychology.

The covid pandemic has crippled the social and economic landscape and is affecting billions of lives worldwide. What are some of the business continuity strategies the school had in place to overcome this situation.

 

No doubt COVID-19 has impacted the daily life of every individual and a wide variety of businesses. The education sector is no exception. Schools and universities have to adapt themselves to the new norms especially for online teaching and learning. Although online teaching and learning has brought many positive outcomes but there are few negative aspects that overshadow the positive aspects. For example, those students who just started going to schools (early year education) are facing a lot of difficulty in understanding the basic concepts. They continuously need one person who is helping them to handle the device being used for studying. Besides, there is no physical interaction at all among this group of students (between class or school friends) which is vital to develop social and cognitive skills in those early formative years. Early year students also cannot physically participate in the social activities and competitions that were previously held physically and thus making it difficult for them to develop strong emotional skills.

 

Same is the case with elder students or those who are university students. During face-to-face classroom teaching, a lecturer can easily see that whether students can grasp the ideas by looking at their facial expressions or through direct personal communication. Online mode has made it difficult. It is quite difficult for lecturers to know whether students really understand the concepts or not unless s/he asks. Lecturers also do not know whether a student is attending the class or just joined the class and after that s/he is not present. The other issue with the online learning is the availability of infrastructure especially a good smart phone, laptop or PC with a very fast and reliable internet connection. If this infrastructure is not available, online learning will definitely not produce the expected results.

 

As online classes have become the new norm, what are some of the strategies you used to equip students to excel in both in their academic and positive mental health despite the lack of physical communication?

 

This is an alarming situation where students from schools, colleges or universities cannot physically meet or attend the events that were previously organized in a face-to-face mode. To overcome this problem, I always give a 10-15 minutes online session before starting the lecture where they can talk to each other in the absence of lecturer. This helps students to know each other more and is very useful for those students who are in the first semester of the degree or they have just enrolled for the degree programme. Such students find it quite difficult to find good friends unless they meet each other physically (which is not possible due to COVID-19). Therefore, it is important that students should know each other well as they will be working together as team members on different projects during the entire degree programme. Further,  if they do not know each other well, the team members may not communicate properly and may experience further issues in the overall assignment interaction.

What would be some advice that you would like to share with other educators?

 

Online education requires more effort as compared to face-to-face education. I would like to advise all educators to consider the mental stress that we all are facing especially students. Do not put a lot of pressure on students in the form of quizzes, assignments and other deadlines. I have observed many students who dropped the subjects because they were unable to understand the subjects due to online learning and then the lecturers were giving them too many deadlines.

 

Do you foresee online education would be the way to move forward?

 

Yes. Online learning is definitely here to stay and, in the future, more and more students will be opting for this mode of education. Online learning does offer many advantages like following your own pace to complete a course. Moreover, the content is easily available and at much lower cost than a university degree. However, there are few challenges to be handled by educational institutes and governments (providing better infrastructure) that are discussed above so that more and more students/learners can benefit from online learning.

Dr Rehman can be reached  here