Grooming fu­ture­proof work tal­ents

New Straits Times - - Higher Ed - SANI

IT is in­ter­est­ing times for ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion. Rapid tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances have given rise to trends such as au­to­ma­tion, glob­al­i­sa­tion and work­place change within in­dus­tries, re­quir­ing univer­si­ties to pro­duce stu­dents who have a broader set of 21st cen­tury skills that will en­able them to thrive in the fu­ture.

Tal­ents en­ter­ing the work­force are ex­pected to have strong foun­da­tional skills well as the abil­ity to think in­de­pen­dently, iden­tify and solve prob­lems on their own, work col­lab­o­ra­tively, and learn new knowl­edge and skills when nec­es­sary.

At the same time, in­sti­tutes of higher learn­ing are al­ready ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the en­rol­ment of Gen Z — those born be­tween 1996 and 2009 — who are dig­i­tal na­tives with the al­ways con­nected men­tal­ity and dig­i­tal de­vices and pro­files which they view as an ex­ten­sion of them­selves.

Gen Z is tech­nol­ogy-driven just like Gen Y but even more so as tech­nol­ogy is more than a tool — it is part of who they are, said Univer­siti Ke­bangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Cen­tre for Teach­ing and Learn­ing Tech­nolo­gies di­rec­tor Pro­fes­sor Datuk Dr Mo­hamed Amin Embi.

In his in­au­gu­ral lec­ture at UKM last year, Mo­hamed Amin said Gen Z has unique learn­ing habits.

“They have a world of in­for­ma­tion at their fin­ger­tips; they can sim­ply Google any­thing they need to know. In­stead of wast­ing time at me­moris­ing, they fo­cus on learn­ing to find, in­ter­pret and take ad­van­tage of in­for­ma­tion,” he said.

They multi-task with an In­ter­net-con­nected de­vice while watch­ing TV — sur­viv­ing dis­trac­tion. And they learn vis­ually as a re­sult of con­stant stim­u­la­tion in the form of video games, YouTube videos and tele­vi­sion.

“If ed­u­ca­tors de­sire to re­main rel­e­vant to Gen Z, they need to rethink teach­ing and re­design learn­ing that will en­gage stu­dents in mean­ing­ful and deep learn­ing,” said Mo­hamed Amin.

How­ever, he added that the prob­lem with to­day’s ed­u­ca­tion — at the school and ter­tiary level — is that most ed­u­ca­tors teach the way they were taught in the past.

“There is a need to rethink and re­design 21st cen­tury teach­ing and learn­ing so that they meet the needs of the era. As 21st cen­tury ed­u­ca­tors, it is im­per­a­tive that we re­design the tra­di­tional con­cept of teach­ing and learn­ing, and ex­plore new ways to im­prove stu­dents’ ex­pe­ri­ence to pre­pare them for to­mor­row’s world.”

REDESIGN­ING TEACH­ING

Univer­siti Sains Malaysia (USM) School of Ed­u­ca­tional Stud­ies dean Pro­fes­sor Dr Hairul Nizam Is­mail said class­rooms in Malaysian higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions still pre­dom­i­nantly adopt the “fac­tory line” con­cept of teach­ing and learn­ing where many uni­ver­sity lec­tur­ers pre­fer the teacher-cen­tred ap­proach that em­pha­sises de­liv­er­ing lec­tures dur­ing the du­ra­tion of the class, while stu­dents lis­ten pas­sively in their seats.

“Ter­tiary stu­dents should pos­sess learn­ing and in­no­va­tion tech­niques; in­for­ma­tion, me­dia and tech­no­log­i­cal com­pe­ten­cies; and life and ca­reer skills that will in­crease their mar­ketabil­ity, em­ploy­a­bil­ity and readi­ness for ci­ti­zen­ship in a com­pet­i­tive world.

“For learn­ing and in­no­va­tion skills, stu­dents need to be creative, think crit­i­cally and pos­sess prob­lem-solv­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion skills,” said Hairul Nizam.

As such, Malaysian higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions are to im­ple­ment var­i­ous teach­ing strate­gies and ap­proaches such as e- and blended learn­ing, flipped class­rooms and Mas­sive Open Online Cour­ses (MOOCs).

These strate­gies and ap­proaches are suit­able to be in­tro­duced in higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions as the teach­ing tools pro­vide flex­i­bil­ity and in­ter­ac­tiv­ity to at­tract 21st cen­tury stu­dents.

“A tech­nol­ogy-based student-cen­tred learn­ing ap­proach will not only make learn­ing more in­ter­est­ing for stu­dents, it can also en­cour­age them to ac­tively learn and have con­fi­dence to in­ter­act with course­mates and lec­tur­ers. These characteristics are im­por­tant to en­hance mar­ketabil­ity upon grad­u­at­ing.

“This is dif­fer­ent from tra­di­tional teacher­centred learn­ing, which al­lows stu­dents to re­main rather pas­sive. This type of ‘redesign­ing’ is needed to shape stu­dents’ at­ti­tudes and im­prove their skills to­wards be­com­ing more com­pet­i­tive in the job mar­ket. Pro­vid­ing stu­dents with spe­cific com­pe­ten­cies, such as the abil­ity to utilise in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy tools and higher or­der think­ing skills, will give them the edge they need for the cur­rent job mar­ket.”

Univer­siti Pu­tra Malaysia (UPM) Fac­ulty of EdROZANA uca­tional Stud­ies dean Pro­fes­sor Dr Aida Su­raya Md. Yunus mean­while high­lighted stu­dents need real-life learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, and to work on tasks and at­tend meet­ings (or brief­ings) with chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cers and in­dus­try play­ers.

“We try to ar­range more en­gage­ment with the in­dus­try, there­fore the lec­turer will also need in­dus­try ex­pe­ri­ence. We con­duct field trips, col­lab­o­rate with or­gan­i­sa­tions to al­low stu­dents to trans­late the­ory into prac­tice,” said Aida Su­raya.

Stu­dents also ex­pect to have dif­fer­ent kinds of learn­ing spa­ces, no longer a lec­ture theatre or ta­bles in a class­room with them fac­ing the teacher.

“They need a more re­laxed at­mos­phere, ta­bles that can be shifted to al­low group dis­cus­sions and flip charts.

“Our lec­tur­ers upload their teach­ing ma­te­ri­als online for stu­dents to re­fer. Not only are lec­ture notes up­loaded, but also links to rel­e­vant web­sites, videos, an­i­mated ma­te­ri­als, plat­form for stu­dents to share their ma­te­ri­als with the class, online dis­cus­sions/chat rooms with the lec­turer and fel­low stu­dents. This al­lows stu­dents to ex­plore be­yond the con­fines of the course con­tent,” she added.

“A lot of dis­cus­sion and pre­sen­ta­tion take place in the course of our pro­grammes. Although the bud­get is limited, the fac­ulty plans to trans­form all class­rooms into con­ducive learn­ing spa­ces — the ‘fu­ture class­room’ — for stu­dents.

“It will not only ex­pose them to emerg­ing tech-

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