Learn­ing has no bound­aries at AeU

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - HIGHER EDUCATION - Con­trib­uted by DR HO NEE YONG

IREAD my Sun­day news­pa­per one morn­ing and saw the ad­ver­tise­ment on AeU, which of­fered a 50% dis­count for se­nior cit­i­zens on tu­ition fees. Af­ter some men­tal cal­cu­la­tions on my monthly gov­ern­ment pen­sion, I headed to the AeU cam­pus in Kuala Lumpur to en­rol in its PhD in Ed­u­ca­tion pro­gramme.

Af­ter all, learn­ing has no fin­ish­ing line.

Stu­dents can learn from any­where, any­time and the pro­grammes are af­ford­able. Gone are the days when peo­ple had good rea­son to lament on the lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties to con­tinue with ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion.

AeU has made it pos­si­ble for any­one to ob­tain a de­gree at their own pace and pre­ferred method of learn­ing. Open en­try is avail­able now for work­ing adults lack­ing in the min­i­mum en­try re­quire­ments.

The use of English as a lan­guage of academia at AeU gives stu­dents the edge in e-learn­ing where most in­ter­ac­tive ma­te­ri­als and jour­nals are in English.

This has ef­fec­tively in­creased flex­i­bil­ity in study, which part-time stu­dents can­not do with­out.

The AeU’s Dig­i­tal li­brary, known as Asia e Univer­sity Knowl­edge Cen­tre, is cosy; the aes­thet­i­cally de­signed AeU logo, a de­light and the vend­ing ma­chine of­fer­ing a va­ri­ety of free drinks, a bonus.

AeU stu­dents can gain ac­cess to about 20,000 e-books, 70,000 online jour­nals and other fa­cil­i­ties at the AeU Dig­i­tal Li­brary on the main cam­pus in Kuala Lumpur.

AeU’s School of Grad­u­ate Stud­ies dean Prof Dr Siow Heng Loke and School of Ed­u­ca­tion & Cog­ni­tive Sci­ence dean Prof Dr John Arul Phillips were the two per­sons I met on that day at the Knowl­edge Cen­tre.

Af­ter a ca­sual look at two lec­ture rooms and a few ques­tions on e-learn­ing, I showed my mas­ter’s de­gree in Ed­u­ca­tion from Read­ing Univer­sity, UK to Prof Dr Siow, who then ap­proved my ap­pli­ca­tion.

He was to be­come my su­per­vi­sor later.

At the ori­en­ta­tion, when AeU pres­i­dent Prof Datuk Dr An­sary Ah­mad had re­marked that the dropout rate for PhD stu­dents was very high, this had me pondering whether he was re­fer­ring to me. I was was 63 years old then.

The beauty of life af­ter re­tire­ment lies in the free­dom of choos­ing to do what you want with­out seek­ing any­one’s per­mis­sion.

AeU has made it pos­si­ble for any­one to ob­tain a de­gree at their own pace and pre­ferred method of learn­ing.

Nev­er­the­less, the news of my en­rol­ment at AeU caused a lit­tle com­mo­tion among fam­ily mem­bers whose ster­ling sup­port had been the cat­a­lyst for my ad­vo­cacy for life­long learn­ing for the past 40 years.

I promised them that qual­ity fam­ily time would al­ways su­per­sede my PhD jour­ney.

At AeU, learn­ing was made much eas­ier with easy ac­cess to scores of in­ter­na­tional online li­braries and eJournal databases.

As my ref­er­ence re­search was al­most ex­clu­sively done through e-Li­brary, I had the op­tion of not hav­ing the static queue-up counter ser­vice; and this meant a much lower time-cost.

I have the AeU li­brar­i­ans, who of­fered their as­sis­tance at my point of need in online re­search, much to thank for.

I at­tended sev­eral doctoral col­lo­quia for re­search ideas; had one-onone ses­sions with my su­per­vi­sor, and my the­sis pro­posal passed by the vet­ting com­mit­tee dur­ing the first year of my study.

Over the next two years, my con­cerns were raised on the for­mu­la­tion of ques­tion­naires, which needed mod­i­fi­ca­tions on the part of word­ings; the se­lec­tion of teacher­re­spon­dents which had to be equi­li­brated; and the data anal­y­sis and in­ter­views which needed to be si­mul­ta­ne­ously po­si­tioned.

It was a mean­ing­ful and an ex­cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

As the doctoral jour­ney is a shared one be­tween su­per­vi­sors and can­di­dates, both par­ties need to make their ex­pec­ta­tions known to bring the­sis writ­ing to fruition.

I am glad that AeU has all it takes for this cor­dial re­la­tion­ship to be in place.

In my data col­lec­tion through ques­tion­naires, I had to make sure that the re­la­tion­ship be­tween im­por­tant pa­ram­e­ters and vari­ables could be dif­fer­en­ti­ated for anal­y­sis; and that there was ac­ces­si­bil­ity to po­ten­tial re­spon­dents.

In­deed I am very ap­pre­cia­tive of the co­op­er­a­tion ren­dered to me by the school heads con­cerned. The few trips I made to the post of­fice to send parcels of ques­tion­naires through ex­press mail were re­ally worth­while.

Be­sides data col­lec­tion, I also made use of the tri­an­gu­la­tion ap­proach to find out whether the anal­y­sis of data and in­ter­views were mu­tu­ally re­in­forc­ing.

It was dur­ing the many in­ter­views con­ducted that I was able to con­firm the re­li­a­bil­ity and va­lid­ity of my sta­tis­tics re­sults.

The many en­light­en­ing class­room lec­tures, and those pre­sented by in­ter­na­tional guest speak­ers, helped en­large my body of knowl­edge on mat­ters con­cern­ing re­search and cur­rent ed­u­ca­tional is­sues.

The ex­po­sure to th­ese lec­tures have had a pos­i­tive im­pact on my crit­i­cal-think­ing skills: What in­ter­ests should schools and uni­ver­si­ties serve? What con­sti­tute good ed­u­ca­tion? Or is there a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for so­ci­ety to sub­sidise the pro­duc­tion of doc­tor­ates?

In the course of my re­search, I be­came con­vinced that for a holis­tic ed­u­ca­tion to be a worth­while ef­fort, and to en­sure its suc­cess, the char­ac­ter-build­ing as­pect must take prece­dence over the pure quest for knowl­edge and wealth.

My jour­ney at AeU was at its cru­cial stage when the viva voce was held in Jan­uary 2013.

My ex­ter­nal ex­am­iner from the Univer­sity of Ox­ford, UK, had to be ready at 7am on a win­ter morn­ing to be linked up through the tele-video con­fer­enc­ing with other ex­am­in­ers at the AeU meet­ing room in KL; at 3pm lo­cal time.

It was a defin­ing yet ex­cit­ing mo­ment for me. I have AeU to thank for, not for­get­ting the con­fi­dence my su­per­vi­sor Prof Dr Siow had in me for his se­lec­tion of ex­ter­nal ex­am­in­ers.

My PhD jour­ney at AeU was not only re­fresh­ing and in­sight­ful; it was also one that I shall al­ways cher­ish.

Since its hum­ble be­gin­ning in April 2007, AeU has es­tab­lished its rep­u­ta­tion as an ac­claimed in­sti­tu­tion of higher ed­u­ca­tion in the re­gion by pro­vid­ing qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes to al­most 15,000 stu­dents from 54 coun­tries.

AeU was de­clared as one of the suc­cess­ful projects un­der ACD in Oc­to­ber 2012.

The Jan­uary 2014 in­take is now open. Can­di­dates can ap­ply for stud­ies through a Nor­mal En­try or via an Open or Flex­i­ble En­try ad­mis­sion, which con­sid­ers the in­di­vid­ual’s work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Dr Ho Nee Yong is an alum­nus of Asia e Univer­sity (AeU).

For more in­for­ma­tion, go to www.aeu.edu.my or call 1300 300 238.

Dr Ho says his PhD jour­ney at AeU was re­fresh­ing, in­sight­ful and one he will cher­ish.

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