Interaction with learners

“Online learning improves skill acquisition”

PETALING JAYA: Contrary to popular belief that prolonged online learning could harm skill acquisition, educators say it has instead helped students acquire skills.

Deputy Director of Curriculum Development at Tunku Abdul Rahman University, Dr. Ngeow Yeok Meng, said his students have gained confidence, especially through improved literacy and digital skills.

“They are resourceful and responsive to questions, supported by information technology. They share views and opinions, knowing that there are many other perspectives and alternatives waiting to be embraced.

“Whenever they are unsure, further research will lead them to professional advice, offering solutions to their question, anytime, anywhere.”

Ngeow said digital communication such as giving and receiving feedback via email has made teaching and learning more personalized, efficient and environmentally friendly.

“Learning is a social activity where peers are important learning partners. I have observed active learners with a good foundational knowledge of a subject or course often developing a greater interest in students sharing and collaborating with their peers,” she said.

However, Ngeow said that with improved digital skills, people skills may deteriorate in some students. She said it includes the act of delivering ideas persuasively, speaking persuasively, communicating tactfully, observing social etiquette and taboos, building trust and bonding in relationships.

On whether it affects the quality of college students, Ngeow said declarative knowledge is about what we know, while functional knowledge is about what we apply in daily life and in real-life scenarios.

“Online learning is more suitable for the former but not for the latter. We may have all the knowledge necessary to deal with a problem, but it is when we face it that we learn whether we can handle it well, as declarative knowledge would.

“Therefore, it would be ideal for learners to be proactive and constantly look for opportunities to place themselves in real-life scenarios, such as helping organize a social event, starting a collaborative project, volunteering in a community , to help someone in need, to join a team supervised by experts or seniors, or to lead other people to improve a social phenomenon.

“Through practice, we make ourselves available and establish social networks with all walks of life.”

She said students with knowledge and soft skills will always need opportunities to unlock their potential.

“Therefore, from an educator’s perspective, I hope to guide and reassure learners to express themselves, have multiple perspectives, try new ideas, use their ingenuity and creativity, and apply what they know how to be useful to the community and society. We must provide them with the space and opportunities to respond proactively,” she said.

The chairman of the Center for Learning and Teaching, Assistant Professor Dr. Wei Chooi Yi, said how extended online learning affects students depends entirely on their attitudes and preferences.

“Some students can improve their digital skills, while others prefer physical learning.

“I think no skill is lost because there are various interactive learning tools for virtual classrooms. For physical learning modes, there will be physical interaction with peers and educators.

However, she said first- and second-year students who had never been on campus could experience the learning environment in a classroom.

“As for the declarative skills, the universities have organized events or activities carried out by the respective departments to equip the students with them,” she said.