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A TRUE EXPERIENCE IN MANAGING AN E-LEARNING PROGRAM AT UNIVERSITI TEKNOLOGI MARA.

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This paper reveals UiTM’s experience in managing an elearning program. With more than 5000 students following various programs using e-learning mode since 1998, UiTM has gained enormous experience in managing the evaluation system, face to face
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  iMEC 2007 Proceedings 22-24 June 2007, Bayview Beach Resort Penang, Malaysia A TRUE EXPERIENCE IN MANAGING AN E-LEARNING PROGRAM AT UINIVERSITI TEKNOLOGI MARA. By Syed Jamal Abdul Nasir bin Syed Mohamad Rosmin Talib Aini Faridah Abstract This paper reveals UiTM’s experience in managing an e-learning program. With more than 5000 students following various programs using e-learning mode since 1998, UiTM has gained enormous experience in managing the evaluation system, face to face seminar, study materials, IT infrastructure, support service, facilitators, students’ expectation and performance, learning centers and web interaction. The discussions also include some recommendations for the benefit of any e-learning  providers in Malaysia. Key words : e-Learning Introduction UiTM being one of the established public universities in Malaysia was formed in 1956 which known as Dewan Latehan RIDA. After a few stages of restructuring, on the 26 August 1999 finally it was upgraded into a university status and known as Universiti Teknologi MARA. The vision is to become a distinguished university aspiring to  promote academic excellence in higher education. In its effort to assist those who do not have the opportunity to study fulltime, UiTM under one of its department known as Institute of Education Development (InED) offers a variety of program conducted via different modes. When it first started distance education program in 1990 the mode of teaching was using printed text and face to face seminar. Inline with the government vision in encouraging and promoting IT society, especially when the Prime Minister launched Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) in 1996, UiTM took the challenge by shifting its distance education program to electronic distance Education Program which known as Flexible Learning Program (FLP) in January 1998. The Ministry of Education officially launched the FLP program on the 26 April 1999. Began with only 72 registered students supported by seven lecturers, today the enrollment has increased to 5300 students following 18 different programs. 1  iMEC 2007 Proceedings 22-24 June 2007, Bayview Beach Resort Penang, Malaysia Management of the e-Learning Programme E-Learning Model of UiTM The e-PJJ/FLP is designed to take advantage of the developments and advancements in distance learning and education with Information and Communication Technology. These developments and advancements are harnessed into forms of support for students to enhance their learning. Thus InED uses the web as an adjunct of on-line learning which consists of eight main components that are: Self-Instructional material (SIM) Support Services   Face to face Facilitators Learning Center Library Services Online discussion and Forum, COMPONENTS OF FLP / e-PJJ UiTM Online and Supplementary Learning Materials Figure 1: The Eight Components of Flexible Learning Program (FLP) Face to face Seminar, The conventional method of teaching is remained as an important component of the e-learning model. e-PJJ/FLP students are provided with the opportunities to attend  periodically scheduled face-to-face seminars. This is to provide the channel for learners 2  iMEC 2007 Proceedings 22-24 June 2007, Bayview Beach Resort Penang, Malaysia to interact with their peers and learning facilitators. The seminar will be facilitated by seminar facilitators whom are experts in the subject. These seminars are usually conducted once a month during weekends. Attendance during seminars is “optional”. Face to face seminar is a platform for learners to discuss complex and difficult questions. It is envisaged that if a student has read the SIM, interacts within the FORUM, and read the references as well as the suggested texts, he/she may not need to attend these seminars. However, tests are given on certain seminar days (lecturers’ discretion). Students must be present and therefore have to attend seminars on test days. The final examination is also conducted “live” and attendance is compulsory. Self-Instructional Material (SIM), Research have shown that distance learners still prefer to have printed material as a main reference besides additional notes provided on the web. UiTM's learning materials are in the form of printed text or better known as Self-Instructional Material (SIM). It is also referred to as “Study Modules” or just simply “Modules”. It was developed and designed  by a team of lecturers, content experts, editors and instructional designers. The SIM is  packed with learning activities so that the students can read and do the exercises. The SIM are prepared in accordance with the full time curriculum to maintain its quality. Online Additional and Supplementary Learning Materials , Additional and Supplementary Learning Materials come in the form of journals, on line  journals, newspaper cuttings or statistical data. These materials were made available on the web. The resource person (RP) for a subject is responsible in deciding and making supplementary and complementary to SIM for examples, case studies, past year questions and model answers and make them available on the web. Support Services , The UiTM distance education team constantly upgrades support services. It includes Online Counseling, communication via Fax, telephone and e-mail and administrative support. Counseling is important for distance learners, as they are always not on campus. Therefore they need administrative and academic support that they can rely and call in times of need. Overall, there are 18 Program Coordinators in Shah Alam, one Program Coordinator in each learning center. Program Coordinators are responsible in advising learners in academic matters, preparing schedules, and determining the learning facilitators and resource persons for each on-line subject. In addition to that, UiTM also appointed a coordinator specifically to handle all matters regarding student affairs such as organizing motivational courses and talks for adult learners, sports and study skills workshops. Facilitators (Seminar Facilitators and Learning Facilitator), Online Learning Facilitator (LF) interacts, assist and guide the learners in reading SIM and web-based materials on the web. They will initiate discussion among learners, and answer questions related to the subject. They will assist learners in providing learning skills such as how to answer questions and how to do assignments and projects. All online facilitators are required to log in to the web everyday to answer questions from learners. 3  iMEC 2007 Proceedings 22-24 June 2007, Bayview Beach Resort Penang, Malaysia Seminar Facilitators (SF) conduct the face-to face seminar. They distribute, collect and grade assignments or projects provided by SFs. They are also responsible to conduct, collect and grade tests and exams and also provide and solicit feedback to /from RPs, LFs, SIM writers and managers. Learning Center, There are approximately 14 UiTM study centers in Malaysia. These study centers provide support services to the learners. Learner need not travel to the main campus (Shah Alam, Selangor) for face-to-face seminars or for registration purpose or for counseling. They can go to the nearest study center, which is convenient to their workplace. However not all the study centers provide all programs of studies. There are some programs which are only being offered in Shah Alam so students from other states still have to travel to Shah Alam. Online discussion and Forum, The web is used for communication and interaction purposes. The electronic class consists of Chat, e-mail and forum. Learners are able to discuss and interact using these technologies. The proper utilization of the web as a communication tool alleviates the need for face-to-face meetings in the confines of a traditional classroom. This medium can be used “as a classroom in virtual space and unbounded by time or geographical location.” With a little imagination and innovation, a teacher can transform the web “classroom” into a lively and intellectually stimulating environment conducive for learning. Course Registration The students are required to register online any course for that particular semester. They are also allowed to drop and add within a given period of time and they also have to validate the registration to avoid any mistake. Continuous Assessment and Final Examination The assessment and examination are strictly based on the faculty requirements. However the facilitators may conduct the continuous assessments according to their suitability. Most facilitators conduct the continuous assessment live in seminar rooms. Since the  programs belong to the faculty, the students have to take the same exam as on campus students to ensure the quality. The final exam is held at the end of every semester. The IT Infrastructure The Learning Management System (LMS) is managed and maintained by the business  partner which responsible for the design of the LMS that contains the following interactions channels: -   FORUM (Asynchronous) for one-to-many or for many-to-many discussions. This type of channel has the potential to develop a student’s 4  iMEC 2007 Proceedings 22-24 June 2007, Bayview Beach Resort Penang, Malaysia thinking as well as promote writing skills. The FORUM can be used at three levels: •   Public Level, where ALL users are able to view and participate. •   Group level, where access can be determined by lecturers. •   Course level, for ALL users enrolled in a certain course/subject. -   E-MAIL, for one-to-one interaction CHAT (Synchronous), for one-to-many or for many-to-many, but reduces flexibility in terms of time. Monitoring of the Online Interaction and seminar The online interaction is always being monitored by the program coordinators by checking the statistics of participation or interaction provided by the LMS. A program coordinator is able to identify the duration of interaction of a learning facilitator on the web. Reminders are always being given to those who fail to interact according to the standard requirement which is within 48 hours. The students’ feedback which is obtained from seminar facilitators evaluation and online interaction is always being used as an effective mechanism to ensure the quality of teaching of the seminar facilitators. Advises and reminders are always being given to the  problematic seminar facilitators. Handling Students’ Complaint One of the characteristics of adult learners is they come back to school with very high expectation. They aspect everything is taught by the lecturers. Thus, anything they feel not up to their expectation will be voice out in the group or public forum. These forums have become the official channels for the students to complaint and for the management to receive feedback from the students besides suggestion box, email and letters. The Overall performance of the e-PJJ students Regarding the performance of e-distance learners, both the adult distance learners and the faculty members need to address some basic questions, such as: can cyber learners or e-learners perform as well as, or better than, traditional learners? How does the student  perceive virtual learning and what is its impact on performance? Research comparing distance education to face-to-face tradition instruction indicates that teaching and studying at a distance can be as effective as traditional instruction, when method and technologies used are appropriate to the instructional task, when there is students-to–students interaction and there is timely teacher-to- students’ feedback. As education and training are increasingly moving towards online, we need to consider how to make them effective. However, unlike synchronous distance education delivery system, web-based courses allow learners to access at any time. Learners also interact with other learner through chat room, e-mail or bulletin board system. In web-based 5
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