In the first of the iNNOVATE Tech Show sponsor and partners interview series, we interviewed Afiq Redzuan, Group CEO of Open University Malaysia.

  1. What will you be exhibiting at the iNNOVATE Tech Show? 

We will be exhibiting OUM’s online learning management system, myOUM, and e-learning platform, myINSPIRE. The first, myOUM, offers easy access to all features that are relevant in a learner’s study journey. It requires just a single sign-on and is mobile-friendly, making it a breeze to use on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. It replaced myVLE, which served learners from 2013 to 2021.

Meanwhile, myINSPIRE provides learners with an engaging learning experience through enriched content that incorporates interactive discussions with peers and facilitators as well as activities and tasks built around the content.

Afiq Redzuan, Group CEO, Open University Malayisa

Learners can also easily track their own progress through self-tests. In short, myINSPIRE provides learners with round-the-clock access to resources and support services. 

2. Do you see more working adults enrolling for your programmes in recent years? What has been the pulling factor? 

We welcome approximately 10,000 new learners every year. Right now, we have about 28,000 active learners. We  see more working adults enrolling in our programmes which we would attribute to two main factors.  

First, OUM is an open and distance learning university so it is different from traditional universities. All 54 of our programmes, from diploma to degree level, are provided on part-time basis through online learning. Our students attend virtual classes, hold discussions in virtual forums, learn using e-modules and other e-learning materials, access reference materials from a digital library, submit their assignments online, and even sit for their exams online.

This makes pursuing further studies thoroughly convenient and easy. One of our favourite catchphrases is “Study Anytime Anywhere” and that is what we enable working adults to do. They don’t have to physically travel to class, as they can do everything with a few clicks and presses.  

Secondly, we offer flexible entry in addition to normal entry. In fact, we were the first to offer it in 2006. At that time, it was called open entry, before it was changed to Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). This comes in two forms – APEL A (admission) and APEL C (credit award). Through APEL A, learners can enrol in a bachelor’s degree programme by leveraging on their work experience, even if they don’t have SPM or diploma qualifications. If they are 30 and above, have work experience, and have a pass in STPM or a diploma, they can opt for a master’s degree. 

If they wish to shorten their study duration, which will greatly help in reducing their study costs, they can apply for APEL C, which will allow them to obtain up to 30% subject exemption by leveraging on prior learning and experience that are relevant to the programme that they are taking.

APEL A makes university admission possible for working adults who do not have the required paper qualifications for normal entry while APEL C helps learners to graduate faster. 

This flexibility in learning and admission has opened the doors for more Malaysians to gain university qualifications. There are a lot of people who couldn’t go to university straight after secondary school as they had to work to support their family.

Another sizeable number needs higher credentials in order to get a promotion or find a better job. OUM offers them a viable solution that fits their circumstances. In approximately 20 years, we have produced 93,000 graduates.  

3. Reports say robots will take over our jobs. People are always talking about reskilling and upskilling. How inclusive are your programmes for people who cannot afford to go back to university? 

OUM’s motto is “University for All”, which means that we strive to democratise higher education as much as possible. Our learners come from diverse backgrounds, and not all are well-to-do. We provide scholarships to outstanding learners as well as those who need financial aid to encourage them to perform well academically and to support those who are struggling financially. 

In addition, we offer a 10% discount on tuition fees every semester to those who engage in online learning. Alumni who return to study with us get an additional 5% discount. Even their spouse, children and siblings qualify. Those who register during our Open Days receive up to RM400 in special rebates. These are just a few of the discounts we offer, besides reduction in fees for the physically challenged and senior citizens. 

It must be noted that online learning is a much more affordable option compared to the traditional mode of learning. Our students get a high-quality education at a much lower cost because the overhead needed to operate the programmes is reduced. Not only the study fees are lower, but there are no additional expenses such as for transportation, accommodation, and course materials. 

4. Open University Malaysia offers both Face-to-Face Tutorials and Fully Online Learning. Is there a balanced take-up rate for both types of programmes and do you see a change in trend since the pandemic? 

When we first started, we offered a blended mode which combined a handful of face-to-face classes each semester with online learning and self-study using modules that we developed in collaboration with subject matter experts. When Covid-19 struck in 2020, the classes had to be stopped but the process of education had to go on. So, we shifted to fully online programmes whereby all classes and examinations were conducted online.

This move worked well for us as we have already been offering online learning for 20 years, albeit partially. A lot of our students prefer fully online learning as they can fit their studies around their schedule. It is so flexible that if they aren’t able to attend an online class, they can watch a recording of it afterwards. And they can watch it again, if needed, to refresh their memory. So, we definitely see a trend towards online learning for higher education. 

5. As we head towards digitalisation, education has to be regularly refreshed to meet the objectives of job placement, skills deepening and career advancement for individuals, as well as job redesign and business transformation for enterprises. How does Open University Malaysia ensure your programmes are always updated? 

OUM will ensure that the programme review is done every five years. This is in line with the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) procedures. The review will include the advisory board, industrial advisors, as well as the internal and external examiners to ensure that the programme is on par with the industrial needs. 

6. What programmes would be suitable for our show visitors to explore?

For those interested in updating their manufacturing management skills, the Bachelor of Manufacturing Management (BMMG) programme  allows students to improve upon their manufacturing and management experiences while also helping to create new skills for the present and future.

This degree comprises a management core, a technological emphasis, and a job-specific component customised to fit your needs in a manufacturing environment.

We also have the Bachelor of Information Technology (Honours) programme to produce graduates with strong knowledge in information technology so as to prepare themselves to advance in their careers as software engineers, system analysts and system integrators.

7. Do you have a message you would like to share with our readers? 

In the long term, higher qualifications will almost undoubtedly lead to greater earning potential. In order to get promoted or beat the competition for a highly desired job, you need to go above and beyond, and an extra qualification will demonstrate this dedication. OUM offers the flexibility and convenience to work and study at the same time, so take the opportunity to upgrade your knowledge and skills. This is one investment you will never regret. 

Open University Malaysia will be present at their booth opposite the Main Stage. Be sure to pay them a visit when you attend the iNNOVATE Tech Show held at MATRADE Kuala Lumpur from 19-21 October 2022, the exhibition in Malaysia to discover business technologies with the use of AI, Robotics and more.

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