Learning in the new era

23/05/2020 08:14 PM
Opinions on topical issues from thought leaders, columnists and editors.
By :
Prof. Noor Raihan Ab Hamid

The current pandemic has thrown industries into disarray and utter chaos. The education sector is just as affected, with classes cancelled, important dates postponed and exams deferred. This, coupled with an emerging ‘new world order’, has elevated online learning to become the go-to solution that could reduce, or even eliminate, the disruption to the course of education.

Online learning has become more widespread with the advent of broadband connection and advances in pedagogical thought, but the current pandemic has placed it under microscopic focus, as the world teeters on the cusp of a shift towards new social and cultural norms that include measures like social distancing.

First virtual university in Southeast Asia

This has resulted in an increase of online courses being offered. Established in 1997, UNITAR was the first to take advantage of the proliferation of broadband connection to pursue innovative learning where technology complements human interaction on a robust educational platform. Positioned as the first virtual university in Malaysia and Southeast Asia, our mission is to provide accessible and quality education for all. With over 20 years of experience in online learning, we strongly leverage on our depth to play a leading role in the virtual sphere.

Apart from that, we are equipped with holistic physical facilities such as an extensive library, one-stop administrative centre, auditorium and immersive learning spaces. These facilities encourage collaboration among students in line with UNITAR’s CARE (Collaborative, Adaptive, Reflective, Entrepreneurial) principles. Students are educated with CARE so that they can develop into well-adjusted professionals who lead rather than follow in the working world.

Since 1997, UNITAR has created graduates who make positive differences in their respective communities. Some of the more successful graduates who have benefitted from UNITAR’s leading-edge and pioneering teaching methods include successful graduates and alumni from online and blended courses. The fact that some of our adult students come with extensive working experience also adds a rich infusion of perspective and knowledge sharing, beneficial to all. The facilities and pedagogical approach utilised by UNITAR have borne results as it is one of the earliest institutions to obtain a distance learning licence from the Minister of Education.

International recognition enhances students’ employability

Online programmes at UNITAR include Diploma of Education Early Childhood, Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Business Administration, Masters of Business Administration and Masters of Education. This is in addition to the various academic programmes ranging from Foundation, Diploma and Bachelor's levels to postgraduate Master's and Doctorates. Faculties and schools at UNITAR include Business and Technology, Education and Humanities, Culinary Arts and Foundation.

Recently, UNITAR became the first university in Asia to receive a five-star rating in the category of online/distance learning from the United Kingdom-based QS Stars. It also received five-stars in other categories including teaching, employability, accounting and finance and inclusiveness. The international recognition of UNITAR’s unique online and traditional education model also enhances its students’ employability.

We understand that in an era where Internet of Things (IOT) and 5G technology will soon be mainstream, the student experience cannot be confined to monologue lectures and that industry immersion is vital to deliver effective and meaningful learning experiences.

University for All

For example, UNITAR invites industry professionals to sit in immersion sessions, listen to student presentations and provide feedback. For the Business Faculty, these industry experts include professionals from Touch ‘n Go, POS Malaysia, Amanah Raya Berhad and MBSB Bank Berhad, to name a few. These immersion sessions are also streamed live to online students.

Thus, UNITAR’s unique delivery methods, coupled with inclusive entry requirements that welcome students from all walks of life including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and highly-competitive fee structures, have given students opportunities to excel academically and improve their socio-economic statuses.

Renowned as the ‘University for All’, its affordability is complemented by financial schemes that provide more access to higher education. This is in addition to PTPTN, Zakat and HRDF aid. Additionally, and in response to the current COVID-19 crisis, specific schemes such as the Zero Fee Bursary and Dana Ihsan COVID-19 Iltizam have been set up to allow for fee waiver, cost of living and subsidy allowances.


Prof Noor Raihan Ab Hamid is the Vice-Chancellor of UNITAR International University

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)