Reflecting Teaching and Learning

Monday, October 21, 2013

ICT integration at Maldives National University, MNU

UNESCO Resource Training and Distribution Centre Regional Seminar 9-11 October 2013, Universiti Sains Malaysia Institution Report, ICT Integration in The Maldives National University (MNU) By Roza Ibrahim Background: The Maldives National University (MNU) is the first university established in the Maldives, inaugurated on February 15, 2011. It was previously recognized as the Maldives College of Higher Education (MCHE) which was founded on January 1, 1999. This was the result of restructuring all government-run post-secondary institutions in Maldives under one umbrella, MCHE. During this formation of MCHE, Allied Health Services Training Centre established in 1973 also became a faculty of MCHE and was later named as Faculty of Health Sciences. At present, MNU is the only public degree-granting institution in the country offering a range of master’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, diplomas, and certificate level courses. These courses are in fields of engineering, sharia, Islamic studies, health science, education, tourism, management, computing, arts and linguistics. In addition, MNU has launched PhD programs in November 2012. The average enrollment at MNU is around 4,500 students in long-term programs, and around 2,000 in short-term courses. (source: MNU Yearly Report 2012) Vision: The Maldives National University will perform and be acknowledged as the outstanding academic institution of the nation and one of the finest in the region. (Source: www.mnu.edu.mv) Mission: The mission of the Maldives National University is to create, discover, preserve and disseminate knowledge that are necessary to enhance the lives and livelihoods of people and essential for the cultural, social and economic development of the society so that this nation shall remain free and Islamic forever. (Source: www.mnu.edu.mv) Faculties: There are 12 faculties offering courses from different fields and their infrastructures except CMS are located in the capital Male’. Also, MNU has established three Campuses and three Outreach Centres which are located in different areas of Maldives in order to escalate the opportunity of higher education for the dispersed population of Maldives. In addition, MNU offers courses in distance mode through Centre for Open Learning. At present, the centre offers courses in blended mode (online and distance) using modern technology and provide access to good quality higher education across the country. • Faculty of Education- FE • Faculty od Shari-a and Law-FSL • Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism Studies-FHTS • Faculty of Management and Computing-FMC • Faculty of Arts-FA • Faculty of Islamic Studies-FIS • Faculty of Health Science- FHS • Faculty of Engineering Technology-FET • Faculty of Science-FS • Faculty of Science • Centre for Maritime Studies-CMS • Centre for Open Learning-COL Teacher Training MNU offers teacher training through two faculties, Faculty of Education (FE) and Centre for Open Learning (COL). Faculty of Education (FE) is the main hub of teacher education in the Maldives. Since the establishment of the Institute for Teacher Education (ITE) in 1984, which later transformed into Faculty of Education, teacher training and teacher education was the responsibility of the institute, ITE. It has trained and is still training teachers for the schools of Maldives as a requirement of the government. Most of the teachers working in the schools are graduates of FE or ITE. Although recently some private teacher training colleges and centres are established, still Faculty of Education is the leading trainer of teachers in the country. The institution offers 20 courses from advanced certificate level (national qualification framework level 4) to master’s degree including five bachelors course. The Student enrollment is more than 1100 in 2012. Centre for Open Learning (COL) offers online and distance courses from certificate level to masters’ degree throughout the nation. COL, before the establishment under the umbrella of MCHE, was known as Tertiary Institute for Open Learning. With a request from the Ministry of Education to train temporary/untrained teachers, COL started with a distance course called Advanced Certificate in Primary Teaching (ACPT). At this beginning stage, the course was conducted using printed material and face-to-face study blocks. By the end of 2008, 567 students graduated from this course which bridged these temporary teachers with diploma level courses conducted at Faculty of Education. At present, with the advantage of modern technology the institution conducts blended mode of learning with online learning and face-to-face block mode tutorials. Now there are 11 courses out of which 6 are teacher training courses. The teacher training courses include Diploma in Early Childhood Education, Diploma in Dhivehi Language Teaching, Diploma in Teaching Islam, Bachelor of Education, Post Graduate Certificate in Education (both in English/Dhivehi medium). The institution’s student enrollment rises above 1200 in 2012. ICT Integration The Maldives National University has taken several initiatives to expand the current level of ICT aiming to excel in all aspects of learning and teaching so that it is recognized as the best in the Maldives and the preferred destination of the highest calibre students. Initiatives: IT Courses IT courses offered by Faculty of Management and Computing are indirectly assistsing ICT integration by providing lecturers and students the opportunity to improve their IT knowledge and skills. The institution offers courses in the field of information technology from advanced certificate to bachelor’s degree. Infrastructure: All faculties are equipped with computer labs (with necessary software) and high speed internet connection. A central IT department deals with technical/ technological issues and some large faculties get the assistance from their own IT support staff. The University’s website (www.mnu.edu.mv) provides information about the university, including information regarding the courses which are necessary for current and future students. The University’s student email is the official channel of communication with students. MNU is using a student management system called PowerCampus with a module known as “Self-Service” to administratively manage the students. This provides students with ‘anytime anywhere’ access to key information and data such as their enrolment and financial status. It allows real-time access to academic records, like students’ final results and getting a temporary transcript. This year students are allowed to do online re-enrollment/registration though this system. MNU library is also integrated with technology. The library catalogue containing documents, books, and electronic journal articles can be browsed and searched. Other than the physical collection, the library holds subscriptions to online journal databases EBSCO, HINARI, LEXIS, and NEXIS, which students can access online. The online learning management system, GEM (Gateway to E-Learning at MNU), provides opportunity for the students to access module contents, interact with peers and lecturers, submit assessments and receive feedback online. Pedagogy: There is a requirement of MNU to integrate ICT during the designing process of all courses. This is a requirement of the Maldives National Qualification Authority (MNQF). Training is conducted for lecturers and students to develop their ICT skills to foster effective pedagogies and create a better learning environment for students. MNU’s distance education was previously conducted with printed materials and face-to face tutorial blocks. These distance courses due to the need and availability of broadband internet led to the integration of ICT making it more flexible and effective for the learners. In 2008, Centre for Open Learning, (MNU’s distance education centre), transformed the distance courses into online and blended mode of learning. It was with a successful implementation of an Open Source Learning Management System (MOODLE) under the name Gateway to E-Learning at MNU (GEM) as a platform for online learning. This platform connects students, lecturers and fellow course-mates to discuss their studies online. Using the LMS, students can access the learning materials from anywhere, weekly online chat sessions from each module and forums to discuss course materials. For students using this platform, submitting assignment and receiving feedback is done online. The Learning Management System has also been enhanced with the ability to use multi-languages namely the local language Dhivehi and Arabic. In-service Teacher Training MNU is not formally offering any in-service or professional development activities at the moment for the teachers who are working in schools. The institution CCE, Centre for Continuing Education, was responsible for the in-service training of all the teachers until last year. This institution is now merged with EDC, Educational Development Centre, to form NIE National Institute of Education under Ministry of Education targeted for teacher training as well as in-service training. Although MNU des not formally offer any in-service training, MNU’s students include teachers who are working at schools and studying part time. These teachers can enroll in block class or evening class to advance themselves and for their professional development. Teacher Training to Promote ICT Integration The lecturers of MNU are given training to integrate ICT in education. This is enhanced by the implementation of GEM, at Centre for Open Learning. COL conducts training programs for the lecturers of MNU to assist them integrate ICT into teaching and learning. This trainings has resulted an increased number of courses on GEM with students from other faculties having opportunities to utilize ICT in their learning. COL conducts regular GEM training sessions at the beginning of every semester the part time lecturers. This is essential because most of the lecturers at COL are working part time and some of them need knowledge and skills regarding distance and online teaching. During these training sessions lecturers are taught to use the online platform for discussions, accessing content and assignment marking. These are introduction training sessions which follow individual tutorial sessions conducted by course coordinators. Staff at MNU gets the opportunity to join and collaborate in national and international conferences and workshops dealing with integrating ICT in education. For example, Virtual University for Small States organizes “Boot Camps” to develop distance and online learning materials in which MNU staff have participated in the past years. Other than the skills the participants acquire through these VUSSC conferences, the contents of the courses developed are available through the Internet for use by the universities of the Commonwealth nations. In addition, under a Ministry of Education MoE and COL initiative, VUSSC “Boot Camps” in 2009 was held at The Maldives National University. Challenges in promoting ICT Integration A number of significant steps have been taken to implement ICT in education at The Maldives National University, however for further expansion MNU needs to identify and overcome obstacles that hinder the efficient utilization of ICT. The constraints include: • The lack of clear institutional policies which will encourage the lecturers to proactively work in the integration of ICT. • Finance is another issue hampering the progress. • Continual upgrading of infrastructure with the most recent ICT tools. • Continual university wide staff training is crucial in the process. • Better coordination among faculties and departments will stimulate pedagogical integration of ICT for enhancing course delivery in a proactive manner. Conclusion The Maldives National University (MNU) offers a range of programs including master’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, diplomas, and certificate level courses in different fields. As ICT integration has become a crucial component, MNU has established measures to equip students and lecturers with modern technology for effective and high quality education. Also, MNU conducts blended mode (e-learning) courses bridging the digital-divide and empowering the islanders and working professionals by providing the opportunities to escalate in higher education. References: Priorities for Excellence, Strategic Plan MNU (2013-2017) http://www.mnu.edu.mv/images/the_uni/officialpublications/sp/2013-2017.pdf The Maldives National University Yearly report 2011 http://www.mnu.edu.mv/images/the_uni/annualreports/2011.pdf The Maldives National University Yearly report 2011 http://www.mnu.edu.mv/images/the_uni/annualreports/2011.pdf The Maldives National University website www.mnu.edu.mv Survey of ICTs for Education in India and South Asia, Country Studies. 2010 http://www.infodev.org/infodev-files/resource/InfodevDocuments_880.pdf University’s Duveli, The Maldives National University, August 2012, (3) http://www.mnu.edu.mv/index.php/the-university/56-information-about/the-university/official-publications/360 University’s Duveli, The Maldives National University, November 2012, (4) http://www.mnu.edu.mv/images/the_uni/officialpublications/dhuveli/2012/4.pdf 2014 MNU courses PPT

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