Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Tajudin Ninggal, who is with the Cluster of Education and Social Sciences at Open University Malaysia (OUM), said the first of the recommendations is that a university needs to address educational equity by ensuring that its students are able to access online learning.
“More specifically, it should ensure that all students receive the appropriate and effective learning opportunities, instructional resources, and evaluative assessment – all of which ought to be differentiated according to their unique sets of characteristics and needs,” he told Bernama.
The second recommendation, he said, is that the university needs to look into students’ readiness to engage in online learning because the research showed that they generally struggle with the lack of knowledge and skills required to participate productively.
The third recommendation is for the university to consider setting up a centre for student learning to assist students having difficulties with online study skills, he said.
Mohd Tajudin said the fourth recommendation proposes that the university ought to consider beefing up its counselling and guidance services and other targeted intervention programmes to help students facing emotional issues such as stress and depression.
“Fifthly, and lastly, the university must ensure that its online tutors are well trained in the online learning system and in online learning competency.
“Apart from having technological knowledge, online tutors also need to be sensitised to the importance of being student-friendly and having good communication and coaching skills,” he said.
Mohd Tajudin said the key questions that framed his research were to what extent these students’ learning skills and personality profiles will shape or determine their level of emotional equanimity and online learning success and what role motivation will play in attenuating any of the negative effects on learning.
“Comparatively, the 159 female and male student participants of my research were in a more precarious position than the working-adult learners in open universities.
“Differences between the two cohorts are not absolute; still, there are clear and significant differences, the first of which has to do with the fact that, unlike working-adult learners, the subjects of my research were fresh school leavers who had just entered university,” he said.
Mohd Tajudin said the latter cohort is more likely to have the means, experience, and social support to quickly remedy the situation.
“To find out how the student-participants fared in the areas identified above, two instruments in the form of questionnaires were distributed by email and WhatsApp. Both were based on the five-point Likert scale. The first instrument was the Learner Personality Profile while the second was the Assessment of Online Learning Skills,” he said.
He said the Learner Personality Profile measured nine constructs, although only the first two served as the primary foci of this research: (1) motivation; (2) emotional stability; (3) openness; (4) self-efficacy; (5) adaptability; (6) accountability; (7) self-directedness; (8) cross-cultural competence; and (9) resilience.
By contrast, the second instrument, the Assessment of Online Learning Skills questionnaire measured three constructs: (1) study skills; (2) literacy skills; and (3) living skills, he said.
He said that from the student-participants’ responses, with regard to study skills, it was found that female students tended to obtain a higher mean score as compared to male students.
As for all but one of the nine constructs under Learner Personality Profile, both male and female students obtained average mean scores although female students reported a higher average mean score as compared to male students, he said.
“Significantly, bucking the trend, for one of the nine constructs, namely emotional stability, male students reported a higher mean score than female students, although, in the end, both genders obtained low, rather than average, mean scores.
“On the question of correlation, the data suggests that students who scored high in the Assessment of Online Learning Skills tended to score high in all the constructs under the Learner Personality Profile questionnaire, with the exception of emotional stability.
“Correlation analyses also revealed significant relationships between online learning skills and emotional stability, and between motivation and emotional stability.
“Interestingly, the multiple-regression analyses reported that motivation – as one of the nine constructs under Learner Personality Profile – was not a mediating factor in the relationship between online learning skills and emotional stability,” he said.
Mohd Tajudin said the research focused on a particular cohort in a particular time and place but its findings may serve nonetheless “as metaphorical grass to chew on, if only to see if they may apply to the particular cohorts under our care”.
He said more research along these lines is bound to emerge in the near future, so it remains to be seen if the findings highlighted will be replicated and to what extent, and whether, the same interventionist measures recommended will not be reiterated.
“Suffice it to conclude for now that, just as there are challenges before us as online facilitators and pastoral caregivers, there are also measures at our disposal to make teaching-learning at least a little less stressful and a little more productive,” he said.