NUS puts e-learning to the test
By Khaliesah binte Mohamed Hatta
Oct. 18 2009
As part of efforts to minimize effects of any future pandemic outbreaks, lessons in NUS were conducted via the Internet during a university-wide e-Learning week from Oct. 5 to Oct. 10.
Recognizing that the rapid spread of contagious diseases like the H1N1 virus could cripple the university’s capacity to function normally, Deputy President and Provost Tan Eng Chye said in a circular to staff and students that the e-Learning week allowed NUS to "stress test" its information technology infrastructure and ensure that learning would continue during a pandemic.
The main electronic platform used for the lessons during the week was the Integrated Virtual Learning Environment (IVLE).
All faculties, except for the DUKE-NUS Medical School, were included in this exercise.
However, the exercise was extended only to lectures. Seminars, tutorials and laboratory sessions were still held on campus.
For Natasha Ismail, a business sophomore, e-Learning week was an opportunity to catch up on lessons at her own pace.
“It’s like recess week all over again,” she said.
Despite the convenience of learning from home, there were still disruptions to students’ studying routines.
Muhammad Imran, a second year chemical engineering student, said some of his lectures were not “simulcast” in accordance with the course timetable.
“They should put the lectures up on IVLE at the same time it is supposed to be conducted,” he said.
Dr. Jennifer Jarman, associate professor at the Department of Sociology, said some home environments may not be ideal for studying.
“Some students may actually prefer to keep their learning to the school environment,” said Jarman. “This is why our libraries and picnic benches are usually full of students in term time.”
Jarman also said that some students from working class families may be disadvantaged because they may not have a computer or an Internet connection to access the e-Learning portal from home.
“School environments provide an important levelling agent in terms of providing equal access to resources. Without these, and with no interventions, strong students from working class families will be at a disadvantage,” she said.
Tan’s circular, however, encouraged students “to access lecture materials remotely from locations outside the university to better simulate an e-Learning scenario.”