The Methodist College Kuala Lumpur (MCKL) offers a variety of pre-university, diploma, degree transfer, and external programs. Recently, the college began preparing students for the Industrial Revolution 4.0 by adopting a digital learning management system (LMS) and providing relevant Industrial Revolution 4.0 programs. The college opted for Microsoft Office 365, which has been widely embraced by lecturers and students and has resulted in innovations in the delivery of higher education.
Founded in 1983, the Methodist College Kuala Lumpur (MCKL) decided to prepare its students and staff for the future by embarking on a digital transformation journey. Recently, the college began a technology-focused initiative. “We’ve seen the wider impact of the Industrial Revolution 4.0. Future jobs will require the use of technology, cloud-based application systems, and the ability to digitally collaborate and network,” says Angela Pok, Chief Executive Officer at MCKL.
As part of their journey, the college’s leadership believe a learning management system (LMS) fully embraced by end users would help provide the right skills and digital literacy needed for the future. It was at this point that Microsoft partner FEDELIS Sdn Bhd, an award-winning cloud solutions provider with offices in Singapore and Malaysia, invited MCKL to explore how Microsoft Office 365 could be used for education.
“When FEDELIS demonstrated what Microsoft Teams could do for our lecturers, I was positively shocked. I used to think Teams was a project management tool. But it has evolved. Lecturers can create channels as pages, they can create content, they can do recordings, and even design online assessments. Customization of the LMS can be done immediately via Teams,” says Adrian Yao, Academic Director, External Programmes as well as the Head, Teaching and Learning at MCKL.
“From an IT perspective, my concerns have been to get stakeholders engaged and using the platform, and to have cloud-based solutions that minimize the need for hardware maintenance and upgrades. The Office 365 ecosystem allows for all of that. And FEDELIS has been very helpful in implementation and has offered us a lot of training,” adds Terence Tay, Assistant Manager, ICT at MCKL.
Yap Haw Sim, currently Acting Deputy Academic Director, Future Education at MCKL, was among the faculty members testing Teams. “A lot of tertiary students today use their tablets for taking notes and doing their assignments in digital form. That’s how I became more open-minded about using technology in the classroom. I joined Adrian in adopting Teams. I’m glad we took the initiative for three months prior to the lockdown. Otherwise, all of us would have been caught off guard,” he says.
“The biggest challenges are a change of mindset and learning how to use the tools. In the beginning, the spirit of trial and error is important. Making discoveries about certain functions was exciting for us, as was conducting training sessions and sharing with our colleagues. Our students easily adapted to the platform.”
Yao and a group of faculty members began experimenting with Teams before rolling out training sessions for the entire college. After the first round of training, adoption was still low. “Then in March 2020, the Malaysian government imposed the Movement Control Order (MCO) to deal with the COVID-19 crisis,” recalls Yao. “We had only one week to increase the adoption rate. There was a lot of uncertainty. The last few days before the campus was closed, we were conducting multiple sessions per day. Now I’m happy to report that 96 percent of our campus population uses Teams.”
“We’ve seen them do a lot of really quite innovative training sessions for their end users. Students are more engaged now. Even the students’ parents are happy with the new system,” adds Linda Kong, Business Development Director at FEDELIS Sdn Bhd.
Yao has had previous experience facilitating change management in education technology in other higher learning institutions. “MCKL’s change was swift. In all my years of facilitating such a change, I’ve never seen anything like it. Everyone embraced Office 365. Lately, we started using OneNote for teaching online. When teachers use OneNote as a kind of whiteboard, students can re-watch how they arrived at particular solutions.”
The shift to remote learning has also led to a shift in the overall teaching and learning style and MCKL’s educational approach. Rather than being focused on expository pedagogies, where instructors deliver and students listen without any interaction, faculty members are focusing more deeply on practice, exploratory, and collaborative pedagogies.
“For example, I set up a FAQs channel in Teams for my lectures. I encouraged students to ask questions. The channel has evolved and now become a problem-solving community, and my students enjoy using it to seek solutions,” says Elizabeth Tan, a pre-university Physics lecturer. “My students see and realize they’re not struggling alone. They see the discussions and misconceptions within the group. I think communication is one of the best things about Teams, which hits a sweet spot between being a forum and a chat group.”
“We were able to innovate the way we teach and work because of Office 365. You can’t find another range of tools all integrated so seamlessly. It’s amazing technology. And Teams combined with Stream offers everything: video conferencing, e-learning, communication. It’s a game-changer,” says Yoshua Chua, the former Head of Student Services at MCKL.
Yao agrees. “Face-to-face classes can’t be replaced, but, based on responses obtained through a survey undertaken to obtain feedback on online learning and teaching among the students and staff, 70 percent of our students enjoy using Teams, and the majority view Office 365 as a set of tools they can rely on. Microsoft solutions have had a tremendous impact on our students. Some of them said that their friends in other universities are still struggling with the current situation. One of my peers at another higher learning institution told me their server-based LMS crashed when the whole university tried using it. Teams overtakes all the other LMSes I’ve adopted, not only because of its ease of use and third-party app integration, but also because the lecturers have total control over every aspect of teaching and learning. This includes creating content, uploading, hosting, distributing to students, and marking assignments.”
“Just recently, MCKL purchased the A3 license, and now all our students can install the Office 365 applications onto their computers. I think the students are happy about that because they don’t have to buy the product themselves, yet can use modern technology, which prepares them for the future ahead,” says Tay.
For students’ experience beyond classrooms and their well-being, Chua was tasked by CEO Pok to start engaging with students during the MCO. Among the biggest challenges was translating extracurricular activities such as Frisbee, foosball, or chatting in the canteen over a meal to online experiences. “How do we get students engaged, especially since many of them are already exhausted and fatigued by online classes?” asks Chua. “We came up with MCKL student engagement online sessions held on Fridays at five o’clock in the afternoon. I married these two: SharePoint and Teams. Our MCKL Student SharePoint site has all the announcements and information for students. We use Teams for weekly polls to check on how our students are doing, focus on specific topics such as mental health, and hold activities. Teams has really helped us a lot because it integrates seamlessly with other tools such as Microsoft Word, or even third-party applications available.”
The college is looking toward the future and preparing for the possibility of a second wave of the crisis. It hopes to work closely with FEDELIS to map out its strategies, one of which is to transform some classrooms into collaborative teaching and learning spaces.
“We are reconfiguring several classrooms to technology-enabled active learning spaces,” says Yao. “We are transforming these spaces into both informal or formal learning and teaching spaces for the time when everyone returns after the MCO is fully lifted. With our HR team, we’re also looking to adopt the online course offerings at the Microsoft Educator Center as part of embracing continuing professional development. We want our lecturers and staff to complete useful courses, be equipped with digital education skills, and obtain certifications which will improve student engagement and learning outcomes. This strategy is part of our training and professional development to upscale our teaching and learning methodologies and not only prepare our students for the future ahead, but to prepare ourselves as well.”