30 June 2022

Ensuring students are ready for the real world goes beyond academic teaching

Submitted by Michelle Cave

With online and blended learning models continually evolving, it is vitally important to ensure that the online learning environment design and implementation meet students' cognitive and socio-emotional development.

The IMM Graduate School has developed a learning management system for its virtual campuses that combines the innovative use of technology, and progressive learning and teaching, and assessment methodologies to provide students with an enriching and rewarding experience.

Media rich learning content and opportunities for self assessment encourage meaningful student progress though study material. Alternative types of assessment, which mirror the work environment, provide students and academic staff with a more realistic picture of students' competence.

The IMM Graduate School incorporates a flexible blended learning and teaching model, which provides students with choices about how they prefer to access their learning material in the online distance learning environment. Study remotely or study remotely, but with online synchronous classes with lecturers with added options of learning in small groups with a tutor.

The IMM Graduate School has adopted an approach that bears in mind the multi-faceted development of students to ensure work readiness.  That means that students get to learn from subject and industry experts in their chosen field of study, and are provided with opportunities to hone their softer skills through a unique professional development initiative comprising critical skills introduced by the IMM Graduate School. The professional development initiative ensures that students are prepared to tackle the job market by developing skills in problem-solving, conflict management, communication, compiling their CVs, excelling in job interviews, time management, and so on.

"Over time, the IMM Graduate School has introduced many changes in their virtual learning and teaching environment, while ensuring academic integrity through the innovative use of technology, which has been a great enhancer used to enrich students' learning experience. To ensure that all role players are comfortable with the virtual learning and teaching space and bearing in mind the unequal circumstances among the learning community, training on every aspect requiring students and teaching staff to use technology is provided," emphasised the IMM Graduate School’s Dr Cecelia Rosa (Dean: Learning, Teaching & Assessments).

There is a distorted, somewhat uninformed perception of online (virtual) learning, as inferior to a physical classroom, but this perception does not take into consideration the many facets of the virtual learning and teaching environment, cautions Dr Cecelia Rosa. The innovative use of technology and bearing in mind the student as a whole being and the implementation of sound education principles, in the learning and teaching space, whether physical or virtual, brings a realism to the learning experience.

"Learning materials and the blended modes of delivery take into account students' learning styles, providing them with options to learn in the best way for each individual student and providing them with opportunities to utilise learning styles not generally adopted."

A binary approach to learning and teaching does not suit all in the learning community, as learning is very individual and personal. Consultation with our students showed an overwhelmingly positive response to the blended learning model which the IMM Graduate School uses, taking into consideration students' preferred learning styles while also considering their unique circumstances.

The IMM Graduate School’s virtual learning and teaching environment develop graduates who are ready to enter the workplace with the necessary problem-solving, critical thinking and creative skills.

"All of the above has brought the online distance student closer to the institution, creating a more personal relationship between the students and the IMM Graduate School, while at the same time providing students with the cognitive, affective and psychomotor skills needed to be work-ready," reiterates Dr Cecelia Rosa.

Published in Science and Education