University of Malaya (UM) hosted a three-day Erasmus Active Learning research project meeting starting on 9 January 2019 at UM Chancellery Building. This international project aimed to promote Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approaches in Engineering and Technology Education (ALIEN). Partner universities from various countries including Greece, Portugal, United Kingdom, Estonia, Bulgaria, Pakistan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Nepal are involved in the project. Prior to this, the initial meeting was held in June 2018 hosted by the University of Thessaly in Greece.
The second meeting in Malaysia was welcomed by Prof. Dr. Kamila Ghazali, UM Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and International). Prof. Kamila highlighted the position of UM being at the forefront in supporting active learning through enhanced infrastructure known as the ‘CUBE’ in UM. UM, although known for being the leading university in research, puts equal emphasis on high quality teaching and learning activities. This is in line with the Malaysian government’s aspiration for continually improving the quality of its higher education system where active learning is highly emphasised for the students’ holistic development. Accommodating the transformation brought by the fourth Industrial Revolution, the practice of active learning in UM has been highly supported by appropriate learning spaces. The learning spaces project in UM had started with the experimental Collaborative Interactive Learning Room in 2008. The UM Learning Space Policy in 2012 reinforced the ‘CUBE’ project and saw the renovation of classrooms in several faculties. Since then, UM has upgraded more than 35 existing spaces into CUBES throughout the campus.
“The CUBE offers conducive, fun and technology assisted learning environment, which is timely for millennials who are currently studying at our university” she added.
The era of the traditional classroom setting has passed and it is time to move forward in preparing our students for an exciting career ahead of them. According to Prof. Carlos Vaz de Carvalho, Head of ALIEN and Dr. Hariklia Tsalapatas, project manager, PBL, which is one of the highest forms of active learning approaches, will be supported through fully developed and operational labs that will be installed at partner sites.
“This PBL methodology will also be supported by a virtual learning environment that will allow a multinational community of researchers, lecturers and practitioners to discuss and share best practices in active learning. Eventually, this project will produce an ALIEN online collaborative platform consisting of PBL games and scenarios in a common storage to be shared and used by others” stated Prof. Carlos.
UM is one of the universities in Malaysia as a partner country in the ALIEN project consortium. Prof. Dr. Siti Salwah Salim from the Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology (FCSIT), UM leads this project and is currently setting up its Active Learning Lab for teaching Software Engineering courses. The aim is to equip software engineers for the workplace to solve future problems. Dr. Raja Jamilah Raja Yusof, also from FCSIT and Dr. Aishah Abu Bakar from the Faculty of Engineering, are the co-principal investigators for this project. Both of them have vast experience in transforming and innovating the PBL practice in their courses.
This meeting provides a great opportunity for country members to execute the above aspiration in transforming normal classes into active learning spaces.