ASEAN and Australian Perspectives on Quality Assurance in Online Learning for the Higher Education Sector

By Michael Fay, Convenor of the ASEAN-Australia Education Dialogue (AAED)
10 August 2020

Across the region, online learning is the new normal in a COVID-19 era. How are education providers approaching the issues of Quality Assurance and Best Practices? The ASEAN- Australia Education Dialogue (AAED) webinar provided a platform to share experiences from both an ASEAN and Australian perspective, drawing on the practical online learning activity of higher education institutions, government, quality assurance bodies and online learning management specialists.

The following issues were addressed during the webinar:
  • The Digital Divide in ASEAN and Australia and the challenges with practical subjects requiring lab time and hands on experience- e.g. Engineering, Nursing, Allied Health Care
  • What constitutes Best Practice in Online Learning and how is it evaluated?
  • ASEAN-Australia online learning partnerships between higher education and the private companies specialising in open learning
  • Student Feedback on the Online Learning Experience
  • Regional and Global Cooperation in Higher Education in subject presentation
  • What ASEAN and Australian higher education learning will look like in 2025 including the future of real time face to face exams which may become outdated as technology advances

The key summaries from the presentation of our panellists were:

Dr Zahiruddin Fitri, Head of E-Learning at the University of Malaya (UM), provided a Malaysian perspective from a leading ASEAN university. UM began moving its programs online in response to pre-COVID-19 emergencies resulting from the smoke haze from regional forest fires that annually impact air quality in the Malaysian Peninsula. COVID-19 has accelerated the UM coordination of online learning via faculty based online learning coordinators. Partnerships with digital telecommunications carriers have helped address the challenges posed by the digital divide. This allows students to access their learning online via laptop, computer, or mobile phone at minimal cost. www.um.edu.my

Professor Monica Kennedy, the Pro Vice Chancellor International at Swinburne University Australia, spoke about the experience of a university with a long history of online learning through its partnership with specialist online learning partner SEEK, an Australian private sector company. Swinburne has regional ASEAN campuses in Kuching, East Malaysia and in Hanoi, Vietnam where it partners with a local private Vietnamese university. www.swinburne.edu.au

Ms Karen Welsh, Assistant Secretary, International Partnerships Branch at Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), provided an update on online Quality Assurance in Australia through the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) and in regional partnerships with ASEAN governments and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). www.teqsa.gov.au

Adam Brimo, Founder and CEO of OpenLearning Limited (OLL) spoke about his company Open Learning which is a private company listed on the Australian stock exchange which works in partnership with 116 education providers, the majority in Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia covering over 2.5 million learners globally. Adam focused on the benefit of moving from passive virtual learning to an active model where students and teachers work together on well-designed online learning solutions, using rich stimulation, virtual environments, creating, sharing and collaborating together. www.OpenLearning.com