Post-COVID, UBD moves towards blended student-centric learning

By Tun Pa Pa Kyaw, AUN Intern
19 October 2020

As the premier university, Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) is aligned with Brunei’s Vision 2035 which is to achieve an educated and highly skilled workforce with a dynamic and sustainable economy. In order to realise Brunei’s Vision 2035, UBD underwent a university-wide curricular review and launched the GenNEXT degree programmes in 2009. These groundbreaking programmes emphasise broad-based learning, and are multi-disciplinary and student-centric in approach with real-world experiential learning laying a foundation for life-long learning.

Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Innovation, and Environmental Awareness are the three key principles embedded in all GenNEXT degree programmes. The GenNEXT degrees also equip students with essential skills of reasoning, communication, critical thinking, quantitative analysis and digital perspective with both a national and global outlook. The curriculum of these degrees is designed to enhance students’ competency and knowledge in specific disciplinary areas and broad-based knowledge outside of the students’ discipline. With emphasis on experiential learning, students spend a mandatory year outside of the university called Discovery Year. Here, UBD students are given the option to carry out 1-2 semesters of study abroad, internship, an incubation project, or a community outreach project.

However, COVID-19 pandemic posed challenges to UBD’s teaching and learning. Brunei Darussalam reported its first COVID-19 case on 9 March 2020 and within three days, UBD moved all lectures, tutorials, and examinations to online platforms. After 4 weeks of online learning, UBD carried out surveys and obtained feedback from staff and students on acceptability, positive and negative aspects, challenges and expectations with the new online mode of learning. In addition, the university also recalled all outbound students overseas and exercised precautionary measures for social and physical distancing on campus.

With the COVID-19 situation in Brunei under control, Brunei has started its de-escalation measures. Moving forward, UBD is implementing structured blended learning which is student-centred as the new norm of teaching and learning for UBD. Here, UBD has to ensure the blended learning is truly student-centred and utilises the concept of flip classroom and quizzes. UBD also implemented a series of workshops to upgrade as well as upskill pedagogies of academics for the new blended learning norm and introduced Skill Upgrading Points (SUP) for academics.

In addition, UBD’s Centre for Lifelong Learning started offering upskilling and reskilling programmes carrying microcredits to assist the general public especially jobseekers during the challenging times of the pandemic. UBD’s summer programmes have also continued but in blended mode and conducted in two parts. Known as e-Global Discovery Programmes (e-GDP), the first parts consist of the interactive intensive online sessions and the second parts of the e-GDP will be conducted in-person after travel restrictions have been lifted.