Shaping the Future of Learning with Technology

By Howie Chang

September 2023 TECH WATCH
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AROUND THE WORLD, technology is rewriting the rules of teaching and learning, reshaping classrooms and redefining the student-teacher dynamic. Malaysia stands as a compelling example. A vibrant player in Southeast Asia, the country is harnessing the power of technology to revolutionise its education system, opening new avenues of learning and knowledge sharing for millions of students.

While traditional educational systems rely heavily on rote learning and standardised testing, technology is fostering an environment that encourages creativity, collaboration and personalised learning. From interactive digital platforms to artificial intelligence (AI), technology is not only augmenting teaching methodologies but also transforming the very objectives of education. Just recently—the Minister of Higher Education announced that the country will not prohibit the use of ChatGPT by students at local institutes of higher education, provided guidelines set by the Department of Higher Education are followed.

Today, education is no longer confined to the four walls of a classroom. Learning can occur anytime, anywhere, thanks to the vast array of educational resources available online. Moreover, as digital natives, today’s learners are more receptive to this new model of education, further accelerating the integration of technology in education.

This is the start of a new era where technology is both a tool and a catalyst in the global and local educational landscape.

Policy Framework and Government Initiatives

The Malaysian government has been instrumental in shaping the country’s digital learning landscape. This commitment is best embodied in its strategic blueprint: The Digital Education Policy, which is in its final stage of development. This policy reflects a comprehensive vision of digitally empowered education that seeks to create a conducive, inclusive and engaging learning environment.

Central to the policy is the understanding that the effective use of technology can enhance teaching and learning quality. The policy outlines strategies to increase digital literacy among students and teachers, integrate digital elements into curricula and assessments, and improve digital infrastructure in schools.

A prominent manifestation of this commitment is the upgrading of the Digital Educational Learning Initiative Malaysia (DELIMa) to improve user experience, data analytics and content. According to recent data, a total of 445,883 teachers, lecturers, education officials and trainee teachers, as well as 4.27 million students have used DELIMa. This government-led initiative represents a significant step in Malaysia's journey towards comprehensive digital education, paving the way for more innovations in the field.

From Learning Management Systems to Learning Experience Platforms

Learning Management Systems (LMS), with their systematic course content delivery and administrative features, have been the backbone of digital learning for years. However, the evolving educational needs of the 21st century are pushing the boundaries of what an LMS can offer.

Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) have emerged as a response to these changing demands. LXPs provide a more interactive, community-driven learning experience, offering a diverse range of resources, enabling personalised learning pathways and facilitating social learning through peer interaction. Rather than being a mere repository of course content, LXPs foster a dynamic, learner-centric environment.

Forward College, a Penang-based higher learning institution, leveraged complimentary tools such as Slack alongside its LXP to create a digital learning community where students can share ideas, collaborate on projects and engage in meaningful discussions, transforming the solitary learning journey into a shared adventure, making education a more engaging and enriching experience.

The shift towards LXPs signifies a larger change in perspective—viewing students not as passive recipients of information but as active participants in their own learning process. As more institutions follow through, we are likely to see a more widespread adoption of LXPs, accelerating the evolution of digital learning in Malaysia.

EdTech Startups

The rise of edtech startups in Malaysia is disrupting traditional pedagogies by introducing cutting-edge tools and learning approaches that foster creative problem-solving and critical thinking.

One such local startup is Pandai, which raised significant funding to help students get better grades in school. The Pandai app provides gamified quizzes aligned to a specific school curriculum, from which students can learn, practice, get feedback and diagnose their weaknesses. The content, developed by educational experts and aligned with the Malaysian national curriculum, is available to students from Standard 1 to Form 5 for all major subjects.

Gurulab is another Malaysia-based startup whose adaptive learning technology ensures a personalised English-learning experience that caters to each student’s strengths and weaknesses.

Moreover, global platforms like Khan Academy are incorporating AI to offer tailored learning experiences and assistance, demonstrating the vast potential of AI in revolutionising education. OpenAI has recently introduced its new Language Model (LLM) and highlighted notable projects, including Khan Academy's' Khanmigo AI learning platform. Its co-founder, Salman Khan, sees Khanmigo as an important step towards creating an all-in-one learning and tutoring platform.

These edtech startups not only exemplify the innovative spirit driving education reform in Malaysia but also the shaping of a future-ready generation.

The Impact of Technology on Education Outcomes

Technology's influence on education extends far beyond the delivery of content; it has a profound impact on educational outcomes as well. By facilitating personalised learning and providing a multitude of resources, technology is improving both engagement and achievement among students.

Adaptive learning technologies such as those used by Pandai, Gurulab and Khan Academy have demonstrated promising results in tailoring instruction to individual learner’s needs.

Challenges and the Road Ahead

The path towards a digitally transformed education system, while promising, is not devoid of challenges. The digital divide, primarily driven by differences in access to digital devices and the internet, remains a concern.

The evolving role of teachers in the digital age is another critical aspect. As technology becomes more integral to education, the role of the educator extends beyond teaching to that of a facilitator, guide and digital mentor. Professional development and support are essential to equip teachers with the skills needed in the new digital environment.

As technology advances, we can anticipate the integration of more sophisticated tools like AI and virtual reality in education, opening up possibilities that we can scarcely imagine today.

Despite the challenges, the concerted efforts of the government, educators, edtech startups and learners themselves are driving us towards a digital education future where technology serves as a key enabler of quality, inclusivity and innovation in learning.

Howie Chang

is the trailblazing co-founder and CEO of Forward College, a game-changing tech and future skills college in Malaysia. With his knack for product management, user experience and digital transformation, he is reshaping the landscape of tech education for individuals and enterprises. His mission is to help all be a better version of themselves for a future he believes will be made by creators, not consumers.