AAOU Virtual Talk Show: Challenges on Open and Distance Education During Covid-19 Pandemic

Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) held AAOU Virtual Talk Show with the theme on “Reshaping Resilient Open Education Leadership in Asia During COVID-19” which was shown on Zoom Meeting and Youtube UT TV Channel on Tuesday, 17/11/2020. The Talk Show was organized to AAOU’s support for one of its best partners, which is International Council of Open and Distance Education (ICDE) which would organize ICDE President’s Forum on 25 November 2020. ICDE invites its members and partners to hold the Satellite Engagement Event for the purpose of providing some illustrations on the challenges encountered by the open and distance education institutions. Furthermore, the activity reports of this event can be used as the materials for consideration or though in such ICDE’s big event.

In this opportunity, Torunn Gjelsvik, ICDE’s Secretary General, gave his opening remark and expressed his gratitude for the AAOU’s support. Three speakers who are expert in open and distance higher education were presented in the program; they are: Prof. Ir. Tian Belawati, M.Ed., Ph.D. of Indonesia Open University or Universitas Terbuka; Dr. K. C. Li, Research Director of Open University of Hong Kong and Prof. Dato’ Dr. Mansor Fadzil, the President of Open University Malaysia, and last, Prof. Dr. M. Gorky Sembiring, M.Sc., of Indonesia Open University (UT) as the convener of the event.

AAOU’s President, who is also UT’s Rector, Prof. Ojat Darojat., M.Bus., Ph.D., in his remark, hopes that with this event, AAOU would be able to promote and support the open and distance learning programs. Through the discussion with the experts, it would be able to open up some ideas and maintain the leadership of open and distance education in Asia. Despite Covid-19 pandemic, education process will always carry on, maintain the good quality of the higher education services provided, as well as ensure its affordability for all the people.

In this opportunity, Tian Belawati highlighted that Covid-19 pandemic has suddenly changed the conventional education system to become online system. Meanwhile, it can also be seen that Covid-19 pandemic has promoted the online education rapidly. For UT, it has nurtured its competitors in distance education and at the same time, increases the number of its collaborating partners.

Hong Kong Government has also performed the same as that Indonesia has done in terms of providing the education facilities for the students and instructors more effectively and efficiently during the Covid-19 pandemic. K. C. Li stated that the Open University of Hong Kong has been working together with the Government of Hong Kong in coping with Covid-19, particularly in education sector by adding more education facilities that support learning and teaching processes.

Similarly, the same things are done by Open University Malaysia as Dato’ Dr. Mansor Fadzil said that OUM is now more prepared in implementing the higher education programs during this Covid-19 pandemic as OUM has been preparing online classes which are adjusted with the students’ aspirations. OUM has also improved its Data Center and staff capacity, as well as provided a number of more affordable facilities with better quality for the students.

Tian appreciated the steps taken by Ministry of Education and Culture as it has launched Merdeka Belajar program (Freedom to Study program) which provides the liberty for the university students to take semester credit units or satuan kredit semester (SKS) for two semester at other universities, and such credit units can be converted or transferred to the original campus of the students. Tian also added that the students will be happier to study through e-learning which provide more flexible time to study.