Digital transformation at Universities: Online teaching is to become an inevitable trend

28 March, 2021

In 2020 and early this 2021 year, University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City (UEH) as well as other universities had to organize online teaching and learning to cope with the Covid-19 outbreak. However, not only in this dealing period with the epidemic, online teaching and learning is becoming more and more popular, in response to the requirements of digital transformation in education. How will online teaching and learning in higher education follow the trend? How will UEH continue to implement digital transformation in higher education? We had an exchange with Professor. Dr. Nguyen Trong Hoai – Vice Rector of University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City – on this issue.

Professor. Dr. Nguyen Trong Hoai – Vice Rector of University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City

1/ Dear Professor, during the recent Covid-19 outbreak, many universities did organize online teaching for students. At UEH, how did this activity take place in the past time?

For UEH, during the Covid-19 epidemic, online teaching and learning was implemented in the first phase from March 2020 to the latest one as post-Lunar New Year. That implementation is almost mandatory in the context of distancing. UEH used online platforms from the LMS system built by UEH as well as other platforms listed as Google Meet, Microsoft Office, Zoom and so on to reach learners, to convey the content of training programs at all levels or to contact with learners. Online teaching form basically copes with the context of social distancing as learners and teachers can approach each other to ensure training programs to take place as usual. Generally speaking, the form of online teaching and learning at UEH over the past time has been implemented very well.

2/ During online learning implementation in the previous time, did UEH face any difficulties?

In terms of teachers, not many obstacles have taken place because up to now, UEH lecturers are used to teaching subjects on popular online platforms along with regular use of LMS for students with or without social distancing. Activities usually held in class listed as group discussions and interaction between teachers and learners could take place normally in terms of teaching online. However, in terms of learners, especially those in areas with weak and intermittent Internet bandwidth, they face some difficulties; however, this number accounts for a low percentage and learners gradually become more adapted to online learning through personal line.

3/ The question is that whether the quality assessment of student training through this form of teaching has been affected or not.

Generally speaking, up to this current time, online teaching and learning at UEH has not been affected much. The recent social distancing has not led to the need to take the online course although UEH has tried and implemented this teaching and learning method and the majority of students supported this mode, which means that UEH has only just started taking the blended teaching and learning format: online and face-to-face. Therefore, at the end of the course, lecturers and students have the opportunity to meet to discuss problems in the online teaching process and organize face-to-face exams as usual; therefore, the output standards of the training program are absolutely guaranteed. Currently, the Ministry of Education and Training only accepts online teaching and learning without recognizing the online exam results as the platform to monitor learners during their online testing time is rather limited, especially in the Vietnamese context of online testing.

 4/ Online teaching and learning in recent years has become rather popular in various training forms as technology develops. With higher education, will this be an inevitable trend in the future, not a temporary solution before the epidemic?

Online teaching and learning implemented during the past social distancing periods is not only temporary but also trendy in the digital transformation process. Currently, all online teaching platforms are developing very quickly, not to mention AI technology which is gradually being applied more and more in the education field. The current trend in the world is that some courses are being taught completely online besides those for voluntary participants who only get certificates under a lifelong learning approach with a tendency to improve skills and necessary knowledge that learners absolutely need. Online teaching, here, is beneficial that learners or teachers whether in remote areas from different countries or universities can interact with each other through an online platform besides the reducing traveling costs of learners and teachers as well as the costs of inviting international experts and scholars. Online teaching is a trend; nevertheless, after being deployed to deal with the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend needs to be understood more properly. In a normal context, it is necessary to approach this method in a “blended” mode, that is both “online” and “in person”. Classrooms taught in the style of “blended learning” will tend to undergo substantial digital transformation when changing the approach from traditional classrooms to flipped classrooms, where learners will actively learn first through an online platform with the relevant content. The content and the process of preparing the learning materials are provided on an online platform. Once the learning materials are be put on the online platform, learners can learn first, then, enter the live classroom just to interact, discuss and solve potential problems. Online platform will complement face-to-face teaching which is the trend of digital transformation in education, especially higher education. To do that, the training database must be systematically constructed in accordance with this blended approach. Currently, UEH has gradually invested in systematic learning materials so that learners can access these materials online. In which, each subject clearly states which content learners can learn online or which content must be learned face-to-face with the lecturer. The learning material foundation consists of the recorded lectures or lecture images from the teacher that was prepared in advance in accordance with the unified outline of that subject. 5/ Is Face-to-face teaching and learning in the “blended” platform, a combination of online and face-to-face, is taking place at many universities in Vietnam?Currently, very few schools have implemented this method since, in order to do this, it is necessary to change the approach: from the tradition of being a teacher and the students learn in class to a ‘reversed classroom’ model. Students study first, then, coming to the class to discuss and interact with the lecturer to improve the learners’ creativity; only then can learners completely play a central role if they absolutely wish to make efforts to acquire knowledge and skills so as to transform into problem-solving competence in future professional practice.

6/ Compared to other countries with advanced education system, how is this online teaching and learning trend happening?In developed countries, the ‘blended’ education platform has been established for 10 years. Some Asian countries listed as Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong (China) and so on have had a ‘blended’ teaching background for, at least, 10 years. As for Vietnam, with the Covid-19 context, we only understand online teaching in the traditional way; in the ‘blended’ style, only a few Universities, including the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City (UEH) is pursuing efforts with an initial experimental approach and spreading to the whole school afterwards.

7/ It can be stated that online teaching and learning is only a part of digital transformation in higher education today. With UEH, over the years, how has digital transformation in higher education been implemented?UEH has implemented some achievements as follows: Firstly is to build a smart library as a basis for uploading learning materials so that learners can access it through online platforms. Secondly is to upgrade the information technology infrastructure, increasing the bandwidth capacity so as not to be congested during the online teaching and learning process. Thirdly is to invest in a Simulation Center so that learners can role-play, interact and discuss in groups after direct learning. Fourthly is to set up a modern Studio room for teachers to record and film their lectures to be uploaded to the online platform.

8/ In 2021, how will UEH continue to implement the digital transformation strategy in training and teaching?UEH is implementing the teaching schedule in accordance an advanced program, for example, Top 200 for Undergraduate and Top 100 for Graduate. This year, UEH will focus on reviewing this program and rebuild course outlines towards the ‘blend’ approach. This process will be performed gradually and in a long time. In terms of digital transformation process, there will be training courses for lecturers from multi-sides: UEH, UEH partners, affiliated Universities and so on. Besides, UEH will construct one digital platform foundation to evaluate students’ learning by the ‘blended’ method which systematizes the parts into a single system to implement the operation process management, including the teaching and learning processes following the digital transformation approach. The common goal is how to manage teaching and learning processes in the form of ‘actual time’, in other words, UEH can observe any class with a certain subject to know what learners are learning by themselves, what the teacher is teaching. This system is expected to assess how much percentage of the students’ learning outcomes are achieved at that time. That is UEH expectation regarding digital transformation of training activities.

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News, photos: UEH Department of Marketing – Communication