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Breaking The Online Syndrome

NASREEN Akhtar and Nitasha Khan live approximately 1,165KM distance apart in Pakistan. The former hails from Faisalabad and the latter in the port city of Karachi.

Strangers to each other, the only thing common between them is they are distant-learning postgraduate students of Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL).

A lecturer at the Government College Women University (GCWU), 42-year-old Nasreen is a mother of two teenage boys aged 13 and 16 respectively. She is pursuing a Master in Management at UniKL Business School.

Nitasha, 40, is married and has a one-year-old child. She is focused on obtaining her Doctorate in Philosophy (Electrical and Electronics Engineering) at UniKL British Malaysian Institute (UniKL BMI) in Gombak after completing her Masters in Telecommunication at the University of Engineering and Technology (NED) in 2017.

However, the global coronavirus pandemic has impacted every aspect of normal life, forcing almost all academic institutions of higher learning to shift their traditional pedagogical approach to online teaching and learning.

“I was looking forward to traveling to Malaysia for the first time. However, the escalating Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions on travel in Pakistan and Malaysia have changed everything,” said Nasreen who had stayed away from books for 13 years after getting married in 1998 at the age of 18 upon completion of high school.

“After a lapse of 13 years, I decided to continue my studies. My family members and friends were surprised at my decision. However, in 2008 I graduated from the University of Punjab with a Bachelor in Arts degree. Personally, it was a great victory and a powerful motivational force that catapulted me to pursue a Master’s degree,” she stressed.

While the intrinsic motivation to pursue a Ph.D. was overwhelming, it was the choice of a foreign university that was most challenging. But that stressful moment was nullified when both found inspiration in former colleagues Adeel Anjum and Prof. Dr. Muhammad Mansoor Alam who had advised the duo to enrol into UniKL.

Adeel obtained his Ph.D. from UniKL and currently is a member of the teaching staff at GCUW who facilitated Nasreen’s enrolment in UniKL whilst Prof. Dr. Muhammad Mansoor is the Adjunct Professor at UniKL Malaysian Institute of Information Technology. He is also the Director,

Office of Graduate Studies, Head of Computer Science and MIS at the Institute of Business Management in Karachi.

As the world is engaged in battling the Covid-19 threat, social distancing and self-isolation are the norms of life. Universities are pivoting rapidly towards online learning. However, for many adult students such as Nasreen and Nitasha, distance learning can be the process most difficult.

“It was challenging for me in the initial stages as I was not familiar in applying gadgets and was totally uncomfortable with modern technology gadgets. But now I have learned many new things. Online was hectic at first as Zoom and Teams was ‘out of the world’ for me. As time went by I got used to it,” said Nasreen. “Being a housewife and mother to two children I’m coping quite well, balancing my life between studies and a housewife and mother.”

Nasreen also attributed her ‘easy learning online passage’ to her lecturer Assoc Prof Cordelia Mason whom she describes as affable, understanding, and an inspirational educator.

As currently world borders are closed and face-to-face studies seem impossible, Prof. Dr. Muhammad Mansoor shares his insight to students considering to start their research journey online.

“In research, you need a lot of motivation from your supervisor and fellow researchers. It’s a big challenge for a young researcher to start work online from the very first day of their Ph.D. Researchers may easily lose their path,” he said, adding that UniKL provides the facility of online registration and six months’ progress mechanism.

“I would recommend for young researchers to stay focus in hard times. Share their problems with their supervisors as I believe that a supervisor is more than a teacher as you are attached during your whole Ph.D. journey with her or him and even after that. Discuss your progress with your supervisor and seek guidance.”

A Ph.D. is a long journey and there are ups and downs. He stressed that a student should not lose hope and work hard.

Universiti Kuala Lumpur has four intakes for research-based Master and PhD programmes in January, April, July and October. Interested applicants are advised to submit their applications online at least two months before a desired intake on the UniKL website.

For more information on UniKL postgraduate programmes you can reach out to our Marketing, Student Recruitment & Admission team at marketing@unikl.edu.my.

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