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Welcome Address by Prof Cheong Hee Kiat, President, at the Inaugural SUSS UNILEARN Forum

Welcome Address by Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), at the Inaugural SUSS UNILEARN Forum on 28 November 2019, 2:00 P.M.


Distinguished guests, partners, colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen;

  1. Good afternoon! It is my pleasure to welcome you to the inaugural SUSS UniLEARN Forum.

  2. Let me first acknowledge and thank Mr Sim Gim Guan, Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Social Service, who is here today as our Guest-of-Honour.

  3. I would also like to thank our partners, for your support, and for making time to attend this event. The theme of this forum is ‘Collaborating for the Greater Good’, and this is only possible through working with you, our valued collaborators.

UniLEARN: In the Beginning…

  1. UniLEARN was first conceived back in 2015. It started as an open access platform where SUSS online courses could be offered to the general public and our students.
  1. In 2017, the first 5 UniLEARN courses were designed and rolled out. These were jointly developed with the IP Academy Singapore (IPA), as part of its IP Competency Framework to educate and provide the public with Intellectual Property knowledge. Since then, IPA has remained a long-standing partner with us, and their courses continue to be featured on the UniLEARN platform.
  1. In that same year, we made a shift in the direction for UniLEARN, when our University became autonomous and renamed as Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).

SUSS and the UniLEARN Initiative

  1. As a University with a focus on the social sciences, we are committed to guiding our students to explore, understand, manage, and address issues that affect society and people.
  1. This means instilling in our students a concern about the well-being of the community and the people; enabling them to recognise that there are those who have fallen by the wayside even if the community prosper as a whole, and who function in the margins of society. And, extending a helping hand so that they may be integrated back into mainstream society.
  1. One of SUSS’ core values is a ‘passion for the community’ - we believe that there is great potential in all of us to serve the greater good, and knowledge enables us to make a positive, lasting difference in people’s lives.
  1. So, we have now re-oriented (or at least put a main focus of) UniLEARN as an e-learning initiative for the community, with an emphasis on social concerns in our society.
  1. UniLEARN’s mission is to build a vibrant online learning community that delivers social impact.
  1. Through this online platform, we strive to provide learners from all walks of life, and beyond our university campus, with an awareness and understanding of the various social issues confronting our society today, as well as opportunities to take positive action. They can be trained on this platform, they can refresh their knowledge on their areas of service, they can find new areas of service, they can network – ultimately, UniLEARN can be a go-to hub for the practice, ideas and network for social good.

Collaborating for the Greater Good: Partnerships with Social Concerns

  1. As a university, we have the expertise and experience in andragogy, e-learning and e-course design. But we are not a social service organisation, and we are not the subject matter experts, nor the daily practitioners on the ground, in specific areas of social concern. So our role in this ecosystem is to work with partners in the field who want to educate the community on various social concerns and who are looking for new ways to reach out and train their target learners.
  1. UniLEARN’s first social course was offered to the public in July 2018. The course – titled ‘Marital First Responders - was developed by our SR Nathan School of Human Development and supported by the Ministry of Social and Family Development. The purpose of the course was to enable participants to learn about their role as Marital First Responders and equip them with core skills to communicate effectively with confiders, guiding them to resolve their own marital conflicts.
  1. We have also worked with nine other organisations in the social service space, six of which are member organisations with the National Council of Social Service. We have developed 15 courses with a social concern focus, and over 1500 learners have benefitted from the UniLEARN experience. These learners are members of the general public, volunteers and those who work in related fields.
  1. This afternoon’s line-up of presentations will take you through some of our partners’ experiences in taking their learning and volunteer training online and how they are reaping the benefits from their efforts. The scalability, reach and productivity gains of their efforts are tremendous. I hope you will find the sharing useful for your organization, and that it will spur you on to join our online community so that you too will reap the benefits sooner, rather than later.
  1. As I mentioned earlier, SUSS’s UniLEARN online platform is more than just a platform to offer courses. We hope the social services sector and other related communities will harness the full potential of UniLEARN to network and spark great ideas in a vibrant community that will create strong public awareness about social issues, champion more initiatives, build strong ground support and drive action that will have great social impact for our Singapore society.
  1. But, for this platform to thrive, we will need three elements:
    (a) Quality and relevance of courses and good experience on UniLEARN;
    (b) Social organisations adopting this as their outreach and training arm, and putting useful training and information modules on it;
    (c) Many users coming online to take advantage of this facility to better their contribution to the social services sector. It is only by collaborating that success can be realised. I hope with everyone’s support, we will make UniLEARN a really useful national hub for the social services sector.
  1. To many of our guests and partners here, service to society is perhaps already “hard wired” in you. Service is what you do every day. And though we are at the early stages of development for UniLEARN, SUSS is honoured to be given the opportunity to partner with your organizations to serve society.
  1. Together, we can generate ripples, rather waves, of hope and good for our community!
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