WELCOME ADDRESS BY PROFESSOR CHEONG HEE KIAT AT THE 2ND UNILEARN FORUM, 24 MARCH 2022 AT THE CARLTON HOTEL
Distinguished guests, partners, colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Good morning and welcome to the 2nd UniLEARN Forum.
Thank you all for your presence this morning. A special thanks to Ms Ang Bee Lian, Director-General of Social Welfare, Ministry of Social and Family Development, who is giving her time today to be our keynote speaker.
Many thanks also to our partners for their steadfast support. It is heartening to see different organisations come together for this forum – with the same purpose to inform and equip the community in various areas of social concerns. I hope you will find your time well-spent here.
We are now familiar about how the global pandemic has impacted lives, work, and surfaced the importance and usefulness of e-learning. Many individuals upgraded themselves in the last two years through e-learning. UniLEARN, with the support of its partners, offered 14 free online courses to the public to upskill themselves within the safety of their homes. The free courses covered lifestyle wellness, digitalisation and business management to address challenges faced during COVID-19. These curated courses were well-received by more than 6,000 learners. It also underscored SUSS and our partners’ commitment to enable individuals to make a positive difference for themselves and to our communities, and benefit Singapore economically and socially.
As we pursue this further, we can ask:
- What more can we do to equip individuals with personal skills and competencies through e-learning?
- Who can benefit from online courses, and what are the collateral effects?
- In particular, how do we equip and foster a strong Care Economy through online learning?
- And, in aiming to do this, how do we design an effective learning experience to entice more to come on board?
These are among the discussion topics at today’s forum. Thus, the theme chosen for this year’s forum is aptly – ‘Leading e-Learning for Social Good’.
E-learning is not something new to us at SUSS. SUSS was one of the pioneers in the extensive and deliberate use of online learning for university education in Singapore. We started blended courses or hybrid learning more than 15 years ago to cater to the needs of our working adults and adult learners. The goal was to make learning accessible, empowering and effective. Investments were made to develop an online learning capability as the main vehicle for teaching and learning. We developed or used online study materials such as interactive study guides and e-text books, introduced online learning components, and employed technology for our end-to-end administrative value chain, where students have one-stop access to university services through our digital student portal. Faculty and associates were trained and equipped with the skills to design, develop, and deliver online teaching and learning. The result was an interactive e-learning environment, with students being able to access all they need from their mobile devices while engaging in independent learning at their own time, pace and space. Our students appreciated the flexibility while balancing personal, study and work commitments.
UniLEARN for social good
In UniLEARN, we avail similar ease and convenience of learning, with the objective, since we are the university for social good, of supporting and uplifting the social services and non-profit sector. UniLEARN integrates our expertise in e-learning and social mission objective. UniLEARN is a unique e-learning platform that facilitates peer learning and knowledge sharing between different social organisations to respond to social needs and changing social trends. Social agencies enjoy the convenience, and benefit from accessing this shared pool of collective online courses.
UniLEARN offered its first social course in 2018, titled ‘Marital First Responders’. Developed by our SR Nathan School of Human Development and supported by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), it equipped participants with core skills to help those going through relationship troubles.
The following year, we partnered with nine organisations in the social services sector to develop 15 social courses on the UniLEARN platform. These partners serve in a broad spectrum of social services from autism to dyslexia, healthcare education, counselling, and intervention services. In that year, we also organised our inaugural UniLEARN Forum at Enabling Village for our partners to share experiences, insights, and best practices.
Then, COVID-19 struck and forced many to isolate physically. There were many uncertainties and anxiety about working from home or potential job losses. Like many organisations, SUSS responded to ease the dire situation. Our students volunteered as Zoom mentors to conduct free training sessions for Insurance and Financial Practitioners Association of Singapore; SUSS utilised our Student Care Fund to help our students who faced sudden or immediate financial hardship; and we also rallied our community to contribute to AWWA Senior Community Home.
UniLEARN and its partners offered complimentary curated online courses to the public. We are indeed privileged to have such supportive partners, who are aligned with SUSS’s mission of delivering lifelong learning and, at the same time, have the heart to impact lives in the community through these courses.
Today, I am gratified to note that we have 17 social partners and have developed 50 social courses on our UniLEARN platform. Over 20,000 learners have also benefitted from our customisable short online courses, acquiring the knowledge to understand, manage and address the various social issues confronting society today. UniLEARN is thus establishing a niche role in providing a one-stop convenient training and networking platform for the social services sector. We hope more partners will join in this endeavour.
To build on this momentum, UniLEARN has added a platform for bite-sized learning-on-the-go. ‘Micro-learning’ is a great way to make learning more accessible and manageable, and this afternoon you will hear more on the topic, including a hands-on workshop on how to create micro-learning courses.
You can also look forward to an interesting line-up of speakers and presenters from different organisations such as MSF, Council for Third Age, Gnowbe, Singapore Red Cross, The Singapore Association for the Deaf and e-learning experts from SUSS. They will share an overview of the social sector, e-learning for social good, their experience collaborating with UniLEARN, and more. This forum is the platform for everyone to learn, share, and communicate to build the capability for social good.
I believe UniLEARN can continue to play a key role in helping organisations reach out to and train their target learners more efficiently and cost-effectively by co-developing, designing and offering their courses online. I look forward to seeing more collaborations to build a useful national training e-platform to serve the greater good.
Finally, today we will also unveil our revamped UniLEARN website, where potential learners and partners can learn more and sign up for our online courses. It can be the go-to site for like-minded groups to create awareness about various social issues, to share ideas, engage and network, and collaborate to nurture a vibrant enabling community.
I wish you a fulfilling and instructive day ahead! Thank you.