Navigating The Global Pandemic Through Education Innovation

In a time when the world seemed to be grinding to a halt, Monash University Malaysia’s School of Science has stayed two steps ahead. Covid-19 posed a unique challenge to the functioning of universities worldwide, and students stood to lose out the most. However, the MUM School of Science faculty have gone above and beyond to adapt and innovate their education content, delivery, and output, all while centering the learning experiences of their students.

Dr Thoo Yin  Yin, Senior Lecturer and Unit Coordinator of FST1911

Through the launch of the  personnel convened to share and learn best practices on setting up and executing hybrid lessons. The forum was centered around exploring teaching methods of the unit FST1911 Introduction to Nutrition, in particular utilising Guroo, an e-learning platform. The unit FST 1911 Introduction to Nutrition has stayed ahead of the curve, and has harnessed the flexibility of blended learning since 2019, which proved vital in adapting to Covid-19 teaching. Led by Dr Thoo Yin Yin, Senior Lecturer and Unit Coordinator for FST1911, the forum delved into exploring pre-class events, which include ungraded self-assessment questions, and graded quizzes. The design of the pre-class event, hosted on Guroo, allows students to access 70-80% of the unit’s learning materials before attending the face to face sessions to cap their learning. This style of blended learning facilitates the self-learning of students, and encourages the students to begin thinking about how to apply concepts before attending the face to face sessions, which consolidates their knowledge and fosters collaborative learning. The forum was a central event in showcasing the School’s initiative to share knowledge internally, and ensure innovation in teaching methods, and prioritise students’ experiences in an especially strenuous climate.

This commitment to education innovation is further illustrated in the multidisciplinary approach to healthcare studies with the School of Science. Offering a comprehensive syllabus with units such as biology, anatomy, biochemistry, immunology, microbiology, physiology, pathology, toxicology, and pharmacology, the healthcare discipline at Monash emphasise student-centred learning experiences, and place importance on practical components and experiences to foster the critical thinking skills of the students. Dr Michelle Yap, Senior Lecturer shares that the Monash School Of Science curriculum stands apart from many other universities as the units are carefully curated to match our local contexts, while also remaining relevant and connected to international contexts. The Monash School of Science medical bioscience units are uniquely mapped in accordance to the students’ cohorts and evolving understandings. The initial units delve into preliminary understandings in biology, while in year 2, the students are exposed to units on preclinical medical bioscience. Their learning is then capped with units related to paraclinical fields. This learning structure is designed to enable the gradual progression of students into multidisciplinary medical bioscience courses, in tandem with preparing students for future employment through compulsory internship programmes – at hospitals, private diagnostic labs, and university research laboratories

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Dr Michelle Yap, Senior Lecturer

With the rapid transition of learning to online means, the School of Science educators have adapted quickly, learning new pedagogical approaches, and improved their students' online learning with new innovation. A case in point, the virtual field trip module, of the unit ENV2726 Global Conservation and Biodiversity that was developed jointly by Monash University Malaysia and Lang Tengah Turtle Watch (LTTW). This is a partnership that dates back almost 5 years, beginning as internship opportunities for students to further the faculty cross-campus sea turtle conservation project. Coordinated by Dr Zoe Yek Sze Huei, the revamped unit aims to expose students to biodiversity and biological resources in local and global environments, and the intersecting issues involved in the conservation and sustainable management of these resources. The unit, which is structured with a large focus on student’s hands-on learning via 4 comprehensive case studies, aims to equip the students with the skills to identify and critically discuss reasons for, and methods of, measuring and monitoring species, populations, habitats, communities and ecosystems, with the goal of applying their knowledge to address environmental issues and recommend conservation strategies towards rebuilding healthy ecosystems. The unit assignments are closely structured around LTTW’s conservation objectives and activities and demonstrate the real-life impact of the students in contributing towards achieving these. Many of the students' suggestions in assignments have been incorporated in LTTW’s work, and some students have also gone on to build relationships and facilitate LTTW’s advocacy and awareness raising work.  In keeping with Monash University’s institutional efforts to achieve the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals,  this unit notably directly contributes towards the realisation of SDG 13 Climate Action, 14 Life Below Water, and 15 Life On Land. The development and implementation of this unit strongly reflects the innovation of the MUM School Of Science faculty in maintaining student experience during the global pandemic, and the ongoing commitment of MUM to strive towards a sustainable future for all.

Dr Zoe Yek Sze Huei, Senior Adjunct Lecturer

In a similar vein, a student team, comprising students from both Malaysian and Australian campuses, have recently won a coveted and esteemed award, funded by Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, and a renowned entrepreneur. The ‘XPRIZE Carbon Removal Student Award’, aims to inspire and support the scaling-up efficient solutions to collectively achieve the target of 10 gigaton carbon removal per year, to counter climate change and restore the Earth’s carbon balance. The Monash Carbon Capture and Conversion (MC³) student team, only 7 months old, clinched their victory with their BioTechnology proposal, which focused on capturing carbon dioxide via bio-sequestration. Through their proposal, the team not only put forth a technical solution to pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or oceans, but instead of storing it away permanently, imagined a solution that allowed for the energy to be renewed and reutilised. This milestone win stands testament, to the students’ personal merits, the enduring and nourishing cross-collaboration of the Monash campuses, and the ability of Monash University students to create meaningful solutions to the global climate crisis.

These achievements illustrate the value of undertaking an education with the School of Science. In the face of a climate that is invariably full of challenges and changes, the Monash School of Science stands out and stands above. What you see, is what you get - a commitment to education innovation, and a sustained continuation of education, while never compromising quality of curriculum and student experience.

The Monash Carbon Capture and Conversion student team