Bridging the gap between theory and practice in higher education
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Bridging the gap between theory and practice in higher education

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.” – Manfred Eigen

It’s almost certain that every one of us has experienced this at one time or another; you’re sitting listening to the lecture wondering – what is he saying, what does it mean, what relevance does it have for my understanding or my career?

The lecturers in your university only tell you things you should know, but you’re not entirely sure why it’s so important to understand these things.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Because in many universities, students are disengaged from the learning process because they’re not urged to get involved.

Due to developments in education technology and shifts in the employment market, the higher education landscape has changed a lot over the past decade; no longer are universities looking purely towards regimented classroom learning, assignments or exams as a means of teaching students and evaluating their ‘success’; instead, valuable, applicable, hands-on methods of teaching have proved much more effective for this.

According to studies, students who practise what they’re learning first-hand are three and a half times more likely to retain that knowledge than when they’re sitting in a lecture room, hand-scribing notes.

As a result, more and more institutions are now implementing student-centred teaching (or learner-based teaching), which moves the focus to the student and gives them more control over their learning.

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Master of International Business students on study tour at Hewlett Packard Korea

A prime example of this can be seen in the work of Monash Australia, where major changes in pedagogy have taken centre-stage as universities seek to transform the overall student experience. By shifting the focus directly onto their learning outcomes, there’s an opportunity to ensure all students reach their goals and enhance the reputation of their host institutions as global hubs of excellence.

When it comes to creating an effective learning environment for all students, Monash University Malaysia is an example of a world-class institution, fostering several learning models:

Guided Learning

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Career opportunities briefing by GSK Pharma Malaysia

Even with all our technological advances, nothing beats direct teacher-to-student learning. When done the right way, guided learning helps students understand the why behind what they’re being taught. At Monash Malaysia, lecturers use the latest research findings to inform students and engage them in discussion.

Its Bachelor of Business and Commerce program provides a wide range of options, with nine majors, including accountancy, international business management, and strategic marketing.

By the end of their studies, students are equipped with fundamental knowledge of general concepts and theories, in addition to possessing the ability to analyse, evaluate, and apply their expertise in order to solve problems.

By emphasising critical thinking over rote learning, Monash Malaysia aims to produce graduates with the capacity to merge knowledge from different areas to create innovative solutions, while remaining aware of ethical and social responsibility.

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Prof Christina Lee, Head of Marketing Department, School of Business

Professor Christina Lee, Head of Marketing at Monash Malaysia, said: “We encourage students to reflect upon what they have learned and connect it to their work experience,” adding that the programme emphasises building on students’ actual experience from the workplace, which helps them see the relevance of what they are learning from lectures and academic articles.

Collaborative projects

When taking part in collaborative projects, students get the chance to work alongside peers towards a common goal. Team projects are instrumental to the learning process, teaching students the value of cooperation and collaborating with others who are different from themselves.

In the recent Maybank GoAhead Challenge (MGAC) 2016, an annual international competition, Monash Malaysia students William Teo and Dedi Lee from the School of Business, and Neil Liew from the School of Arts and Social Sciences were among the 60 finalists selected from around the world to compete at the Grand Finals.

The competition is said to “challenge participants’ intellect, stretch their creativity, and test their endurance” in a series of tasks.

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Monash student among Grand Champion of Maybank GoAhead Challenge

Teo, a final year student at the School of Business, said that his most memorable moment was when his team, including teammates from China and Singapore, emerged as Grand Champions of MGAC 2016. 

“[The competition] has taught me the meaning of believing in yourself firmly without being affected by the negative comments, and that, truly, perseverance is the best ‘teacher’ in life,” he said.

As for Lee, he said he was initially unsure of how he would fit in, but found that as the competition progressed, he began to gain more confidence when he realised that there was a lot more he could offer than just his knowledge – like his presentation skills.

“We were assigned an airline company and I was made Chief Marketing and Public Relations Director, which meant I was to address all related aspects and issues when raised. Soft skills such as presentation, debating, as well as negotiation skills, were highly required traits.

“As a student doing International Business and Marketing, I can proudly say that Monash had prepared me well for this,” he added.

According to the Australasian Student Engagement Report, rates of student-staff interaction are among the most important determinants of high-quality learning. Both learning and development have been shown to boost significantly when students are able to directly contact scholars – particularly when the contact is academic, rather than administrative, in nature, meaning lecturers can engage with students on a one-to-one personal level.

The impressively low student-teacher ratio at Monash Malaysia means all scholars benefit from high levels of engagement.

Experiential learning

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3 Monash students awarded KPMG-ASEAN Scholarships 2016

The university’s School of Business has close links with its industry partners, which comprise some of the largest local and global corporations. Students benefit from this through internship programmes where they gain working experience and translate theory into practice.  

Students, especially undergraduate third year and postgraduate, work in groups or individually in an experiential project in the corporate, public, or community sectors where they attempt to solve real-life business problems and present findings to the Board or senior management team.

Monash Malaysia students are not only encouraged to pick up the latest skills; they’re also instilled with an invaluable global perspective.

For example, International Business and MBA students from the School of Business go on annual international study trips, allowing them to meet with business leaders and government officials to gain first-hand experience of how companies and organizations operate in different parts of the world.

Three students from the Monash School of Business, for example – Tan Li Anne, Bhavan Sarpal, and Lakshman Palani – were each recently awarded the KPMG ASEAN Scholarship, giving them the chance to join the internship program and work placement at any of KPMG’s ASEAN member offices located in Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia. The program will undoubtedly provide outstanding opportunities for learning and development, on top of invaluable career exposure.

Using these different models of learning, students at Monash Malaysia can be confident that they will receive a comprehensive education that will prepare them well for success in their future careers or in further study.

Get to know more about Monash University Malaysia and its School of Business.

Follow Monash Malaysia on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Weibo

All images courtesy of Monash Malaysia

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