John Woo Jia Jun is the first in his family to enrol in a university, and he is already making great strides. Last year, as a Bachelor of Business and Commerce student at Monash University Malaysia’s School of Business, Woo won the Malaysia Cross-Industry Virtual Hackathon with his team. In many ways, with the help of Monash Malaysia, Woo and his team are set to spice up their country’s and region’s agriculture sector. The challenge was to save chilli plants from infectious disease. His solution: a machine learning image analysis tool to improve chilli crop yields. The event attracted start-ups from Singapore and Thailand, acting as a stepping stone for not just multidisciplinary collaboration and entrepreneurship, but global influence.
Structure, content, reputation, and affordability may have drawn Woo to this degree course, but it was confidence of his natural ability that compelled him to choose the accounting and finance major. “Going into university, I wanted a course that would be personally easy for me to excel in so I can prioritise my resources in personal development. My first year in university was a breeze, thanks to the Monash University Foundation Year programme,” he shares. The degree course also provided a door to the real world through opportunities like the Hackathon. Woo was therefore eager to finish his degree strong — but then the pandemic hit, bringing waves of change along with it.
From Zoom classes to online exams, COVID-19 has undeniably transformed the higher education landscape in the past year. Yet Woo followed his studies online with the same high-quality modules that he signed up for, guided by lecturers he had grown to respect. “Though online tutorials were awkward at first, I felt personally motivated to study even harder as I had less face time with my tutors,” he shares. “Fortunately, the lecturers were helpful and timely in uploading video content, which facilitated my study at night.”
Swift adaptation, lasting results
Monash University is a world-class institution that focuses on research-led learning. Monash University Malaysia is a renowned branch campus that hosts the Australian university experience right here in Asia. With over a decade’s online instruction experience under its belt, the switch to full e-learning was swift for all Monash University campuses. According to Associate Professor Dr _Terpstra Tong, the university stayed ahead of the pack thanks to its dedicated academics, established IT infrastructure, innovative training modules, agile professional support, and capable leadership at all levels. “Our student evaluation records show that our ratings were at its all-time high for the second semester despite the pandemic,” she adds.
The students at Monash Malaysia are shaped into their best selves by experienced faculty members like Dr Tong. Not only does she teach and consult, but she has also transformed the School of Business curriculum in line with her goal of “lighting the fire of learning.” “People with a strong positive mindset would take adapting to pandemic shock as a challenge,” she opines. One of her most notable innovations is the Career and Professional Program which cultivates highly employable graduates with an appetite for lifelong learning. Students are introduced to career success, retirement, leadership, and personal branding — topics that are not necessarily discussed in the classroom yet are immensely valuable to a fresh graduate. This module is now available online too, providing students with a head start in the working world even as they study from home.
In a post-pandemic world, resilience, tech-savviness, and communication skills are the top three ingredients in the recipe for success. Combined with soft skills such as leadership and interpersonal skills, students will be equipped for a long career and life ahead. How are these skills cultivated in a virtual learning environment, though? “All our units require students to make verbal, written reports and form virtual groups. These are opportunities designed to train students’ soft skills. As they are part of the assessment, skill development is therefore evaluated in the related units,” Dr Tong explains.
Onwards and upwards with Monash University Malaysia
Innovation and industry guide the teaching and learning at the School of Business. As all teaching academics are researchers, they are able to bring the latest breakthroughs and discussions into the classroom. Additionally, all students are trained to lean into the digital edge through various assessment methods, including blogs and videos. They even take initiative outside the classroom; recently, student representatives set up a virtual buddy program for first-year students on WhatsApp.
Besides that, students benefit from the strong industry links Monash has built over the years as they collaborate with renowned multinational companies. For example, Woo got to sharpen his business acumen and real-world knowledge in the Unilever Future Leaders’ League. His team emerged first runner-up in the competition under the guidance of Dr Norita Nasir. That is how Woo developed this perspective: “I felt that the best thing about Monash is the people and lecturers, who are often selfless in guiding students.”
Now, Woo is well on track to graduate as an accounting and finance major in 2021. He plans to pursue his master’s degree in the UK, then launch a management consulting career there. “Ultimately, I wanted to take charge of my growth and expedite lessons by crafting my unique university experience during my undergraduate degree,” he reflects. Thanks to Monash University Malaysia’s quick adaptation and continuous support, he can do just that today.