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My Experience as an ODL Student in MSc in Public Health at IMU

27 May 2020

The MSc in Public Health programme at IMU started in September 2011 as a1.5 years taught programme, with a final semester of a student-led research dissertation. The programme has evolved from 1.5 years to 1 year and now offers a variety of options – an online distance learning mode (ODL) and a conventional “face to face” mode. These options are further widened with the flexibility of choice to do it part time or full-time depending on your work commitments. Students undertaking this programme come from various countries – Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and as far away as Nigeria. The online mode of this programme commenced in September 2019 as a 1.5-year programme. Dr Anuradha Nadarajah, a student from the pioneer batch of ODL students shares some thoughts on what made her to choose IMU. Anuradha currently works part-time in the private sector in Kuala Lumpur. She relates her experience here. I graduated from a public university with a medical degree in 2009 and I have been practicing as a medical doctor for a decade. Since graduating from medical school, the idea of obtaining a master’s degree had crossed my mind several times. However, after I completed my compulsory service in the government sector, I joined the private healthcare sector. This was when my intention to pursue postgraduate studies faded as I got carried away with an impression that it is more difficult for a healthcare professional to obtain a healthcare related master’s degree in Malaysia after leaving the government service. Although there were master’s programmes offered in public universities for private candidates but most of the attachment and requirements for both full- and part-time were not flexible enough for me to commit and might conflict with my existing job schedule.

Deciding to Do My Masters at IMU
After some time being in a stagnant phase of my medical career, I realized that advancement in an education qualification is crucial to facilitate my career progression and I started to look for opportunities to pursue a postgraduate degree. I started to survey for well-established private medical university that offers the MSc PH. I attended the Postgraduate Open Day event in IMU in April 2019 and came to know that at IMU, the MSc PH programme is not only available in conventional mode of learning for full-time students but also available in Open and Distance Learning (ODL) mode, for both full time and part time. This was really very fortunate for me.

After attending the Open Day, I approached MSc PH Programme Director, Dr Lwin via email. She was very helpful and provided me with a comprehensive overview of the MScPH ODL mode programme at IMU. This programme provides students from various range of health and professional backgrounds with the knowledge and skills in public health sciences and related disciplines through focused coursework with field experience.

ODL mode provides flexibility and is designed for students with work, family or other commitments and also for those who staying further from IMU and unable to enrol in conventional mode of learning which requires the student to attend face to face teaching and learning sessions in campus on a regular basis. ODL full-time mode of the MSc PH programme follows the same curriculum and timeline as conventional programme. ODL MSc PH is also available in part time mode. I enrolled in this MSc PH with ODL learning mode full-time (1.5 years) in September last year and am currently in my 2nd semester .

MSc PH programme in ODL mode is convenient and beneficial to upgrade my knowledge and academic status without creating much conflict between my work and postgraduate learning schedule as 80% of teaching and learning are done online with only 20% of campus requirement for field visits and practical sessions. The dates for the field visits and practical sessions are informed earlier when the semester begins so that we will be able to plan our schedule.

During the field visits and practical sessions in the previous semester, I had the opportunity to meet my ODL cohort and conventional group course mates. These field visit and practical sessions in combined groups facilitate us to exchange ideas and experiences among the course mates as well as enhance the teamwork in learning during the sessions.

Field trips
Dr Anuradha Nadarajah shares her experience as an ODL student at IMU 20 January 2020 Occupational Health module field visit to IMU Healthcare’s hospital construction site for IMU MSc PH conventional and ODL students. The purpose of this visit is to understand the safety organisation, activities, and processes at construction site as well as to learn the hazard identification, risk assessment as well as about the control measures.
22 October 2019 A field visit to Disease Surveillance Unit, Ministry of Health of Malaysia in Putrajaya was done by IMU MSc PH postgraduate students. The purpose of this visit is to understand the functions of surveillance unit in the healthcare system, the activities being done on a daily basis as well as during epidemic and their importance in international health.
20 January 2020 Occupational Health module field visit to National Institute of Occupational Safety and MSc PH conventional and ODL students.
21 January 2020 Field visit to Regional Sewage Treatment Plant, Indah Water Consortium in Bandar Tun Razak by IMU MSc PH postgraduate students (ODL and conventional) supervised by Environmental Module Coordinator, Dr Leela. The purpose of this visit is to understand the functions, processes, principles, and challenges in the sewerage system.  Sewage treatment is the process of removing contaminants and solid waste from the wastewater.

The course materials for online teaching and learning sessions like voice over or video power point lectures are available online and accessible via IMU ODL portal that is secured with student username and password. The downloadable slides and notes for the lectures are also provided, they can be downloaded and stored in a device to be reviewed even without internet connection or they can be printed out for further reading at my convenience. Occasionally there are also live synchronous pre-scheduled tutorial sessions with the lecturer and course mates. Assignments are also submitted online according to the deadline. There is no difficulty to interact with the lecturers – they can be contacted online to ask for help or clarification of an assignment.

All the lecturers and my course mates have been very supportive and helpful to me. We are required to do seminar presentation for majority of the modules. The seminar presentation will be recorded comprising both audio and visual component, followed by the question and answer session in the ODL portal. This cultivates my advanced understanding in the use of Microsoft Office and recording software when preparing for the video presentation. Besides the knowledge and assessment requirement, recorded presentation is useful for self-reflection to improve my presentation skills. The easy access to course materials, discussions, assignment submissions, presentation, and feedback allows me to learn at my own convenient time and place guided by the targeted learning timeline and also guidance by the lecturers.

Although open distance learning mode is a great alternative learning mode and convenient for me as a working adult, however it is undeniable that I do sometimes struggle with time constraints and juggle my work commitment along with assignments workloads. Online learning encourages me to be more self- disciplined, independent and to practice good time management to keep up with all the assignments and lessons according to the targeted timeline successfully.

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