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09 Sep 2013

Incoming Returning Full-time National Servicemen can earn advance credits through online learning at NUS, with pilot starting January 2014

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The National University of Singapore (NUS) today announced a new initiative to enable Returning Full-time National Servicemen (RNS men), who had earlier gained admission to the university, to earn academic credits before matriculation as undergraduate students. These RNS men can now have a head start in university education and more time to adapt to academic activities. About 2,600 RNS men who will be matriculating in August 2014 will be eligible for this pilot. 

In January 2014, these incoming students will have a choice of eight modules ranging from Computing, Engineering, Science and Social Sciences. In addition, currently-enrolled NUS students will also be able to participate in two pilot General Education modules. These courses will be conducted using a technology-enhanced teaching approach that combines targeted and interactive classroom activities with a massive open online course (MOOC) component.

The online components will be hosted on the Coursera platform. NUS is the first and, to-date, the only university in Singapore to partner with Coursera, a Stanford-based educational technology company and one of the major providers of free online learning.

NUS is also the first university in Asia, and one of two universities outside of the US, to achieve integrated login or single sign-on (SSO) to Coursera. With this feature, NUS students could enjoy seamless and secured access to NUS courses hosted on the Coursera platform using their NUS campus-wide login ID and password.

Professor Tan Eng Chye, NUS Deputy President (Academic Affairs) and Provost, said, “This is an exciting development as we strive to build a strong and sustainable technology-enhanced education culture on campus. Leveraging on this MOOC platform, NUS professors will be able to deliver new and better forms of technology-enhanced education that will augment our students’ learning experiences. In future phases, we also hope to expand the enrolment of heavily-subscribed modules to meet the strong demand from students.”

“By allowing RNS men to take selected courses and earn advance academic credits, we hope to give these students a head start in university education as they are about two years behind their female peers while committing their time to serve national service. The MOOC environment will facilitate learning and easier adaptation at a personalised level. Through this pilot, we hope to help prepare them for academic activities before they matriculate as undergraduates at NUS,” added Prof Tan.

NUS is already experimenting with the Coursera platform. The University will introduce a pilot module titled “Essentials of Clear Writing”, for all NUS students, using the technology-enhanced pedagogy. Designed and conducted by the Centre for English Language Communication with support from the Centre for Instructional Technology, the five-week module will be conducted in late September 2013.

New Pilot MOOC Modules

Under the pilot, incoming RNS men can choose to take selected foundational courses, bridging courses, General Education modules or enrichment modules before they even start university. About eight pilot NUS MOOC modules are expected to be offered when the new semester starts in January 2014.

For most of these MOOC courses, incoming RNS men can earn advance modular credits towards their graduation requirements. Students taking these modules will also attend interactive discussion sessions held in a physical classroom. These sessions are designed to augment and align the online lectures that are made available on the MOOC platform.

More details will be made available to incoming RNS men at a later date. (Please refer to the Annex for the list of pilot modules.)

Two pilot courses for General Education modules will be open to current NUS students.

Elaborating on how online learning approaches will change the process of teaching and learning at NUS, Prof Tan said, “The MOOC platform cannot replicate the campus experience; neither can it replace face-to-face interactions with the course instructor or with classmates. However, with the introduction of MOOC modules, we can expect to have more engaging face-to-face sessions that focus on higher order skills and deeper engagement.”

In 2012, NUS embarked on a university-wide effort to place technology-enhanced learning at the centre of the learning process in key courses. To drive this effort, a S$5 million “Learning Innovation Fund - Technology” (LIF-T) was created to promote experimentation and adaptation of technology-enhanced learning at NUS. For instance, key classes will be systematically redesigned to promote more active learning by integrating online lectures with face-to-face learning in the classroom.

Free Online Courses for Public Access

In February 2013, NUS announced its collaboration with Coursera as a partner university. Through this collaboration, more students around the world can access and benefit from NUS' educational offerings.

NUS has announced in February 2013 two courses that will be offered on the Coursera platform - ‘Write like Mozart: An Introduction to Classical Music Composition’ by Associate Professor Peter Edwards of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music; and ‘Unpredictable? Randomness, Chance and Free Will’ by Professor Valerio Scarani of the Centre for Quantum Technologies and the Department of Physics. Both courses will commence in January 2014.

In May 2013, NUS has also added a new online course – ‘Reason and Persuasion’ by Associate Professor John Christian Holbo, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences. The course will be offered to the public for free in February 2014.

For more information on free publicly accessible online courses offered by NUS, visit www.coursera.org/nus

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