BUKA@ OUM: Capacity Building Programme at Open University Malaysia (OUM) – A Visit by TAMK

Last year from 14 until 17 November 2022, the BUKA project team from Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK), Finland, Dr Hanna Teras, Ms Marianna Leikomaa and Mr Esa Kujansuu came for a visit to Open University Malaysia (OUM) in Kelana Jaya. On the first day at OUM, Dr Hanna Teras presented an Introduction to Finland Education. The session was attended by the President/Vice Chancellor of OUM, Professor Dr Ahmad Izanee Awang and the Vice President (Academic and Research), Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Tajudin Md Ninggal.

The team from TAMK also visited the Analytics Laboratory that was funded under the BUKA project. The team presented a session on skill-based training model to the Creative Team who have supported the BUKA local pilot at OUM. They exchanged inspired ideas on how the skill-based training on the use of Canva to design a learning resource can be improved. Several ideas were discussed in coming up with a Canva Development Workshop Model.

On 15 November 2022, the session with the Creative Media team was continues with a focus on the best method to incorporate the Universal Design Principle in creative content development. The session was also joined by academic staff who were participants of the Focus Groups in the Capacity Development programme. Several principles were discussed with the focus on meaning teaching/facilitation. The day ended with a meeting with the BUKA research team.

On the third day, OERs developed by the Focus Group participants under the pilot were presented by participants who are full-time OUM academic staff and members of the Creative Team. The TAMK team gave positive overview and constructive feedback on how the OER can be improved by using multiple elements of multimedia.

On the last day at OUM, parallel meetings was held with the Faculty of Education to discuss ideas on online pedagogy, and with the Faculty of Technology and Applied Sciences to discuss how the technology can be adopted to enhance education. Later that day, the TAMK team visited the popular sky-bridge at the Petronas Twin Towers.


BUKA @ OUM: Capacity Building Programme at Open University Malaysia (OUM) – Focus Group Training Session (Flip-Classroom Model)

Increased knowledge, skills, practices, and resources are what communities and organisations need to survive, adapt, and thrive in a fast-changing environment. This process is known as capacity-building. Therefore, a capacity-building programme is inevitable, especially for a university which practises an online distance learning approach like Open University Malaysia (OUM). The capacity-building programme at OUM involves not only the faculty members but also the non-academic staff, for instance, staff of the Media Team.

In implementing the first phase of the capacity-building programme, there are three focus groups currently; each group consists of around eight members. Each focus group receives a learning module chapter by chapter. The six chapters are learning theories, pedagogical theories, learning design, content creation, learning analytics, and creation of learning objects.

As this is self-instructional learning, these focus group members need to read each chapter and engage in an activity at the end of the chapter. As for chapter one, they need to provide their feedback through a reflective journal. Their feedback help enhances the content of the learning materials. The output of subsequent chapters is a pedagogical framework (chapter two), learning design (chapter three), design of learning materials (chapter four) and suggestions on the use of learning analytics (chapter five).

During the 6th session discussion, the participants expressed their opinions and feedback from their own perspectives and understanding, especially content creation and designing and developing open educational resource (OER) using Canva software. The participants also learn how to license their OER using Creative Common Licences. They participated activey and contributed brilliant ideas and suggestions.

Recommendations from the participants are used to enhance the learning module. The focus groups will produce case writing in the final session as the outcome of the whole capacity-building programme. Subsequent focus groups (4 and 5) have begun their sessions. These groups (4-10) will have lesser face-to-face sessions and the activities will be gradually redesigned to allow self-study and self-assessment. The programme for the focus groups is expected to be completed by April 2023.

Revised material will used to conduct four workshops for the remaining academic staff using the second model that is based on Blended Learning Mode.


BUKA @ OUM: A Capacity Building Programme Using Self-Instructional Training Modules

As a partner in the BUKA Project, the Open University of Malaysia (OUM) is promoting the use of inclusive learning design and learning analytics through a capacity building programme for its full-time academic staff. Part-time tutors will be invited to participate in the later stages of the programme. 

The capacity building programme is designed to cover a wide range of topics, including learning theories, pedagogical approaches, learning design, content creation, and learning analytics. Five modules were developed, each with one hour of reading and one activity that enables the participants to create an output that demonstrates the target learning outcomes. A sixth module provides skill-based training in designing and developing open educational resources (OERs). The modules are original and they were reviewed by an expert, instructional designer, and editor. A readability test was used to ensure that the modules are written at an appropriate grade level. The final process is desktop publishing (DTP), ensuring that each module looks more attractive and professional.

The Development Stage of Each Module

The first module on learning theories aims to enable readers to use a suitable learning theory or theories to develop a teaching and learning strategy that would enrich a learner’s learning experience in a selected subject area. Five well known learning theories are discussed. 

The second module discusses four pedagogical approaches — Authentic Pedagogical Approach, Experiential Pedagogical Approach, Transformational Pedagogy, and Innovative Pedagogy — along with the Universal Design Principle, to allow readers to explore how these approaches can enable effective achievement of the targeted learning objectives. 

In the third module various learning designs were introduced, namely, Backward Design, ABC Learning Design, Carpe Diem Learning Design, Design Thinking Learning Model, and Data Driven Learning Design. The selection, integration, and adaptation of a learning design model must take into consideration how this would influence learner behavior so as to have a positive impact on their academic performance.

The module on content creation enables a reader to explore various design considerations that can help in creating learning content in formats that can generate learner interest and engage them in order to improve their learning experience. Effective strategies and planning are required to ensure that the transmitted message is understandable and meets its goals. The selection of suitable media elements can help to enhance learner engagement throughout their learning process. 

The fifth module is on learning analytics. It aims to create an awareness among readers on the use of analytics to see how learners are progressing in a course, their needs, and their learning behavior patterns in order to support them in their efforts to achieve the intended course learning outcomes. 

The final module is a guide to the development of an OER based on selected design elements using the Canva software. The reader would need to identify a specific learner outcome before developing an OER that would then be used to develop the target outcome. 

The developed modules were tested for use in focus group sessions following a flipped classroom format. 


BUKA Handbook

During the weeks of the 26th September and 5th October 2023, the BUKA project partners met in Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK), in Tampere, Finland, and in Dublin City University (DCU), in Dublin, Ireland. During these two weeks of meetings the work accomplished to date in the project was discussed and detailed plans were made for the work remaining in the final year of the project.

A key project deliverable in the next year is the BUKA edited handbook of inclusive online and distance learning, which will be authored by members of the project team, and will be based on what has been learned from the BUKA pilot projects, their evaluations, lessons learned, etc. The handbook will target academics, teachers, instructional designers, technical staff, students, and decision makers in online and distance learning contexts. A core part of the handbook will be the presentation of case studies based on the pilot projects, which will offer insight into the rationale for these projects, the methodology and processes used to progress the work involved, challenges encountered, project findings, and the sustainability and transferability of the work carried out in each project. The handbook will also include content, based on the lessons learned from the BUKA project overall, about capacity building in a post-pandemic context relating to inclusive online learning. The handbook will be published primarily as an online book with a CC-BY-NC-SA licence, and is scheduled to be released in the Autumn of 2023.


Creating the Facility for BUKA at OUM

Advancing Equity and Access to Higher Education through Open and Distance Learning (ODL), known as BUKA, is a research project funded under the European Union’s programme, Erasmus+, in January 2020. The BUKA pilot project at the Open University Malaysia (OUM) is focused on promoting equity and access to higher education through inclusive instructional design and learning analytics in ODL. The research team at OUM consist of four researchers at two administrators. The project is also supported by four dedicated staff from the university’s Group Information and Communication Technology Services (GICTS) and ten staff (creative team members).

Analytics Laboratory Meeting Room

OUM’s management has been very supportive and allocated two rooms at Menara OUM in Kelana Jaya for setting up the Analytics Laboratory and the server room. The management also provided a seeding fund of RM50,000.00 at the project’s onset. The laboratory has been successfully furbished with the hardware based on the advice and assistance from the ICT team for the hardware (which consists of a server and workstations.) A humidifier is also added to the list using the seeding fund. The server and the humidifier were placed in the server room, while the workstations were placed in the Analytics Lab. The server and the workstations were delivered to OUM in August and December 2021, respectively, after almost one (1) year delay mainly caused by the pandemic. The hardware system was installed and configured by the GICTS team after verifying everything was in good working condition and as per the requirement.

Project Group Members

The HP Proliant DL380 (Intel Xeon Gold 6244 8C 150W 3.6 GHz Processor) server and three HP Z2 SFF G5 Workstation units (with ThinkVision 23.8″ E24-20 IPS monitors) were programmed to store and integrate various forms of data related to more than 100,000 OUM learners to enable big data study eventually. A small part of these data will be used to integrate with the learning analytics data associated with the use of learning objects created by the participants for a meaningful depiction of the learner’s behavior. The workstations are designed to support: (i) predictive analytics (and later infographics); (ii) programming to enable testing of a learning environment that is supported by machine learning; (iii) compilation and evaluation of developing creative content (user experience).

Server Specifications

The team had to contemplate and revise the second part of its procurement plan. The purchase of the intended Azure machine learning was aborted due to the cost uncertainty based on the data size used. Instead, the researchers engaged in capacity building for designing machine learning algorithms using Python (zero procurement cost). This opens up a window to support the project’s shift towards developing creative content / open educational resources. The project team is in the midst of purchasing design software to support the university’s academic staff (participants) in content creation. Analytics software purchase to support learning analytics is also in progress. Meanwhile, the development of learning materials to keep the focus group sessions in phase 1 has been in progress and will be completed in 2022.


European Maturity Model for Blended Education

NOTE: This blog post is based on a presentation made at the online BUKA development meeting for BUKA project teams held on 25 November 2021.

The Maturity Model for Blended Education was created in collaboration with six European universities and universities of applied sciences. The model is a practical and easily approachable tool for developing education on three levels:  course level, degree program level, and institution level.

The European Maturity Model for Blended Education (Van Valkenburg et al. 2020) was developed in 2017–2020 in an international Erasmus project carrying the same name as the main output of the project: European Maturity Model for BlendedEducation. Project partners and the authors of the maturity modelrepresent well-established European open universities: TU Delft from the Netherlands, KU Leuven from Belgium, Aarhus University from Denmark, Dublin City University from Ireland, University of Edinburgh from Scotland, and Tampere University of Applied Sciences.

Background for the Maturity Model

The research behind the model was carried out using the Delphi method: the research phase included three rounds of Delphisurveys at the participating universities. The model was compiled in its final form by TU Delft.

The model is a practical and easily approachable tool for developing education on three levels:  course level, degree program level, and institution level. The model is not designed for comparing the performance of different universities, but rathersupporting internally development processes of universities.

Maturity and Quality of Blended Education

The model makes a distinction between maturity and quality, although the concepts are related to each other. Maturity is understood in the model as a broad concept, within which quality can be realized in different ways. The Maturity Model does not represent a new or a competing quality framework for higher education institutions, and it takes into consideration that universities usually have their own quality criteria frameworks. Maturity and quality are defined in the model as follows:


“The concept of ‘maturity’ relates to the degree of formality and optimization of the design, evidence-based decision making, documentation and continuous quality improvement which characterize the uptake of blended learning practices, or the implementation of blended learning conditions and strategies.” (Van Valkenburg et al. 2020, 5).

Quality vs. Maturity

“Quality approaches can be in place within each of the maturity levels. However, maturity does not equal quality. Moreover, it has been observed that repeated blended learning practice at a particular maturity level does not result in an actual increase in maturity.” (Van Valkenburg et al. 2020, 5).

Application of the Model

The European Maturity Model for Blended Education is dividedinto three parts: Course level, Degree program level, and Institute level. When applying the model, the actors should first consider,on which level they intend to focus their development activities.

Course Level

In the model, the course level includes four main dimensions:1. Course interaction2. Course experience3. Course design process4. Course flexibility

The Course experience and the Course design Process are further subdivided in the model.

Program Level

According to the Model, the maturity of degree programs can beassessed in three dimensions:1. Program flexibility2. Program experience3. Program design process

Two dimensions: the Program design process and the Programexperience are further divided into sub-dimensions.

Institution Level

On the level of the educational institution, the Model includes eight dimensions which do not have sub-dimensions:1. Facilities2. Finances3. Governance4. Quality assurance5. Institutional support6. Institutional strategy7. Sharing and communities8. Professional development

Applicability of the Model

The European Maturity Model for Blended Education was created before the Covid-19 pandemic times. Although it was designed to be applied particularly for blended learning, it fits perfectly also for hybrid learning, as the model itself is presented on a rathergeneral level. 

The model is easily approachable. Probably the easiest way to take the model into use is to assemble a team, and then present theappropriate part of the model on the screen, one dimension or subdimension at a time. It is usually sufficient to discuss only 1 to 3 dimensions during a team session. According to our experience, even reflecting openly just one dimension during a discussion session can bring up several concrete and fruitful ideas for developing the blended and hybrid learning in your educational institution.


EADTU (2020). European Association of Distance TeachingUniversities.

Van Valkenburg, W., Dijkstra, W., de los Arcos, B., & Goeman, K. (2020). European Maturity Model for Blended Education.


Dummy Installation of Offline Cellular Network

In September 2021, the Universitas Terbuka (UT) – BUKA Team explored the strength and weaknesses of the available proprietary and open-source softwares to be used as an operating system of the Internet Offline Server. Based on its functionality and affordability, the Linux operating system was selected. Network and IT technicians in Indonesia are also familiar with the Linux operating system, and it is easy to maintain and update programs.

The first package of the Internet offline infrastructure includes a mini pc, cellular network antenna, omnidirectional antenna, point-to-point bridge already set in place.

The dummy installation server parameters in developing the offline Internet system used the following specifications:

  • Operating System – Ubuntu 20.04 or Debian 11
  • 64bit mini-computer
  • 8G RAM Memory
  • 512 GB SSD

The mini-personal computer is quite easy to install as it requires only 10 cm square dimension with DC power supply. For the BUKA pilot project, some of the main applications supporting e-learning services are also installed, such as 
Apache web server, MariaDB database server, and PHP; Moodle for e-learning; and Kiwix for offline Wikipedia.

Meanwhile, the supporting intranet network operations use the following applications: 

  • Bind dns servers
  • Server SSH
  • DHCP Server
  • SAMBA File Sharing server

Details of the installation and configuration of various server applications on the Offline Internet systems are now available in UT’s Learning Management System. The first on-site installation will take place on the last week of March 2022. The process of server installation and team discussion during the pilot installation can be viewed at Setting the configuration of the cellular network and the point-to-point bridge is documented in the video at

The UT-BUKA team will also publish a book entitled Internet Offline System Design: UT-Akses for Student in Remote Areas.


Equity and access to higher education through open and distance/online learning

In this blog post I am focusing on the key theme of the BUKA project, the promotion of equity and access to higher education through open and distance/online learning. In 2010 I began working on open education, online, undergraduate programmes with an open access entry policy and flexible progression routes in Dublin City University (DCU). It did not take long for me to be completely won over to principles of open education and widening participation in higher education as I worked with learners who would not have been able to pursue their educational goals without a flexible, online, open access option. Any number of reasons can cause an individual to not be in a position to take up full-time or even part-time on-campus study, for example: lifeload issues such as those relating to employment or caring responsibilities; geographical location; or disabilities. I firmly believe in removing the barriers that block entry to, and successful participation in, higher education. This open education work aligns with DCU’s institutional strategy of changing lives and societies, specifically in the area of widening participation, as well as (Irish) national and European Union objectives for increasing participation in higher education, especially in adult learners. Although, it has to be said these objectives often do not match up with the resourcing of open education, for example in Ireland my online learners are defined as part-time even if taking a full-time equivalent credit load, and are blocked from receiving the public funding and financial supports they would be entitled to if they studied full-time on-campus.

Image by analogicus on Pixabay

One of the best aspects for me of participating in the BUKA project was to be able to join a community of colleagues in Finland, Malaysia, The Philippines, and Indonesia who are as invested as I am in providing, and improving provision of, equitable access to higher education through high quality distance/online learning. The ambitious projects being pursued by the project partners involve many innovative approaches to: building staff capacity in inclusive learning design approaches; using learning analytics to improve student success; addressing gender gaps in higher education participation; and developing technological infrastructure solutions to the issue of geographically remote, disadvantaged learners’ access to higher education. These are only some examples of project goals and I have learned so much from watching the projects develop and from being able to place my own local practice in a more global context.


Supporting teachers in Innovative Flexible Learning through BUKA REACH Peer Facilitators Training Program

Despite the new challenges, the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) is determined to continue working as a team to pursue quality, equity, and flexibility in education. Teachers are challenged not only to protect their health but also to adapt new teaching methods in the pursuit of quality learning. We know it’s not going to be easy for teachers, but we need to find a reason to be optimistic and to keep moving forward. 

A community of learning has been organized to support teachers in adapting to the “new normal” of teaching and learning. After one semester of the Innovative Flexible Learning (InFleX) modality, teachers are sharing experiences and seeking to improve their teaching practice for another implementation cycle. A peer facilitators training program has been designed to facilitate the discussion of learning experiences and the adoption of essential skills for teaching in the new normal. Facilitators use coaching methods to assist their peers in the implementation of the InFLeX modality. In planning training topics and activities, the REACH (Relevant, Engaged, Active, Connected, and Holistic) design is used.

Relevant topics and skills to be learned 

InFLeX promotes a balance between synchronous and asynchronous sessions in online/remote classrooms. However, implementing this in real online/remote environments is challenging. It is important to model online/remote classrooms with well-planned asynchronous learning activities. Thus, the training program for peer facilitators has a good mix of synchronous and asynchronous sessions. Asynchronous activities include sharing good practices regarding students’ engagement and assessing learners in a remote teaching environment. In the synchronous sessions, the participants discuss with experts important pedagogical issues such as Keeping Students Engaged and Motivated, Maintaining Integrity of Assessment, and Student Support & Community of Learning.

Engaged teachers in a community of practice

One semester of InFleX implementation has shown that student engagement is crucial but difficult to address in a remote learning environment. In the asynchronous discussion, teachers shared their experiences and reflected on how to improve their remote teaching practices. But while the discussion was very rich, we found that some teachers were not contributing to the discussion board. To address this problem, peer facilitators were assigned to each group of teachers to open a conversation about the challenges they encountered in accomplishing the training task. The positive relationship between the peer facilitators and teachers improved teachers’ involvement in the training activities. 

Active participation

Authentic e-learning is used in designing the activities to encourage active participation. For example, teachers review and reflect on the course syllabus using a checklist. They also talk with their colleagues about how to improve it before the second semester implementation. During this process, peer mentoring plays a vital role in the improvement of the course materials, with the mentor supporting the teacher in pedagogy and technology use instead of advising a specific action. We believe that teachers should own their innovation. 

Connected teachers

Since teachers are working from home, technology tools (i.e. Facebook chats and MSU-IIT’s online learning tools) are maximized to support communication and collaboration in order to keep teachers connected. It is evident that peer mentoring promotes a mutual relationship where the focus is on developing the mentee’s growth. Moreover, peer facilitation with small groups of teachers engenders success in accomplishing the assigned tasks. 

Holistic and continuous professional development 

As a community, we need to make some necessary transformations in our teaching methods to build a healthier and more resilient environment. We are one in exploring new pedagogical approaches for remote teaching and learning. There are no right or wrong approaches at this time, and it is essential to listen to each other’s experience and collectively identify what is best for our students. 

Holistic planning, implementation, and evaluation of the BUKA peer facilitators training program is an ongoing process. Teachers will continue to learn and develop their teaching skills as we strive to maintain excellence in teaching and learning using the new modes of delivery. 


BUKA promoting equity and access in open and distance learning – more important than ever!

BUKA Project Kickoff Meeting at Penang, Malaysia
BUKA Project Kickoff Meeting at Penang, Malaysia

When the BUKA project was launched in February 2020, the team had no idea what was lurking behind the corner. The kick-off meeting was held in Penang, Malaysia, and the partners from Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Ireland, and Finland were able to meet face to face, get to know each other, make plans, and spend time together. Just a few weeks after the meeting, the nature of the project changed unexpectedly as the Covid-19 pandemic started spreading all over the world.

All of a sudden, the focus of the project – equity and access in open and distance learning – became even more important than it was before. Although online learning was seen as an important area of development in all partner countries already before the pandemic, now the core questions of the project have become a high priority in universities worldwide. How can we provide engaging learning opportunities for students with diverse backgrounds in an online learning environment? How do we ensure that the learning design of our distance learning courses best supports student learning? How can we create online learning resources and materials that are accessible and pedagogically meaningful? How do we help staff members to develop the skills they need for designing and teaching online courses? 

The project team has not been discouraged by the unusual times. Although travel has been impossible, the team has developed effective ways of connecting and working online. At the moment, the partners are busy designing local pilot projects that help tackle the open and distance learning challenges. The BUKA project is now even timelier than we could have imagined!