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ONLINE LEARNING AT ACLEDA INSTITUTE OF BUSINESS DURING COVID-19

Subcommittee of Cambodia Economic Research and Analysis
ACLEDA INSTITUTE OF BUSINESS (AIB)
Phnom Penh, May 5, 2020

Introduction

Online, electronic (e-), digital, mobile (m-), ubiquitous (u-), distance, or remote learning is generally referred to the learning that can be interacted by teachers and students from different places and times via the internet (wire or wireless, Wi-Fi) and smart devices (computer, laptop, tablet, smart phone, smart TV, etc.). The teacher-student interaction in this way has delivered popularly as the asynchronous (flex-time) and/or synchronous (real-time) learning environments for teaching, lecturing, or training and sharing document, audio, photo, video, etc. within any appropriate supported applications.

This learning has been innovated since the mid-1990s meanwhile spreading of the internet and the browser (www). In 2000, there were only 8% of students enrolled and taken the online courses, but by 2008, the enrollment rates had increased to 20% (Radford, 2011) and then by 2013, there were nearly 30% of all postsecondary students enrolled in some kinds of distance learning courses (NCES, 2016). Even though the data of online course and program registers are complex and unconsolidated, many researchers have noted that there are 20% to 50% of all students have at least enrolled one online course (Jazzar, 2012) and that number increased to 70.80% in 2015 (Allen & Seaman, 2015).

Since COVID-19 pandemic has spread and forced to close schools and universities, affecting 1.29 billion or 73.8% of the world's student population in 186 countries over the world by the end of April 2020 (UNESCO, 2020). Cambodia is one of these countries has also closed all levels of the educational institutions in order to reduce face-to-face meeting of students and teachers and prevent this virus affection into the society since March 16, 2020 (MoEYS, 2020a). During this period, MoEYS (2020b) declared a guideline on online teaching and learning encouragement for all levels of educational institutions by guiding the students, guardians, and educational institutions for preparing, learning, and assessing as timeline and finally, the students can get the equivalent and qualified certificate for online learning. To comply with these, ALCEDA Institute of Business (AIB) has worked hard for revising the learning strategy, materials, and equipment for transforming all face-to-face programs into the permanent online learning. Since the end of March 2020, AIB has conducted online learning for all academic students and trainees of ACLEDA Bank Plc.

Therefore, this white paper's objectives are to describe the stakeholders, readiness, and benefits of online learning at AIB during COVID-19 pandemic by reviewing any related research papers and sharing some best practices of AIB.

The Stakeholders and Readiness

Freeman (1984) defines the stakeholders of organization are any individual or group who can affect or be affected by the achievement of the organization's objectives. The stakeholders have close relationship with organization for adding the value, meaning, and power based on they can benefit from the operations of the organization and, thus, have a moral claim on the organization (Wicks et al., 1994). The stakeholders of HEIs are also included government, parents and students, board of trustees, presidents and administrative leadership, faculty and staff, community, and donor (Mitchell et al., 1997).

Conducting the online learning smoothly and effectively are crucially required many key stakeholders. Many researchers have listed the main stakeholders for this online learning such as Wager et al. (2006) include students, instructors, educational institutions, content providers, technologies providers, accreditation bodies, and employers. Kineo (2010) involves senior management, line managers, middle managers and project sponsors, subject matter experts, training staff, learners, IT staff, trade unions, and suppliers as the key stakeholders. Similarly, Romero et al. (2015) count the main stakeholders including customers, users, domain experts, authorities, professors, and learners. Thanji and Vasantha (2018) just conclude learners, instructors, management, and service providers as the key stakeholders for online learning.

Regarding these similar identifications, government; providers and suppliers; board, management, lecturing staff, trainers, and staff; and learners and guardians are included as the key stakeholders for online learning at AIB during COVID-19 pandemic and the readiness for this operation has been well prepared as the below detailed descriptions.

Government

MoEYS has played the significant roles in leading, licensing, facilitating, and controlling all types and levels of educational institutions' operations in Cambodia. For last few months of COVID-19 pandemic spreading, MoEYS has announced to all schools and universities for closing their face-to-face educational operations (MoEYS, 2020a) and encouraged all schools and universities for conducting online learning and recognized online certificate issued by educational institutions (MoEYS, 2020b & 2020c). AIB has always done the best to comply strictly and completely with laws, regulations, policies, announcements, requirements, etc. issued by the government and ministries concerned.

Providers and Suppliers

The providers and suppliers for online learning at AIB are concluded internet service providers; smart device and tool suppliers; learning management system suppliers; and learning material suppliers.

The internet service providers in Cambodia are included 3 internet backbone companies providing totally 27,100 kilometers of the fiber optic; 9 fixed telecommunication companies; 9 mobile telecommunication companies; 33 fixed internet service companies; and 6 mobile internet service companies (MPTC, 2016). Their competitive and affordable internet service fees (around 1$ for 10 GB within 3G, 4G, 4.5G, or LTE) are below the global averages (ITU, 2017); and the average internet speed for downloading is 14.86 Mbps and uploading is 11.53 Mbps for Mobile, while downloading is 21.22 Mbps and uploading is 22.58 Mbps for Fixed Broadband (Speedtest Global Index, 2020). AIB has equipped the high-speed internet services in order to support the learners, lecturing staff, and employees for studying, teaching, training, and working stably and effectively.

The smart devices are included smart phones, tablets, laptops, computers, smart TVs, etc. which have been widely supplied in Cambodia for both first and second hand products of multiple brands imported from overseas within the suitable and affordable price and quality for users. In Cambodia, the mobile connections in January 2020 was equivalent to 128% of the total population (Datareportal, 2020). AIB has equipped extra camera, webcam, microphone, livestream applications, etc. into the existing learning tools for launching online class. Furthermore, each learner of AIB has at least one of the smart devices for online class—smart phones (100%) and laptops (around 70%).

The learning management systems (LMS) have played the crucial roles for facilitating the online learning. AIB has used both GoToMeeting and Zoom for lecturing, presenting, discussing, etc.; Google Classroom for assessing the students (homework, assignment, quiz, test, etc.); URM for checking and reporting learners' attendances; Telegram for sharing learning materials (documents, photos, videos, etc.) and communicating as the main channel; and e-library system for storing and assessing the e-documents (files, books, research papers, etc.). AIB has registered, divided, and added all learners and lecturing staff into the group for each course and class (GoToMeeting, Zoom, Google Classroom, URM, and Telegram) and then provided ID and password for assessing the e-documents before starting the semesters within technical supporting from IT supported teams from AIB as well as ACLEDA Bank Plc.

Board, Management, Lecturing Staff, Trainers, and Staff

With regarding to the guidelines of MoEYS (2020a) on "closing the face-to-face operations of all types and levels of educational institutions and providing online learning during COVID-19", the management teams of AIB and her parent company, ACLEDA Bank Plc. (ABC), have supported on "guaranteeing all action plans shall be achieved as the business plan". AIB's management, lecturing staff, trainers, and staff have firstly not only revised the strategic plan, but also prepared policies, operating manuals, procedures, and guidelines. Secondly, they have conducted more many training workshops, seminars, and meetings for sharing, training, and/or discussing on "how to well prepare, teach, evaluate, and coordinate the learners. Thirdly, they have settled IT technical and steering committees (Members are from AIB and ABC) for supporting management lecturing staff, staff, and learners. Fourthly, they have revised the course syllabi and prepared more learning materials. Fifthly, they have announced to all learners on "learning materials and tools preparation". Finally, they have kept following up, encouraging, supporting, and listening to them in order to make these online learning class operations more suitable and effective as the physical class operations.

Learners and Guardians

After announcing on "opening online class during COVID-19 pandemic", the existing AIB's learners have enrolled (100%) and attended their online classes regularly (90% to 95%) as the schedules (URM Report on Students' Attendance) for these semesters started since April 20, 2020. Moreover, their guardians have fully supported the learners in attending this online class. Most appreciatively, all trainees of ACLEDA Bank Plc. have attended their online classes as schedule using their smart devices and high spread internet from their branches.

The Benefits

Noticeably, there are many researchers conducting number of researches related to the benefits of online learning. Bartolic-Zomislic & Bates (1999), Scott et al. (2000), Curtis & Lawson (2001), Taylor (2002), and Stick & Ivankova (2004) reveal its benefits comprising of markets and economic growth, worldwide partnerships, save time and cost, broad education, anonymity, interaction and satisfaction, faculty learning curve growth, and easy feedback and evaluation. Bartley & Golek (2004) and De la Varre et al. (2011) raise some of the most important ones including effectiveness in educating students, credit equivalency, cost effectiveness, professional development, and provided excellent education possibility. Appana (2008) lists its benefits including increased access, gainful profits, improved learning quality, presented knowledge-based society, and lifelong learning opportunity. Pande et al. (2016) includes flexible time and location, knowledge and qualification enhancement, learner relationship opportunity, learner motivation, effective cost, individual consideration for different learners, academic staff's scarcities compensation, and self-paced learning as the key benefits. Guragain (2016) also concludes convenience for learners, lower cost, up-to-date learning materials, flexible learning methods, worldwide learning society, scalable e-learning systems, diversified higher degrees, and better retention as the main advantages of online learning.

Basing on these benefits, we would like to raise some of the key benefits for online learning at AIB during COVIDE-19 pandemic for the learners and AIB as follow.

Learners' Benefits

The learners can get many benefits from this learning including be safe from COVID-19 pandemic affection; be easy to access; save time and cost; get qualified and certified knowledge, credit, and degree equivalency; get new ICT learning experiences; get up-to-date learning materials; and others as below:

Be safe from COVID-19 pandemic affection: the physical or social distance is one of other basic protective measures against COVID-19 pandemic spreading and affecting from one to another or society (WHO, 2020; MH, 2020; MoEYS, 2020a & 2020c). AIB has contemporarily changed their way of learning from face-to-face to online. The results from this implementation, there has been no one of AIB's learners and lecturing staff affected by COVID-19. By the way, they can also participate in preventing this pandemic spreading with the government of Cambodia as well as region and global.

Be easy to access: the learners can access the online class from any convenient, suitable, and available times and places (Smedley, 2010; Pande et al., 2016; Andrews Graham, 2019). The AIB's online learning has been conducted both synchronous and asynchronous learnings through GoToMeeting, Zoom, Google Classroom, Telegram, etc. The synchronous learning is required all learners to attend their classes as schedule. The asynchronous learning is extra supported the learners to access later before the next sessions coming at their available times, in case they do not understand any unit or chapter well, miss the class, and/or have problems with their device or internet connection and ask lecturing staff for more supporting. Furthermore, all AIB's learners can attend in this online class from the countrywide.

Save time and cost: the learners always have monthly expenses and tuition fees for online learning less than face-to-face learning (Da la Varre et al., 2011; Nguyen, 2015). Even though, AIB's learners have kept spending the same tuition and internet fees for online class as physical class, but they can reduce their traveling times (nearly 100%) and save much expenses for petrol, food, drink, and accommodation). The most important thing is that all learners can graduate their degrees as the timelines (2 years for associate's degree and 4 years for bachelor's degree) even during COVID-19 pandemic spreading all over the world.

Earn qualified and certified knowledge, credit, and degree equivalency: many countries over the world have conducted and accredited the online learning since the mid-1990s. Luckily for new generation of Cambodia, the MoEYS has accredited this learning program recently by encouraging all types and levels of educational institutions to conduct online or distance learning (MoEYS, 2020b) and guiding all HEIs to prepare, revise, and develop digital platform for providing e-learning (MoEYS, 2020d) during COVID-19. Moreover, MoEYS has accredited and certified knowledge, credit, and degree provided by those qualified educational institutions. AIB has reviewed and prepared software and hardware infrastructures; management structure for online learning support; capacity development for lecturing staff and management; evaluation of impact and solution; and content development and operation of online learning and then submit to MoEYS as requirement (MoEYS, 2020d). The AIB's learners who take this online learning during COVID-19 pandemic affection can graduate and get the equivalent degrees and/or continue their courses in physical class.

Get new ICT learning experiences: the online learning has provided learners with the significant experiences for applying the ICT learning tools and applications (Wagner et al., 2006; Stone & Perumean-Chaney, 2011; Adekola et al., 2017; Ananga, 2017; Patil & Meena, 2018; Usagawa, 2018). Even though, this online learning is new for AIB's learners, but they have learned and familiarized with all learning applications guided and supported by their lecturing staff and administrative officers from day to day. They have always used their smart devices and learning applications for doing and recording home works, assignments, and projects; sharing and communicating; testing and quizzing; sending files; etc. in each session. These experiences shall be implemented for their present and/or future work and business, especially in the digital era.

Get up-to-date learning materials: using the up-to-date learning materials can significantly enhance and encourage in teaching and learning progress (Cinganotto & Cuccurullo, 2015; Alabbasi, 2017; Uukkivi, 2017; Mwalongo, 2018; Bongomin et al., 2020). AIB has always paid highly attention and prioritized to prepared the learners the multiple learning materials (texts, charts, graphs, maps, photos, animations, audios, videos, syllabi, text books, slide PowerPoints, test banks, quizzes, worksheets, games, etc.) and provided both soft copies and hard copies to the learners via learning applications and/or in place at library as their availability.

AIB's Benefits

Besides, providing the above benefits to the learners, AIB also get many benefits from online learning as brief descriptions below:

Achieve the business plans: despite the physical learning class has been temporarily closed during COVID-19 pandemic, but AIB has style kept providing most of educational and training services to the learners and trainees via online. Since the end of March 2020, AIB has conducted the online learning and training to all learners for academic courses and 248 trainees from ACLEDA Bank Plc. for professional development courses as the timelines of action plans and strategic plans in order to achieve the business plans for 2020.

Provide widely learning network: online learning and training are not a problems for students and trainees to join the same common classes and they can question and answer about their queries from any parts of the local, regional, and/or global (Fish & Wickersham, 2010; Pathak & Vyas, 2019). Even though, the internet connection is slow sometimes, but all AIB's learners for academic programs and short courses as well as trainees from ACLEDA Bank Plc. and other institutions can still access the AIB's online classes from each province in Cambodia can access their online training for professional and refresher courses. Moreover, AIB can also have the wider and unlimited markets for providing the educational services to any parts of the world.

Have more qualified lecturing staff: online teaching requires specific skills and competencies, and lecturing staff cannot be expected to know intuitively how to design and deliver effective online courses (Schmidt et al., 2016; McGee et al., 2017). Facing with this new challenge and the guarantee of excellent educational quality and service, AIB has surveyed training need assessment and conducted many more training courses, workshops, and seminars for developing lecturing staff's capacity on teaching, learning, evaluating, as well as supporting the learners and the relevant applications (Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Classroom, Edmodo, OBS, Telegram, URM, etc.) for online learning. Besides equipping many modern learning materials and tools, AIB has the qualified and certified human resources including providers called lecturing staff and supporters called administrative officers to guarantee online learning programs to operate smoothly and effectively.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Conclusion

  1. The online learning at AIB that could be operated smoothly and effectively are cooperated strongly from many stakeholders comprised of government; providers and suppliers; IT supported teams from ACLEDA Bank Plc. (FinTeach and Digital and Internet Banking) and AIB, the management of both ABC and AIB, and the commitment of lecturing staff, and staff; as well as learners and guardians.
  2. These stakeholders have played the crucial roles in guiding, controlling, supporting, supplying, developing, providing, and consuming this service. These parties have also worked, cooperated, and supported to get the fruitful and fulfilled benefits from each other.
  3. AIB has well prepared by equipping the modern learning materials and tools as well as training human resources for conducting the online learning. Since starting the online learning operations, AIB's lecturing staff have conducted teaching the learners smoothly and effectively as schedule.
  4. The online learning has extremely provided many significant benefits to the AIB's learners such as being safe from COVID-19 pandemic affection; being easy to access; saving time and cost; earning qualified and certified knowledge, credit, and degree equivalency; getting ICT learning experiences as well as the up-to-date learning materials; and others. Moreover, it has also provided many benefits to AIB for achieving the business plans, providing widely learning network, having more qualified lecturing staff, and others.

Recommendation

  1. Our research team would like to suggest MoEYS to keep qualifying and certifying the knowledge, credit, and degree equivalency for the online learning program as other countries over the world, not only during COVID-19.
  2. All stakeholders should keep working, cooperating, and supporting each other to get the fruitful and fulfilled benefits from this online learning with development from time to time for up to dating.
  3. The stakeholders of AIB should continue finding out and equipping more useful learning materials and tools as well as training the lecturing staff how to use online learning materials and tools, especially, how to teach and evaluate the students for online learning in order to quarantine to provide the best educational quality and service.
  4. The stakeholders should keep promoting and launching this online learning adding to the physical learning for any learners who need it even though MoEYS announces to re-open the educational institutions after COVID-19 pandemic spreading has been finished or became normal.
  5. The stakeholders should find out, learn more details, and bring the benefits of online learning to be the basis for making decision and improving work and service qualities as soon as possible to gain maximum benefits and compete with local, regional, and global competitors. Furthermore, they should concentrate on those benefits and bring them for planning and operating the business plans and activities effectively and sustainably.

Acknowledgements

This white paper could not be accomplished without kind supporting from the management of ABC and AIB as well as our IT teams. We would deeply thank them for supporting, inspiring, and commenting us to achieve this paper.

References

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