Taylor’s University winning delegation at the Education Minister’s Special Award Ceremony: Innovative Curriculum Design and Delivery (AKRI) 2019.

HAVING industry-relevant curricula and programmes as well as innovative pedagogy that is engaging and meaningful to students makes for impactful student experience at higher education institutions.

An example of how this is achieved can be seen through the implementation of a programme called the Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Culinology) offered by Taylor’s University — a transdisciplinary course that combines three core disciplines: culinary arts, food science and food technology.

Recently named the winner of the Innovative Programme category at the Education Minister’s Special Award Ceremony: Innovative Curriculum Design and Delivery (AKRI) 2019, the programme is aimed to provide graduates with the skills and knowledge that would help advance food product innovation and development here in Malaysia.

Programme director Dr Chong Li Choo said the Culinology programme is able to bridge the current gaps between culinary and food science programmes which respectively focuses on either skill or theory as it focuses on both arts and sciences.

Dr Chong Li Choo assessing a test product by Culinology students.

“Currently, consumers globally want to purchase food that is safe, nutritious, convenient and delicious. The work environment at the moment sees a chef work together with a food scientist or technologist to come up with products that meet the people’s needs. With this degree, this now can be done by a Culinologist as they have the knowledge and skill required; from nutrition to food safety regulations,” she explained.

Dr Chong Li Choo.

Throughout the four-year course, students learn about the different stages behind food innovation and development from market and consumer research and ideation to commercial product formulation and product launch.

“In addition to growing our student’s awareness on the different stages of the sector, we also place great emphasis on student-centered learning and industry-based learning,” she said.

First introduced at Taylor’s University in 2011, Culinology is touted as the first and only such degree programme in Asia with its structure and programme education outcome recognised by the Research Chef Association, a global professional community for food research and development based in the United States (US).

“Taylor’s University needs to ensure that our curriculum is in line with standards set by the RCA Higher Education Committee. As the programme director and a member of the committee, I am required to attend the annual summit in Chicago to review the curriculum design, share good practices in order to ensure that the programme remains relevant,” said Chong.

She highlighted that since opening its doors in August 2011, the programme have had a healthy student population. The programme has produced 135 graduates thus far and 99 students are going through the programme.

“Our graduates, who have had a 100 per cent employability rate due to strength of their qualification, have created and launched healthy, nutritious food products not only in Malaysia but in the US. We believe that as food product developers, we play a major role and responsibility in improving the food product quality and safety for our people. We have also consistently won and secured the championship in national and international food product development competitions. This is testament to the high quality of our Culinology students and our programme curriculum design which, I’m proud to share, is used as the benchmark by South West Minnesota University, for example,” she said.

Of future plans, Chong said Taylor’s University is looking to set up Asia’s first Culinology Hub.

By establishing this centre, she said that Malaysia will be able to take the lead as the leading research centre in food innovation and development.

At AKRI 2019, Taylor’s University also took top prize for the Immersive Learning (Fully Online) category for its innovative approach to teaching the Pengajian Malaysia (Malaysian Studies) 3 module.

Taylor’s University Centre for Future Learning Content Transformation senior e-specialist lead, Enna Ayub shared her joy about their approach — the 21st Century Virtual Classroom for Education 4.0 — being recognised at national level.

Enna Ayub

“The nature of the Malaysian Studies 3 module can be quite heavy on those taking it. We have been looking at ways of making it more engaging for the learner. The rapid rise of advances in technology has brought about new tools to make teaching more innovative but the academics involved in teaching this subject wanted to ensure that our students were on the receiving end of a sound learning and pedagogical approach.

“We took the step of teaching this module — which includes topics like the Malaysian Federal Constitution, the integration of society and nation, thoughts and beliefs in Malaysia and much more — fully online. However, we wanted to ensure that our students remain connected to their peers and course instructor, because we have observed that students can feel isolated in a fully online model,” she related.

For the subject, Enna and her team members drew up the learning design strategy using the 4M approach — Meaningful, Memorable, Motivational and Measurable.

“The two lecturers involved in the teaching of this subject first made it a point to meet up with each of their students in class so that they can establish the connection,” Enna said.

In that first session, the lectures would share insights about the engagement activities in TIMeS (Taylor’s Integrated Moodle e-Learning System) VLE (virtual learning environment)in the classroom and guide the students on how to complete their exercises. This was then followed by a fully online lecture/tutorial which allows students to use tools like VR (virtual reality), Forum, Journal and Wiki for their class activities.

“Once our students develop an aptitude in those areas, we adopt a more self-directed approach to the learning journey which will see our students complete the e-activities and learn collaboratively using the tools in TIMeS VLE on their own. With Workshop, our students grade their peer’s assignments as well as the act of evaluation itself using a set of rubrics shared by the course instructor. Project-based learning ensures learners can apply the knowledge learnt and work in a team to complete a project,” she elaborated.

In the fully online environment, Enna explained learners can learn in a flexible manner, using their own smart devices. Furthermore, digital badges which are used to award student’s completion of a learning milestone can also be used to motivate learners to participate actively in class.

“Digital badges also make the transferable skills more visible and can be shared in online social networking sites like LinkedIn for their future portfolio. The completion badge is also backed by blockchain technology, which guarantees its authenticity,” she said.

“Our students love to learn in a flexible manner and we continually work on improving the delivery of instruction by conducting a focus group with student cohorts so that they have a chance to voice out their views on the learning they want to have for this module.”

Under the Taylor’s Curriculum Framework, Enna said there will be more courses that will be taught in this manner.

“We are also in the midst of finalising a framework of learning design strategy which will ease the transformation of modules from face-to-face to the fully online mode and support our academics in the process with the know-how they would need in the process,” she said.

Taylor’s School of Engineering came in second for its innovative approach to education in the Innovative Programme category at AKRI 2019. Taylor’s also placed second in the Immersive Learning (face-to-face category) and third in the Immersive Learning (blended category).

Taylor’s University vice-chancellor and president, Professor Michael Driscoll, said the institution has a great team of academics who constantly seek to reinvent their modules and ensure that they deliver their lessons in an innovative manner.

“Their efforts to curate subjects in a manner that is relevant for students of the day are the bedrock of our institution and having it acknowledged at a national level in this way makes the effort more meaningful,” he said.