Assessment of Diversity Through Student Isolation: Qualitative Investigation of Academic, Social, and Emotional Isolation

Assessment of Diversity Through Student Isolation: Qualitative Investigation of Academic, Social, and Emotional Isolation

S. Vighnarajah (English Language and Communication Department, UCSI University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) and Lim Shing Yu Jolene (English Language and Communication Department, UCSI University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
DOI: 10.4018/IJTEPD.2018070101

Abstract

As higher education institutions grow as a commodity with diversified groups of local and international students, it is imperative for students, educators and policy makers to identify and address concerns that might arise from such amalgamation of cultures and experiences. In light of this interest, this article shares qualitative findings on how experiences of student isolation can cause deleterious effects on students' university learning experiences. In-depth interviews were conducted with a total of five Malaysian and International students to discuss their student isolation experiences and how it engaged them in the overall university learning experience. The findings disclosed key factors that can potentially cause student isolation in aspects of academic, social and emotional development, and these key factors were critically examined to identify mitigation measures. Findings from this study addressed clear evidence to how student isolation can negatively affect one's university learning experience, especially among international students who are not used to diverse education process, curriculum and expectations. UCSI University anchors great depth of interest in engaging students on holistic and successful university learning experience to ensure holistic development of graduates.
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Introduction

UCSI University has been a melting pot for students and educators since its establishment in 1986 with a diversified group of more than 10,000 students from 80 different countries worldwide are here today to pursue their dreams in one of Malaysia’s top leading private universities. Academic staffs in UCSI University share the same background as their students where a diversified cultural background of the staff added more valuable industrial and teaching experiences to immerse students into real-life situations and to conduct classes effectively and efficiently. Foreign partnerships between foreign institutions and UCSI University are also a highlight in its academic field that allow students to further their studies in world renowned education providers, such as University of Melbourne and RMIT University in Australia.

As a Praxis University, UCSI University has long been known for its strongly developed university-industry engagement where more than 2,500 corporations worldwide are industrial partners of its Co-op programme, including British Malaysian Chamber of Commerce, Astro, Ernst and Young and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. This is a clear indication that students’ academic performances are valued as much as their abilities to apply theoretical knowledge in related fields for UCSI University is the first university in South East Asia region to introduce Co-operative Education Placement Programme in its academic programmes. With a balanced combination of theoretical learning as well as practical application, UCSI University provides an optimum environment for students to maximize their university learning experiences in their process of learning.

These various measures of diversity resulted in a diverse university learning experience for students starting from their first commencement in the university right up to the completion of their programme. University learning experiences are vital for students to maximize their gains in their course of study through three main aspects: (i) academic, (ii) social and (iii) emotion. Each of them are interconnected and yet independent at the same time as students experience and engage in learning anywhere and anytime. The quality of these diverse experiences plays a major role in students’ performances as these aspects are important in tertiary education. Student learning experiences in UCSI University are gained by students through these three aspects within three to four years of their studies.

Diverse Academic Learning Experience

UCSI University’s academic experiences include group assignments, class participation, extracurricular activities and library information searching which students are required to complete and equip as basic requirements for graduation. Group assignments require students to work as a group of three to any numbers of students as instructed by the lecturer and produce works that show team work and equal contribution from each member, which pose a higher need of communication skills as well as time management to students involved. Class participation allows students to raise their questions to lecturers and to demonstrate their understandings of the subject matter by responding to the instructor’s question or request. Engagement between students and lecturers bridge the gap of assumptions made by both parties to achieve better efficiency in the learning process. Extracurricular activities have gained attention in the academic field in recent years as educators realized the importance for students to learn beyond the classroom where skills and knowledge not printed on books are accessible in real-time events, such as sports clubs and facilitation programme. Lastly, library information searching allows students to access resources via printed books in the library or e-books on UCSI University’s Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC). Information searching requires students to be aware of key words of book or journal titles and to be able to skim through resources to select useful materials for their needs.

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