Learning goes global: NUS launches online courses for learners worldwide

For the module on intercultural communication, Ms Lam interviewed Mr Kartik Krishnamurthy, Managing Director for Asia at Cornerstone OnDemand.  


As a Singaporean working in a Chinese company based in Kenya, Mr Lim Yew Seng is no stranger to dealing with intercultural issues – from adjusting to different habits to changing how he communicates so as to prevent conflicts. 

But it is not always easy. So when he found out that NUS offered an online course that taught effective intercultural communication at work, the 62-year-old jumped at the chance.

“In all the entities I (have) worked in, there have been issues related to intercultural communications,” said Mr Lim, a senior advisor who has spent the last 25 years working in different countries, from Australia to China and now Kenya.

“I attended this course to help me understand more and learn what could be done to better tackle these issues.”

The course is part of eight massive open online courses (MOOCs) offered by NUS since January 2020 on edX, a learning platform founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The MOOCs are open to learners worldwide.

Staff and students can also access more than 2,000 free online courses offered by over 120 global institutional partners on edX, with undergraduates having the option of counting completed MOOCs as part of their Unrestricted Elective requirements.

“Through this partnership, NUS staff and students can engage in interdisciplinary learning, and be equipped with future-ready skills for the workforce,” said Associate Professor Erle Lim, NUS Vice Provost (Teaching Innovation & Quality).

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(From left to right): Ms Sim, Ms Luu and Ms Lam helm the course “Intercultural Communication at Work – Land the Job & Do it Well”


Improving workplace communications

The course attended by Mr Lim is “Intercultural Communication at Work – Land the Job & Do it Well”, which is helmed by Ms Aileen Lam, Ms Jodie Luu and Ms Sylvia Sim from the NUS Centre for English Language Communication.

It provides a fillip to those navigating their professional life. Participants learn how to craft a resume and LinkedIn profile, before learning about teamwork, conflict management and persuasive presentation.

On why they developed this course, Ms Lam explained: “We believe that getting a job is only the start of a person’s career, and the ability to communicate their personal brand and engage in effective interpersonal communication at work is key to their career advancement.”

More than 600 participants from 83 countries attended the six-week course over July and August.

To cater to different needs, the instructors designed each topic as a standalone unit. For example, fresh graduates can focus on resume writing and interview skills and go on to other topics if time permits.

In Mr Lim’s case, he learned that management guidelines should not be followed blindly. “What could supplement these guidelines is perhaps the need for balancing and acknowledging cultural diversity of the group being managed,” he said.

A clinician's guide to befriending children

The MOOCs not only help people deal with colleagues, but children too. For healthcare workers wanting to learn how to placate children in medical settings, Dr Hu Shijia’s course – “Handling Children In A Healthcare Setting” – offers proven techniques.

Aimed at dental and medical students, and practitioners, the self-paced course, which starts from November 2, discusses children development and behaviour through lectures and promote experiential learning through scenario-based lessons.

For instance, participants will learn a “show, tell, do” method to talk to children, explaining and demonstrating medical procedures to allay their fears.

“One of the most difficult things to teach is behavioural management of young children,” said Dr Hu, an assistant professor at the Faculty of Dentistry, which jointly developed the MOOC with the Department of Paediatrics at Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. “So many things can trigger them, like the machines. We show that it’s not threatening to build their confidence.”

Participants will also get to observe how clinicians interact with children in role-playing videos that portray good and bad examples, and step into the shoes of children in a clinical setting via a virtual reality-enabled lesson.

Assistant Professor Miller delivering his module.


Building with data

Another interesting MOOC course is “Data Science for Construction, Architecture and Engineering”, conducted by Assistant Professor Clayton Miller from the School of Design and Environment’s Department of Building.

With more than 10 years of industry experience, he realised that large amounts of data were wasted after being used in design, construction and operations – the lifecycle of a building.

This data, he believes, could be further analysed and used for future projects through coding. For example, architects can extract this data and analyse them in ways that spreadsheets cannot. They can also use coding software to create hundreds of design variations for clients.

“The course focuses on hybrid skill sets instead of pure data science in the context of the building industry,” said Dr Miller. “From (participants’) feedback, they want to try to differentiate themselves from peers in the industry.”

First launched in April, the course has attracted more than 11,000 participants. Among them is final-year Project and Facilities Management student Raymond Lim, who enrolled from early July to late August.

“The module will be highly applicable when I need to analyse the building data of the facility I am managing. This data will be able to generate actionable insights,” he said.

For participants like Raymond and Mr Lim, these MOOCs offer a broader as well as deeper set of skills that will boost their performance in the workplace.