A guide to flexible learning options in Malaysia

With the advent of new technology and innovation for more efficient learning, higher education institutions have transitioned away from exclusively offering traditional brick-and-mortar options. For busy adult learners on their way to finding the best approach towards career progression, this is a real blessing. Pursuing a flexible learning option seems like the only way forward for many people struggling with jobs and families.

70% of working adults want flexibility, and it’s no surprise why. We are often busy with life, but both studying and working are crucial yet challenging additions to the many priorities on our list.  It’s a good thing that Malaysia, like many other developing countries, has adopted a host of flexible learning options for students to consider. Let’s first define flexible learning as a concept and take a look at some of the main learning types that might suit your preferences.

What is flexible learning?

Here’s a simple description; flexible learning is an academic or educational process that grants its participants freedom from certain limitations. This could be in terms of the time in which the participant must conduct his or her studies, the location where studying takes place, or the pace in which studies must be completed. At its core, the flexible learning option differentiates itself from the rigidity of traditional education institutions in many ways. Thus, the term can be used broadly to depict various types of learning arrangements. 

Certain facilities may offer online learning platforms for instance, where students can submit course work, obtain modules and interact with lecturers all through one interface. Other institutions may require you to attend physical classes with the option of choosing your hours and university campus. Your decision will be based on what flexibility means to you, and how much of it you really need to complete your studies.

Flexible learning options in Malaysia

Now that we have a basic understanding of what flexible learning is, let’s delve into the different options available in Malaysia:

1. Full Online Learning

Full Online Learning refers to a way of learning that is predominantly remote in nature. This means you can study without being in regular face-to-face contact with educators in a conventional classroom. There was a time when Full Online Learning was known only as Distance Education or Distance Learning, and while students were not needed to be physically present at school, the only way to study was to enrol in correspondence courses where students communicated with schools via snail mail.

Of course, the popularity and rise of the internet changed this foundation. Full Online Learning is now a relatively new way of learning through the combination of innovative technology and flexible teaching techniques. More importantly, Full Online Learning offers flexibility in terms of where and when you want to study, since all of it is done over the internet.

Universities that offer this learning mode usually include a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses which follow a similar semester arrangement process as conventional full-time courses. The only difference is that everything is done completely online.

2. Part-time Learning

Some full-time universities in Malaysia also offer the option of studying on a part-time basis. This is the second option for flexible learning and while it is a far simpler concept, the part-time approach to studying has worked for students who are not interested in online adoption and would rather opt for face-to-face interaction.

However, this is also considered the least flexible and more challenging approach to adopt into busy working life. The process of part-time learning in Malaysian universities follows a pre-fixed schedule that accommodates students who don’t have time to enrol in full-time classes. Some countries may follow more flexible schedules due to a higher frequency of intakes. Otherwise, the schedule will be based on an agreement between students and institutions, so long as it matches the required amount of hours to ultimately complete the course.

This means that students must follow these pre-fixed schedules on a part-time basis and for the working adult, this usually means attending extra classes on the weekends. In this regard, this option offers a minimal amount of flexibility, offering a slightly different derivation from full-time schedules to suit busy adult learners who are willing to study on the weekends. The part-time arrangement is not feasible for many students and can be very strenuous on an individual’s freedom or routine structure on a weekly basis.

3. Blended Learning

Blended learning models can be described as a hybrid approach for the best of both worlds. It offers flexibility in the form of virtual classes while also adhering to a good support system for working adults. Between going to classes for face-to-face sessions and online interaction, Blended Learning combines online education processes with traditional classroom attendance. 

Now, Online Blended Learning exists, as seen in MSU’s CEdEC (The Continuing & Extended Education Centre), a 5-star rated flexi-option in Malaysia that provides Virtual Classroom features for students to meet their attendance requirements from anywhere. Examples of academic environments that offer Blended Learning options include learning stations, labs and flipped classrooms where learners can practice modules of the lesson before attending any face-to-face or virtual training session.

In a sense, Blended Learning offers all the good from both the new and the old, taking into account every learner. Whether students are familiar with conventional classroom arrangements or would rather learn online, or try a combination of both approaches, Blended Learning utilises different methodologies so that course modules can be customised for optimal learning efficiency.

In essence, the Blended Learning approach has been used by learners and educationists for the past decade now, being organically adopted as a way to use learning tools inside and outside of the classroom. In fact, corporate learning sectors are warming up to this concept, as well as the rest of the world ever since the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the education industry as a whole.

If you’re willing to try your hand at an incredibly versatile Blended Learning approach for your journey into flexible learning, then MSU CEdEC (Continuing and Extended Education Centre) – the only 5-star university for working adults – is designed to perfectly fit into your working lifestyle all while maintaining the quality of education that you need to further your professional attributes. The Centre has the highest graduation rates in the industry and is backed by MSU – a full-time award-winning uni that has Professors, researchers and senior lecturers with PhDs.

MSU CEdEC offers virtual classroom attendance for convenient face-to-face learning, a comprehensive list of online resources for your self-study needs, full flexibility so you can study at your own pace, and even peer-to-peer study opportunities so you can learn, share and grow together with students from various working experiences and backgrounds.

Pros and Cons

Full Online Learning – Flexible Yet Flawed

In general, Full Online Learning offers the ultimate measure of flexibility when it comes to giving you full reign over when, where and how to study. This learning approach offers a potpourri of benefits like accessibility and complete technological empowerment to meet the needs of adult learners. However, this comes at a cost, as attrition or dropout rates can be alarmingly high when it comes to self-directed online learning. 

According to Ormon Simpson from Times Higher Education, graduation rates in most online programmes can be much lower than in conventional education programmes. He calls it the “distance education deficit” (DED) and points to the international programmes of the University of London as a direct example of this phenomenon. Ormon stated that when identical courses were presented in the conventional approach and purely online approach, the online setting led to a 16% graduation rate compared to 62% from conventional learning. The DED, in this case, was seen in a 46% percentage point difference.

This is due to the digital exclusivity of the concept of Full Online Learning, where students are essentially left to their own devices. They have to build their own schedule, manage their own time and completely rely on their own capacity to learn without much support from experienced lecturers, education experts or guides. What’s more, there could be a problem with complacency since students might slack off due to a lack of constant communication from peers or teachers. As a direct result, quite a number of students end up failing to graduate. 

They fall short on results due to a lack of complete understanding, a lack of feeling accountable for their dedication to the work involved or are overwhelmed by the arduous and lonely task of finishing the long course. Other unrelated factors may include financial constraints or major life events.

Richard Garrett, the chief research officer at Eduventures, released another report that showed full online courses increasing enrolment rates but not graduation rates. Many experts believe that online courses must be engaging or involve personalised interaction and support from more student services than those offered in traditional settings. This points to the engaging online and traditional mix of Blended Learning as being the answer to the increasing graduation rates.

Part-time Learning – Often shunned by adult learners

While some students may choose part-time courses because they are comfortable with keeping to a standard timeline of class hours, most adult learners shun the part-time process due to the challenge of juggling between classes and work or family life. They are able to spread out the hours of class needed each week to study on weekends for instance, but they will still have to complete a fixed amount of hours in order to graduate.

Obviously, this is considered a stress-inducing alternative for many aspiring learners. While it offers some flexibility in terms of structuring time, there’s still an obligation to fulfil the same amount of attendance as full-time studies. In comparison, students who enrol for CEdEC’s Blended Learning option will attend fewer classes as they are expected to commit to some level of self-studying, which is much more lax.

Blended Learning – A balance of accountability and flexibility

Blended Learning is not the ultimate form of flexible learning, but that’s not a bad thing. As seen with the low graduation rates of Full Online Learning, it’s clear that an overabundance of flexibility and freedom has its costs. 

So what does Blended Learning offer? 

It offers balance – An integration between accountability and flexibility for success. Students are able to implement flexible learning structures into their hectic lives through a hybrid of digital and traditional tools. They are not left to their own devices because Blended Learning has compulsory classes (either physically or virtually) to attend. A controlled academic environment with interactions between peers and lecturers keeps accountability high and graduation rates at an optimal level. 

At the same time, students of Blended Learning courses spend fewer class hours in total compared to part-time learners, since Blended Learners are expected to self-study through some modules. In the end, Blended Learning tackles major issues that both Full Online and part-time learners face. There’s less chance of dropping out because you will be guided and held accountable for academic interactions in classes, and there’s less strain on weekly routines because you spend less time in class compared to part-time learners. 

MSU CEdEC has a graduation rate of 98%, which is considered one of the highest among universities for working adults.  What’s more, CEdEC offers classes on a virtual basis to provide even more remote flexibility.

Choosing a suitable learning style

When it comes to picking from the options in Malaysia, your preferences, personal lifestyle and profession must be considered to make the right decision. Here are a few factors faced by most working adults.

Career enhancement:

Does your profession currently require an academic qualification before you can be considered for a promotion? It’s best that you look into the different courses that can help you rise up in rank in your field or industry. For example, some courses are more specific and suited for corporate purposes and not all universities provide them. It’s important to do your own research.


Some people choose courses or flexible learning options based on a specific budget. Money is an important factor and should be considered during your search for the best flexible education. Most flexible learning options are considerably cheaper than full-time options, so this factor comes down to specific amounts that must be compared personally. Learning centres like MSU CEdEC offer financial assistance in the form of PTPTN loans, EPF withdrawals, bank loans or even instalment payment schemes to help lessen the friction of budgetary constraints.

Discipline and work ethic:

Be honest with yourself. Do you have a high amount of discipline and work ethic to commit to a completely online flexible learning course? Not many people can manage their work without restrictions. It’s normal to start missing deadlines and falling back on studies with Full Online Learning. In this case, Blended Learning may be a better option for you.

Quality of education:

How much does the quality of the education and institution facilities matter to you? Are you interested in pursuing courses with interesting peers, professors with PhDs and comprehensive resources? If so, you may be suited for a Blended Learning approach offered by options like MSU CEdEC which offer these perks.