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KUMPULAN JURNAL PENDIDIKAN BAHASA INGGRIS THE PRACTICES OF PARTNERSHIP AND NETWORKING SYSTEMS IN DEVELOPING AND ASSURING THE QUALITY OF FINAL TASK PROGRAM IN AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION AND COMMUNICATION STUDY PROGRAM AT UNIVERSITAS TERBUKA, INDONESIA


Introduction

The establishment of Universitas Terbuka becomes taken into consideration by society due to its open and distance education systems offered.  These special characteristics well suited to Indonesian archipelago, which consists of thousand of islands spread all over the region. UT also provides more study programs to reach the remote area students with different backgrounds and professions all over the nation. Presently, UT offers many study programs under the four faculties: 1) Teacher Education, 2) Mathematics and Natural Sciences, 3) Social and Political Sciences, and 4) Economics. One of the study programs in the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences is Agricultural Extension and Communication (AEC) Study Program, which related to the development of agricultural sector especially in improving agricultural human resources competencies.  The AEC study program is a bachelor degree program established in 2004.   It offers education especially for agricultural extension workers to improve their knowledge and abilities, in either three subject of extension, agriculture, animal husbandry or fishery.

Agriculture is a potential sector in Indonesia to support the national development, 15, 9% GDP comes from agriculture, with more than 50% people work in this field (BPS, 2004).  In accordance to the rapid development of sciences and technologies, diversity of information, global market competition, and then agriculture sector requires competence human resources who can easily adapt and exploit chances and opportunities to give fully participation in the agriculture development.  Promoting agriculture to be one of the great sectors in the national development, it needs improvement the quality of human resources especially the farmers. To improve the quality of farmers can be achieved by provision of the agricultural extension workers who have certain qualifications and meet all the requirements (Harijati, et al., 2006).

The role of agriculture extension workers is agents of changes for the farmers. Their main function is empowering   farmers by providing non-formal education so that farmers gain improvement of their knowledge and have a better life sustainable.  In practice, agricultural extension workers can be as a motivator, educator, facilitator, dynamisator, organizator, or as a consultant for farmers and farmers group (Setijorini, et al., 2004).  They have to accommodate between agricultural problems faced by farmers and appropriate technologies to solve farmer’s problems.  Therefore, in order to play their roles, the competencies of agricultural extension workers should be improved as well in accordance to the development of their environment.

Presently, there are approximately 28,504 agricultureextension workers in Indonesia (Deptan, 2007). However, there are only 8,028 workers who have a bachelor degree or higher. This condition is far from sufficient numbers to provide competence agricultural extension workers.   They live in diverse location spread all over the region, full time workers and family commitment, far from service points and education institutions; have cost constraint and time limitation.  Therefore, the establishment of AEC study program can be an alternative education for extension workers to advance their competencies by using distance education methods.

Agricultural Extension and Communication at Universitas Terbuka


The establishment of AEC Study Program is to provide a bachelor degree program for agricultural extension workers to improve their capabilities to become expert in their fields.  The primary role of extension worker is an agent of change, that is to help farmers in changing their  behavior to always improve their competencies and  attempt to have a better life sustainable (Slamet, 2001). The extension workers responsibilities are: 1) to help farmers identify their problems, 2) to help in solving farmer’s problems, therefore usually extension worker lives close to the village, 3) to accommodate the development of science, technology and latest information, and 5) to transform relevant technology and information to solve farmer’s problems, e.g. by using adoption innovation process.

To be a successful agent of change for individual farmer or farmers group, every agricultural extension worker has to establish and maintain joint cooperation with other institutions. This collaboration can build an ideal agricultural extension system (Figure 2). Therefore, an extension worker should possess and mastering several competencies in critical thinking, analyzing, problem solving, evaluating, and giving alternative solutions to current agricultural problems based on  theoretical concepts and relevant learning experiences. Those competencies can be developed by attending formal education through a bachelor degree program.
s. Therefore, the final task program is a final tool to assess and measure core competencies of students in UT. The implementation of final task program in UT is designed to meet special characteristics of ODE system, students characteristics, and environmental of study. UT should maintain and assure the quality of every study program management, starts from developing curriculum, providing appropriate learning process, providing regular examination, and finally conducting an essay comprehensive examination for final task program.

The main purpose of this article is to share author’s experiences in ensuring the quality of delivering final task program, especially ensuring the quality of its comprehensive test development in the AEC study program. These efforts can be conducted by maintaining and strengthening partnerships and networking systems among ODE institutions and other stakeholders.  Also, the authors would like to obtain some suggestions in order to improve the quality on administering final task program at UT.  High quality of the test development of the final task program will ensure quality of their graduates.

Administering Final Task Program

Final task program is a learning process offered to students to practice their understanding by thinking critically to the problems found in the community, and employing appropriate practices in certain field of their study. By conducting final task program students are practiced to summarize, to analyze, and to solve problems faced in the community (UT, 2005). The objective of final task program is to measure student competencies in creatively implementing various concepts and learning experiences to solve problems faced in the fields and community. Therefore, Final Task Program can become an academic screening to evaluate appropriateness of students to have a bachelor degree.

Compares to other regular course examinations, final task program has several specific characteristics, e.g.: conducted at the end of study, consists of comprehensive subject, an essay test that covers actual agricultural cases, issues, or current problems. Therefore, some modifications have been made to conduct final task program. Criteria for quality assurance in conducting final task program are presented in Table 2. It consists of some criteria in administrative management and in academic management. Ensuring quality of all the criteria will assure the quality of comprehensive final task program at whole. Moreover, this will impact on the high quality of their graduates.

Table 2. Criteria for Quality Assurance of Final Task Program

No

Criteria

Administrative Management

Academic Management
1.       
Selection for  qualified students
Writing outline for final test exams
2.       
Student registration
Writing final comprehensive exam item test
3.       
Technical tutorial management
Writing tutorials’ guidance in writing scientific paper
4.       
Schedule of examination management
Guidance & Tutorials
5.       
Printing and distributions of  comprehensive test documents
Evaluation and supervision to several locations of examinations
6.       
Technical management of  student answer documents
Verification of Student scientific Paper
7.       
Administrative Evaluation
Evaluation of Final Test Exams
Source:  UT (2005)

The administering of Final Task Program in the AEC study program was begun in 2005. It consists of an essay comprehensive examination test and a suggestion for writing scientific paper. Students received guidance to write scientific paper several months prior to the comprehensive examination (Indrawati, 2005); therefore, student’ abilities in writing scientific paper can be used as an academic preparation before students take the comprehensive examination. Unfortunately, because of technical reasons and lack of human resources in the regional offices, UT only maintains the comprehensive examinations test to assess final task program. On the other hand, AEC study program still seeking to develop many alternative forms of final task program which suitable for student’ conditions and ODE characteristics.  Starts on 2007 UT provides on-line tutorial of final task program which assists students in writing scientific paper so that they are able to practice in thinking critically, analyzing, and solving agricultural problems faced.  

Quality Assurance in 
Developing Test of Final Task Program

Quality of education means that educational institutions become providers of educational services in which its activities are based on customers needs.  Customers are a group of society who is having an interest to the outputs of the education institution, directly or indirectly.   Customers could be the institutions that are having needs of competence graduates that correspond to their educational background and the degree achieved (Soehendro, 1996).  Farmer’s society and Ministry of Agriculture are the customers of the AEC study program of UT.  Therefore, these customers are determining the graduate’s quality of the AEC study program at UT.  They require graduates in the form of specific competency in order to increase graduates performance, benefits, and profitable contributions.

Employing Partnership and Networking Systems

In Open and Distance Education System

Establishing and maintaining the quality assurance of comprehensive test of the final task program was accomplished through internal and external mechanisms.  Internally, the comprehensive test development of final task program centralized by a certain team made of academic staff at AEC study program of UT’s head office.  The team consists of independence elements such as item test writers, reviewers, and evaluators of student performances.  The role of the team is internally assuring the “content” quality and accountability of the comprehensive examination test.   Some external elements were involved as well in the process of assuring the quality of test development of the final task program through interaction, partnership, and networking systems with other ODE institutions and related organizations. 

Presently, the main institutions collaborated with AEC study program of UT are: (1) other overseas ODE Institutions; (2) conventional universities: (3) Ministry of Agriculture; (4) Ministry of National Education; and (5) Farmer Groups (Harijati, 2001).  This collaboration provides information on the experiences and comprehensive test development of final task program (Table 3).  Interaction is the key to a quality distance education in this latter stage of development.  Therefore, the distance education development needs to shift toward greater interaction in its distance-learning environments in order to provide quality distance-learning resource to the ever-increasing demand of students (Yang, 2005). 

Table 3. UT’s collaborated institutions and information provided

No
Institution
Informations’ provided
1.      
ODE Institutions
·         experiences on the comprehensive test development of final task program examination
·         models on administering the final task program examination
·         benchmarks in developing comprehensive test of final task program based on ODE system
·         becomes a partner to similar study program offered by other ODE institution
2.      
Conventional Universities
·         information concerned with research finding on new theoretical concepts, student needs, and agricultural community needs
·         the curriculum structure of AEC study program
·         comparative study with other similar study program 
·         science and technology in agricultural extension development and information development
3.      
Ministry of Agriculture
·         current issues in agricultural development and agricultural extension
·         agricultural development policies
·         number, characteristics, and roles of extension workers
·         agricultural extension workers needs in HRD
·         local curriculum courses needed by local agricultural community
4.      
Ministry of Education
core curriculum for agriculture extension which derived from the national curriculum
5.      
Farmer Groups
·         farmer needs in HRD and empowerment
·         currents problems in facing science and technology development and information development

Partnership and networking systems with other institutions were employing in order to accumulate information related with several indicators of the qualified and accountable ”content” of the comprehensive test.  Those indicators are: (1) rising current issues problems faced in agricultural extension practices; (2) applying the newest comprehensive and appropriate concepts and theories in agricultural extension; (3) analyzing present agricultural development policies; (4) accommodating science and technology improvements in agricultural extension; (5) accommodating science and technology improvements in open and distance education; (6) selecting and adopting other open and distance education practices in developing final task program; and (7) motivating peer groups among examination and evaluation designers. 

Current issues and problems faced in agricultural extension practices

Evolution of agricultural science and technology influences its implementation in the field.  More over, this could raise problems within farmer’s level, and change agricultural society needs.  Encountering with this situations, as a change agent, an agricultural extension worker has to be able in describing and analyzing problems and changes faced by farmers and able to provide appropriate alternative solutions.  A comprehensive test, which accommodates such real agricultural issues, can be used as a practical media for students.  Information about the current agricultural issues or problems can be accessed directly from Ministry of Agriculture and its technical units and from farmers and their groups.  That information also could be access through printed and electronic media. 

Course materials novelty and quality

The quality of course learning materials is determined by the novelty of the content, which added all the time.  In fact, conducting revision of learning materials was not an easy procedure since it is a long process and time consuming.  Unless, the course desaigner and writer continuously make available of a course materials complement in order to enhance the quality and novelty of the course materials.  Therefore, the writer of comprehensive test of final task program has to be active in searching the newest course materials that will be accommodated into the development of comprehensive test of final task program.  By completing this type of test, students will practice the process of critically thinking, analyzing, and solving the agricultural problems; students prepare themselves in facing the real work as well.  The subject maters novelty and quality is gathered through partnership with ODE institutions and other universities; this can be accessed by searching electronic journal, attending seminar, and inviting the content expert.  

Agricultural Developments Policies
Agriculture is the ultimate sector for Indonesian welfare, since there are more than 50 percents of citizen working in the agriculture field.  An agricultural extension worker should recognize and understand every policy in agricultural developments and specifically in agricultural extension.  By accommodating every agricultural policy, an agricultural extension worker will be able synergizing every agricultural policy with farmers needs in order to solve their problems.  Therefore, the writer of comprehensive test of the final task program should be able presenting those relevant policies in the essay comprehensive test that needs students’ attention.  This type of comprehensive test will also give practice to students in analyzing every agricultural policies and able to translate them so that farmers able to follow them.  The documents of agricultural policies are easily accessed from Ministry of Agriculture through partnership, which technically could be conducted through seminar and electronic media.

Agricultural Science and Technology Development
Science and technology evolve so fast that information became complicated and prompted to access.  Moreover, society is influenced in a way that their needs are changing and their problems becoming so complex as well.  This situation should be followed by society ability in getting information in a profitable way, unless they will be left behind.  Comprehensive test writers of final task program are able to access the information of science and technology evolutions through direct interaction to the content expert in a certain field, attend seminar and technology exposition, and access to online and printed journals.  The comprehensive test writers of final task program has to be able measuring students competencies in countenancing with this evolution era which will influence their ability in making available of information and innovation to the farmers.    

ODE Systems Development
The most significant impact of the development and innovations on the open and distance education are making use of different kinds of media in transforming the knowledge.  This impact can be found out from the provision of virtual laboratory, different kinds of course learning materials, online tutorials, and online examinations.  This evolution provides wide opportunities to society in remote area to continue their study and convince their belief in using the open and distance education system.  Due to the easiness in accessing the amount of content materials throughout the world, then the comprehensive test writers should have an adequate amount of knowledge from other ODE in providing different kind of final task program models to students.  Strengthening internal partnership among units at UT and among other ODE institutions through online partnership allow the test writers of final task program provide qualified test not only in a comprehensive examination format but in a writing scientific paper as well.

Discussion among examination and evaluation designers will provides constructive ideas about test developments, implementation models of the final task program, current issues, and important contents.  A peer group is consists of ODE staff members not always from a similar university but they could be from a different university.    Discussion among the members spread from subject matter into test constructions process on final task program, carried out by electronic media. 

As communication and information technologies evolves, open and distance education staff have benefits in bringing together the most recent and accurate substance immediately.  Therefore, utilizing different kind of Medias became a must for the staff and the students as well.  For example: The electronic media is employed in order to provide student services (learning manuals, on-line tutorial, and on-line discussion forum among students).  Employing electronic media became one of the ODE characteristics in continuing partnership and networking systems.   However, only people can make qualified and accountable test of final task program into reality.  Therefore, commitment and “open minded” of the comprehensive test writers are the most important think in order to enrich the construction of the test.   Availability and effortless access to such all things without staff supports by working and resulting the best for UT, then partnership and networking systems between UT and other institutions and the evolution of science and technology as well would never give any positive influences for UT’ quality improvement.  

Maintaining and strengthening partnership and networking systems will provide benefits for UT in enhancing the quality of education provided.  Accessing information can be easier, faster, and more accurate information.  Employing partnership and networking means breaking the boundaries of time and spaces, and building cultures of “quality” throughout ODE organization worldwide as well.  Quality assurance must be the essential activities for UT to carry out in this global era since robust competition taken place in daily activities.  Quality assurance became a standard for customers and society in continuing to make use of the open and distance education programs offered by UT; quality assurance means quality of graduates who will be competence working in their fields.  Hopefully, UT’s effort in implementing quality assurance of its study programs offered will guarantee UT’s roles in educating society. 

Conclusion

This article gives emphasis on the importance of maintaining and improving partnership and networking systems among open and distance education institutions and related stakeholders in order to develop and assure the quality of final task program implementation which will guarantee graduates quality in their field works and professions.  Each organization has its strengthens and weaknesses as well, therefore they have to support each other.  Especially ODE organization, building a partnership and networking system become its characteristic. The partnership and networking systems can be developed through electronic and printed media, and face-to face interactions among the staff. 

Facing with evolving of science, technology and information, and also globalization and competing era, the Agricultural Extension and Communication Study Program at UT should pay close attention and continue in improving its educational quality through broadening of partnership and networking systems among other ODE institutions and related organizations.   By using this system, the AEC study program of UT would like to share its experiences in developing and maintaining the comprehensive test quality of the final task program.  Moreover, by using this system, ODE institutions and related organizations will provide and give constructive suggestion each other in order to increase ODE administration and their graduates.  Establishing and maintaining the graduates’ quality will guarantee ODE reputation in society.   Society are demanding better quality educational services and provisions

The quality of graduates becomes the main concern and an indicator of the quality of the open and distance education implementation.  However, Universitas Terbuka still works in preparing the appropriate format to measure student’s competencies in final task program, not only based on students ability in performing comprehensive examination but also in writing scientific paper or other innovative academic formats.  The final task program has to be developed with high validity as a measurement instrument of students’ competence.  Such validity of the instruments might be accomplished by maintaining and improving partnership and networking systems in order to acquire qualified information through out the world.

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