Our Outstanding Lecturer! Confirm, Chop, Stamp by President Halimah Yacob
School of Information Technology
Watching her students realise their true potential is Dr Koh Noi Sian’s sole motivation in teaching.
A senior lecturer at the School of Information Technology, Dr Koh shared that it often distressed her when she saw her students get demoralised by failures. So, to help them get through their struggles, she worked over four years, with another colleague, to develop the Affective Tutoring System – an artificial intelligence system that uses a webcam to automatically capture expressions and identify signs of frustration. It also gauges a student’s mental state through the typing speed and mouse clicks. When a student is stuck or on the verge of giving up, a helpful hint pops up, and Dr Koh also checks in on the student and give guidance on the topic.
For her dedication, and innovative teaching technology, Dr Koh received the President’s Award for Teachers.
We managed to catch Dr Koh (she’s really busy) to suss out what else she’s been working on to help learners.
What other projects are you currently involved in?
We’re working on another system that uses feedback data to help students. The Assessing Learning in Real Time (ALERT) gets students’ feedback on lessons regularly to see if they’ve understood the content. Usually, students only give feedback towards the end of the course. With ALERT, students answer three short questions on how they feel about the lessons, which areas they have difficulty understanding, and they give their comments. This data visualisation makes it easy for lecturers to understand the feedback, and to know if students actually understand the material. This system helps me to assess how my students are managing, and it allows lecturers to revisit concepts that students struggle with. It is now being tried out across the polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education.
In addition, I’ve been helping working adults learn more about applying data analytics in their respective workplaces. I’ve has also been conducting classes to up-skill fellow colleagues on data analytics.
Last year, I presented a paper, in Spain, on an experimental lesson structure to help my students retain and understand information better. I chunked my lessons into a 15-minute lecture, followed by a 15-minute practical or tutorial. When the students have understood the material, I continued the lecture again. The students liked this way of learning better than the traditional hourly lecture-tutorial-practical system – they were able to apply and analyse what they’d learnt more effectively.
I also get my students to work on industry projects for companies like Cheers and the National Healthcare Group Polyclinics – so that they will have good work portfolios to show their future employers.
What motivates you to do so much for your students?
A lot of this has to do with my father. I used to spend a lot of time in his office as a kid. He was teaching at the Lighthouse School, and his students would drop in to share about their day, their hopes, and their fears. In my years of teaching at NYP, I have encountered students with very challenging backgrounds, and who – despite the hardship and failures – never gave up but bounced back even stronger.
I feel that my job is not merely to teach students, it is also to ensure that they have the tools to be successful in school, and eventually, their lives. I do my best to listen to them, to be available, to guide and mentor.
I believe that, as an educator, it is important to make a difference in someone's life. I don’t want our students to give up just because they are frustrated.