Varsity copes with pandemic challenges in online interviews

Panels conducting online interviews with candidates for undergraduate programme at FMHS.

KOTA SAMARAHAN: The Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences (FMHS), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) is coping with the challenges posed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in conducting online interviews with potential undergraduates.

As the pandemic continues to rampage, universities soldier on to continue to be the provider of knowledge to the new generation. For faculties like FMHS that need to interview the candidates for undergraduate programmes through online, this poses a variety of challenges for its panel.

Taking into account that their staff are also volunteering at various vaccination centres (PPV), including IPT PPV Unimas, as well as handling students’ clinical postings, the faculty decided to hold its online interview sessions for new medical undergraduates on weekends.

Panels conducting online interviews with candidates for undergraduate programme at FMHS.

FMHS went through its online interviews with help from the Centre for IT Development and Services (CITDS) staff.

Candidates are given a Webex link with the number of their interview room attached at the end of the link.

Candidates would wait in the ‘lobby’ for their turn and enter when they are called in. The moderator then checks whether everyone is ready. Each candidate will go through a 15 to 20-minute interview.

FMHS deputydDean (Undergraduate) Associate Professor Dr Nariman Singmamae, explained that each interviewer will represent a different stage in the medical programme – first is a pre-clinical lecturer and second a clinical lecturer.

When asked, what is the most valuable trait for a medical student, Dr Nariman did not hesitate and said, “Resilience.”

The medical profession has been viewed as a noble profession. The ability to be a medical doctor fetches admiration and hordes of hopeful applicants.

FMHS’ chief assistant registrar Masle Terhim, admitted that online interviews pose their own challenges for everyone and one of the obstacles that they have to face is to get panels for the interview sessions.

“As each panel is made up of two lecturers, each with different timetables, the committee needs to organise and plan the sessions within a very tight timeframe,” he said.

Panels conducting online interviews with candidates for undergraduate programme at FMHS.

There have been reports about medical students losing their enthusiasm after going through the initial years of medical school, which is an issue that FMHS has to tackle.

The advent of Covid-19 possibly contributes to the obligations that a medical student typically faces, and consequently, this may prove to be too much to bear for some.

For the panels, it is admittedly more difficult to go through online interviews compared to face-to-face ones.

As such, they cannot conduct short cases, where candidates are tested for skills such as patience, problem-solving and tenacity.

In addition, online interviews depend a lot on the internet connection on both sides. In several cases, some candidates had issues with their connection, prompting the interviews to be held through WhatsApp video calls instead.

One cannot help but wonder at how technology bridges miles and miles of physical distance. A candidate was asked by the panels where the candidate conducting the online interview was.

It turned out that the internet connection in the candidate’s hometown was strongest on a hill, and that was where the candidate went for the interview.