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Cristina Riesen, Diana El-Azar, Roberta Malee Bassett And Balzhan Orazbayeva During Their Keynote Panel At The 2023 UIIN Conference

Reshaping education through partnerships, technology, and innovation

Every year, our conference brings inspirational discussions on future directions for education and presents potential solutions to collaboratively realising this future. In our Conference Conversations series, we are bringing you some key learnings from our trailblazing panellists.

The following insights come from the panel discussion Partnering and the Future of Education, highlighting the key takeaways from Cristina Riesen (Educreators Foundation), Roberta Malee Bassett (The Word Bank) and Diana El-Azar (Minerva Project). Our panellists shared their key takeaways from working as change-makers within the higher education space.

This article is the first of a two-part series. Read part one, Bridging the gap: Reimagining higher education for 21st century skills.

Rethinking the concepts of time and space

In the 21st century, re-evaluating the notions of time and space in higher education has become imperative. With demographic shifts occurring worldwide, universities must adapt to changes in student demographics, teaching staff, and funding sources, as well as evolve their educational delivery methods. Additionally, as the aging population increases, there will be a scarcity of younger individuals to meet the demands of various job roles. Higher education institutions (HEIs) need to enhance their ability to provide lifelong learning opportunities and offer greater flexibility for students to return and acquire new skills multiple times throughout their lives.

We should also deconstruct the truism that university happens in a physical building. When we utilise the benefits of blended and cross-border education we can discover the benefits of life-wide learning; there are things you can learn much more effectively in a forest than in a classroom. The increasing cross border internationalization of PhD programmes, for example, breaks through our current conceptions of university spaces and boundaries and can be extremely impactful in contexts where resources are not so developed. These programmes can help universities in these contexts to pool resources and share knowledge across borders.

Universities that adopt these practices now will become rapid accelerators in the HEIs space by providing these alternative models of delivery” – Roberta Malee Bassett

Technology in education: beyond the hype

With the rise of virtual reality and AI-based applications like ChatGPT, there is a lot of buzz around the use of technology in education. Our panellists emphasized that though technology can be useful for education, it must be used as a means to an end and not an end in itself. The use of technology in higher education must therefore be intentional; purpose, pedagogy, and human values must precede technology in classrooms.

When used with these values in mind, technology can increase the accessibility of education, reduce bias, aid assessment, and create a personalised education and learning experience. An example of one such technological tool that has been used in classrooms is a speaker tracking tool that allows professors to see which students are speaking above and below average in class. There is often a bias where students who speak up more are perceived as better students by their professors. As male students tend to speak up more than female students, this creates a bias where male students are perceived to perform better than female students. Knowing who is speaking above and below average can therefore help professors to be aware of and correct this bias.

In the face of technology’s disruptive nature, it is crucial to look beyond the hype. We need to determine the essential skills that enable student agency and future-building, and leverage technology as a supportive tool in this endeavour.

We need to focus on foundational skills that go beyond trends and technology, for enduring impact” – Diana El-Azar

Cristina Riesen, Diana El-Azar, Roberta Malee Bassett and Balzhan Orazbayeva during their keynote panel at the 2023 UIIN Conference
Cristina Riesen, Diana El-Azar, Roberta Malee Bassett and Balzhan Orazbayeva during their keynote panel at the 2023 UIIN Conference

Becoming transformational partnership ready

Partnerships are key for fostering the innovation and future-proofing of universities. If universities want to go above transactional collaborations towards transformational partnerships, they need to take responsibility and ensure that they are transformational partnerships ready. In traditional organisational culture, there are too many hurdles that make collaboration difficult. Therefore, in a desirable model of education, these partnerships will be allowed to flourish and become the norm. These institutions must do the groundwork now to ensure they foster a culture that welcomes these partnerships, so we can look towards collaborations for greater societal good.

Innovation for impact

Reimagining traditional education models and adapting to demographic changes are key to shaping the future of education. Recognising the significance of lifelong and holistic learning, universities can embrace blended learning approaches and foster international collaborations. By doing so, they can provide flexible and impactful educational experiences that cater to the diverse needs of learners.

If integrated thoughtfully, technology can support these advances by improving accessibility, reducing bias and enabling personalised learning experiences”

When you are truly innovative, challenges are part of the journey. Those who first brought fire to their communities were met with fear and mistrust, but over time fire became a critical part of civilisation. In the same way, innovation is a lengthy process and is often met with a lot of resistance, but it is essential to create desirable futures. By becoming “transformational partnership ready,” institutions can pave the way for collaborative efforts to shape an inclusive, adaptable, and impactful education system for generations to come.

If you enjoyed this discussion, check out our podcast episode The Future of Universities – Re-designing a Learner-Oriented University with Dr. Cameron McCoy and Bridging the gap: Reimagining higher education for 21st century skills.

 

Future of Universities: Now more than ever, universities are challenged to adapt to, and even embrace, technological and cultural disruptions and lead the way towards social and economic regeneration. But how do they do this? Forward-looking universities start with themselves, by testing their educational assumptions, re-designing their approach to add value to students and faculty alike, and re-imagine their outmoded organisational structures.

 

Tasha Day is a Project officer at UIIN, where she undertakes research activities and creates content on a wide variety of topics including entrepreneurship education, sustainability and research valorisation. Tasha has an Msc in Urban Geography, has worked in urban sustainability and placemaking, and is interested in how universities can be at the forefront of the transition from an extractive to regenerative and sustainable economy.

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