Students are more focused than ever on personal and professional development, given the recent dramatic reduction in traditional opportunities such as work experience or volunteering.
Course design and delivery
The pace of change across higher education is accelerating. New programmes, new ways of learning, classroom technology and remote learning: it’s all coming faster and faster. Universities have a responsibility to promote critical thinking and encourage good citizenship. They must prepare learners for career changes and a labour market in constant flux. They have to support students through a lifetime of learning, not just an undergraduate degree. To build student fitness for change, a university needs to be adaptive, and to constantly assess its offerings.
Blended learning – a pedagogical approach combining face-to-face teaching with online course delivery – is gaining traction around the world thanks to its cost-effectiveness and flexibility, spurred on by the pandemic. However, the implementation of a successful blended learning programme is often complex, time-consuming and taxing on staff. This is particularly true for universities at the early stages of digital transformations, as they face a shortage of staff skills, connectivity issues and negative attitudes towards technology, among other challenges.
How can we move students from critically analysing a particular contemporary challenge – for example, urban inequality and unsustainability – to also imagining responses to it? In my new book, Creative Universities: Reimagining Education for Global Challenges and Alternative Futures, I show how introducing students to design thinking and methods, including scenarios, is one way to combine critique and creativity in university classrooms.
The challenge of cultivating student attention has never been more intense than it will be in the coming academic year. Faculty have been battling the distracting power of student devices in the classroom for a decade or two, and during the pandemic the integration of screens into education has intensified. Continuous engagement with our devices over the past 18 months will likely make it more challenging for students to pull their eyes away from their screens and focus on in-person classroom activities.
Many challenges associated with ensuring student engagement and minimising attrition when teaching online are well established in the context of postgraduate education, where remote study has long been a key component. Educational podcasts have been used successfully to address these challenges and improve postgrad student online learning experiences.
Now that many universities plan to continue hybrid and online teaching for their undergraduates, lessons can be learned from what has worked for postgrads, including examining why and how to effectively use podcasts for teaching.
Social media is often seen as either the sole domain of youth or a hive of fake news. Neither gives the full story. Academics have been using social media for research and scholarship since the first tweet was tweeted. And although social media has been weaponised to influence elections and public opinion, it also serves as free-to-use, free-flowing and far-reaching academic discussion while encouraging creativity that can spark learning and inquiry.
What do we mean by innovation? In one of many definitions “innovation is the multi-stage process whereby organisations transform ideas into new or improved products, services or processes, in order to advance, compete and differentiate themselves successfully in their marketplace”.
With university graduates entering increasingly globalised workplaces, the need to foster their intercultural and global citizenship skills is ever more pressing. To help meet this need, the University of Edinburgh developed the Network for Intercultural Competence to facilitate Entrepreneurship (Nice) in collaboration with seven other European universities.
Assignment feedback is key to helping students improve and correct their understanding so they can build upon solid foundations of knowledge as their course progresses.
Yet, traditionally only about 30 per cent of students review their assignment feedback in my experience of teaching. This feedback consists of answers to quizzes and/or comments on how to improve the quality of their writing.
Having experimented with different forms of feedback – written remarks, reports, pre-recorded video discussions – I’ve found the engagement level remains at around 30 per cent.