Innovation in Learning & Teaching
We are all aware of the pressures on businesses today to innovate in order to capture a greater share of consumer markets. We are not immune to these pressures in higher education. At faculty and institutional level we are under pressure to innovate through research, and through knowledge exchange with industry partners to commercialize and develop additional revenue streams. We are also pressurized to demonstrate ‘value’ for any public funding via the contribution we make to economic growth.
We are also under pressure to innovate within our individual programmes and courses to better meet the demands of a changing student population. These changes are deemed necessary to produce graduates who are capable of functioning in a challenging global environment. They are also needed to customize our courses for different learning styles and to address the rising costs of traditional forms of higher education. Like industry therefore, technology has often underpinned our recent innovations. We have witnessed the development of advanced technological platforms for blended learning and the use of podcasts and other online data sources. We have seen the growth of online courses, asynchronous learning and the development of massive open online courses or MOOCS. These latter advances are considered particularly relevant to meet student demands to design and build their own qualifications from different sources and from different regions of the world.
In the face of these demands, the Reimagine Education Conference was launched in 2014 to share best practice and award innovative educators. Prizes have been awarded for innovations such as the ‘flipped classroom’, where the professor acts as a facilitator rather than a disseminator of information. The latter is achieved through other media forms. PaGammo was another award winner; a game where students compete to amass virtual wealth and defend their holdings against virtual monsters and competitors. These innovations undoubtedly ring a bell with hospitality and tourism educators as we have been using these teaching techniques and online simulations for quite some time.
For those of us who teach strategy, we would likely refer to these innovations as incremental rather than radical innovations. However, there are many in education who argue that these regardless how we label these technological innovations, they are insufficient to meet the demands of a changing world particularly within our current, traditional and often bureaucratic educational institutions. One such contender of this argument is David J. Staley1. Late last year, he published an essay proposing five new models of education which would be truly innovative and ‘disrupt’ the current educational environment. He further argued that this disruption is required to allow educational entrepreneurs to flourish. These five models are outlined below.
The Polymath University where students commit to three major but in disparate disciplines so that creative and innovative thinking comes from the merging of these different domains of knowledge.
The Nomad University where students would focus on real life challenges in global locations. Graduation is dependent on producing a portfolio of work demonstrating how problems have been solved (think action learning).
The Interface University based on the premise that humans and computers work more effectively and efficiently than either alone. Curriculums are therefore designed around getting the best out of this interface and students graduate when they can demonstrate they have achieved a state of interface with the computer.
The Neo-Liberal Arts College which focuses on competencies and skills sought by employers rather than knowledge specific domains. The Institute of the Future identifies ten such skills as sense-making, social intelligence, novel and adaptive thinking, cross-cultural competency, computational thinking, new-media literacy, trans-disciplinarity, design mindset, cognitive load management and virtual collaboration.
The Ludic University (University of Play) where students do not follow a set curriculum but play and experiment within rules of a game. Here students’ follow their own curiosity to explore subjects to build pretend worlds that they play in.
These five higher education models are certainly far removed from the institutions that many of us teach in. There is also no denying that they represent radical innovations. However far away they may seem from our day-to-day realities, there are some elements embedded within these models that probably seem familiar and that some of us address, at least to a certain extent: modular programmes with different major/minor combinations, employability skills or competencies embedded in curriculum designs, digital literacy, internships, experiential and work-based learning where students take on real-life projects, etc. Across the ICHRIE family, many of our colleagues are experimenting with these and other innovations. In this Communiqué, members from our different federations share their innovations in learning and teaching, so that we can all take away some new ideas, be they incremental or radical. Happy reading!
Staley, D. (2015). The Future of the University: Speculative Design for Innovation in Higher Education. Educause Review, (November).