Chow:Hill Director Jane Hill recently attended a series of tertiary-focused conferences as part of Chow:Hill’s research and knowledge development in the sector.
Running as part of Learning Innovation Week, Sydney’s Campus Development Conference brought together an extensive range of speakers and included presentations from Murdoch and Curtin University in Western Australia, SUTD in Singapore and SIAD Business School at the University of Oxford.
Reflecting on two days of rich discussion, Jane identified the following common themes as the key takeaways from the conference:
- Reinventing the Campus – The growth of ubiquitous digital information, global competition from emerging markets and value-driven student demand is driving campus reinvention across multiple organisations.
- Creating Places for People – Instilling a sense of place and human scale was a common starting point. Campuses that have suffered from piecemeal and reactive expansion overtime are now seeking to establish a living breathing campus ecosystem built around concepts of physical and digital connectivity. The campus is reimaged as a place where people build the knowledge, networks and relationships that will inform their future.
- Doing More with Less – A first principles approach to campus sustainability was also a central message, putting green walls aside and understanding the true cost of campus infrastructure. As reinforced by Mick Serena, Strategic Asset Advisor from DCWC, we need to try harder to build less. Using existing resources creatively, maximising shared spaces and repurposing external areas to create more efficient total learning environments. Taking the time to understand the primary pedagogical objectives before seeking answers in new GFA.
A number of these themes re-emerged in conversations shared at the New Generation Learning Space Conference recently held in Auckland. At this event the focus was closer to home with presenters including AUT, Unitec and Massey University. The smaller scale of this event enabled more informal discussion, debate and sharing of ideas between delegates. Jane’s key insights from these sessions included the following:
- Transferability – The acquiring of transferable or cross disciplinary skills is become increasingly critical for today’s learner with increasing uncertainty regarding what a career may mean 5-10-20 years from now.
- Blur and Blend – Given the necessity for cross-disciplinary learning the days of silos are numbered for organisations who wish to stay relevant and competitive. Initiatives and incentives to blur the boundaries between Faculties and Departments, Formal and Informal Spaces, Learning and Working were the hot topics for discussion and urgent action.
- To Flip or Not to Flip – Equally topical is the debate around the flipped classroom and the role of the academic as ‘sage on the stage’ or ‘guide by the side’. While views on the extent of this delivery mode across academic programmes appear split, there is clear agreement on the primary objective – equipping a self-determined and resilient learner for the age of disruption.
So what does this mean for the work that we do and the environments we create for our clients?
Inspired by the commitment to innovation and change expressed by many of the presenters, Jane believes the main message is to begin with people. The terms ‘modern learning environments’, ‘disruptive technology’ and’ innovation’ all mean different things to different organisations and teams. A central part of project briefing and concept development is building a shared understanding of a tertiary organisation’s culture; what are the key attributes of their campus; of their staff and students? Where do they see their future as a learning provider, locally and globally? What are the unique challenges and opportunities for your campus and your students now… and 20 years from now?
Investing the time to carefully explore these questions with key project stakeholders before we start towards the answer - Physical, virtual or otherwise.
December 19, 2016