Engage, collaborate, socialise and educate

Professor Craig Mahoney, UWS Principal & Vice-Chancellor discusses the past, present and future of learning

Following the launch of University of the West of Scotland’s £110m, ultra-modern Lanarkshire campus, Professor Craig Mahoney, UWS Principal and Vice-Chancellor states that higher education institutions can equip themselves to meet the ever-changing needs of today’s highly connected student body.

Pedagogy of the past has consisted of traditional lessons in lecture theatres, personal library study and memorisation, but learning and teaching in HE is going through a period of transformational change, fuelled by the very people it’s set to benefit – students.

Students are now more than ever at the forefront of shifts in the delivery of higher education. Whether it’s in the design of the spaces in which they learn, or the lesson plans set out by academics, students are, whether they know it or not, dictating their own educational journeys.

Their expectations are forever growing and changing, but the one constant of any university is its students and, today, there’s no denying that an important part of their lives is technology.

As we think about the evolution in the delivery of HE, technology has certainly been a major factor. It’s a powerful tool that students carry at their fingertips, and universities that provide students with the opportunities and platforms to embrace technology are giving them the power to significantly enhance and shape their own learning.

Such is the reliance on technology that institutions are embedding it into the design of the physical spaces their students use to learn and socialise. The evolution of technology has meant that students can access course materials and information anywhere, which has seen universities increasingly swap classroom environments for spaces which are open-plan, dynamic and technology-focused to add a new dimension to modern-day learning and teaching.

Professor Craig Mahoney

Dynamic shift in teaching methods

Students of today favour collaborative learning over traditional lectures, which is benefiting both students and academics. The introduction of innovation hubs in campuses is aiming to encourage creativity and collaboration between staff and students, prompting a dynamic shift in teaching methods as lecturers benefit from fresh ideas, while students develop highly transferable skills.

Technology has played a huge role in the development of pedagogy today and will continue to have a significant influence over the delivery of HE in the future, but one element of learning that hasn’t lowered in importance over the years is that of being connected to and engaged with individuals.

From our peers to lecturers, there’s something impactful about learning from each other’s experiences and sharing a point of view which technology might not ever be able to replicate in the future of HE. That’s why today, and in the future, it’s imperative for universities to provide a platform for people from a diverse range of backgrounds to come together and engage, collaborate, socialise and educate. A positive university experience is often dependent on an individual’s ability to engage with like-minded students, make friends and get involved in a range of university communities.

As we look to the future of HE, research predicts further implementation of virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robotics to be the driving forces behind learning at colleges and universities in the years ahead. Today, creativity, communication and collaboration are said to be some of the top qualities employers are looking for, but in the next five years, more than one-third of the skills considered important in today’s workforce will have changed, further influencing the evolution of pedagogy in HE.

The universities that succeed will be the ones who can look ahead of the curve, predicting and even creating the jobs and skills of tomorrow, while looking at the past to remember the key foundations on which education has evolved.

UWS: uws.ac.uk

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