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Universities of the Future: Bringing the Vision to Life

  • 5 Min Read

Associate Professor Foo Yong Lim, Assistant Provost (Applied Learning) at Singapore Institute of Technology talks about the future of higher education in Asia


Hosted in collaboration with EDUtech Asia, and chaired by Tony McGuire, regional director for D2L Australia, leading educators from universities across the Asia Pacific shared their experiences, lessons learned and intentions for building the campus of the future.

Overcoming Challenges With the Right Strategy and Tools

A lack of digital transformation strategy, poor internet connectivity quality, and courses that cannot be taught online are just some of the challenges that higher education leaders have faced throughout the pandemic.
For post-pandemic pedagogy, academic integrity is a key issue. Dr Gopalakrishna Prabhu, president of Manipal University, spoke of the need to avoid mass copying of assignments and ensure proper evaluation in exams, saying that a solution lies in artificial intelligence. Consider, for example, software that identifies whether students are answering questions themselves or copying from others.

“It’s about changing and modifying our practice moving further forward,” agreed Dr Chris Campbell, senior lecturer, learning innovations, Centre of Learning Futures, Griffith University. She discussed how students at Griffith are able to demonstrate learning outcomes through online presentations and quizzes with large question sets to maintain integrity, all of which “regulatory bodies are happy with”.
Even an institution highly experienced in distance education online, such as the University of New England, has found the in-person learning, teaching and assessment experience difficult to replicate. With 80% of students at the University of New England learning off-campus, Professor Steven Warburton, education principal, education futures, discussed leveraging data to understand how students are in terms of wellness and progression and to personalise what’s offered “to make sure that we are broad and offering an education that has equity”.

Building the Workforce of Tomorrow

Asst. Prof. Anna Cherylle M. Ramos, director, Educational Technology Center, Teacher Education, University of Santo Tomas, urged universities to be aware of skill gaps in the labour market and be proactive in matching emerging and declining jobs, such as in data analytics, AI and computing. “Universities must have curricular offerings that must be recalibrated to produce the right talent for what the industry needs,” she said. She further highlighted the requirement for “emerging skills like self-management, stress tolerance and flexibility” to be integrated into meaningful learning experiences. Anna revealed how she is currently looking at stackable curriculums to create personal learning paths.

Tony McGuire was keen to know from the panel if the commoditisation of learning and the rise of challenger organisations that are responding to skills-based initiatives and providing micro-credentials were potential hurdles. Warburton argued the importance of universities is in offering “a wide-ranging avenue into developing intellectual capital” and in putting money back into the economy through research. He also felt the biggest challenge was the “diversification of portfolio”. He remarked, “Where I see a healthy university is about partnerships with other organisations, be they public or corporate sector, to add value to your university offering.”

Ramos shared innovations in the Philippines such as:

  • creating a digital transformation plan
  • ensuring coordinated, intentional and systematic professional development from blended learning to teaching courses fully online
  • capitalising on future technologies, including performing assessments and evaluations using AI and machine learning

Dr Prabhu believes emerging technologies, such as augmented reality and virtual reality, offer a solution to engaging students through experiential learning. “Students are interested in gaming—the same technology can also be used to develop teaching tools which will be more impactful and influential in learning,” he enthused.

The Panel:

Tony McGuire, regional director, D2L Australia
Dr Chris Campbell, senior lecturer, learning innovations, Centre of Learning Futures, Griffith University
Dr Gopalakrishna Prabhu, president of Manipal University, Jaipur
Professor Steven Warburton, education principal, Education Futures, University of New England
Asst. Prof. Anna Cherylle M. Ramos, director, Educational Technology Center, Teacher Education, University of Santo Tomas

Find out more about the strategy and tools that institutions have embarked on across the APAC region here.