Challenge accepted: The education evolution
How can schools and higher ed institutions embrace technology and effect positive change post-pandemic?
As the nation went into lockdown to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, schools moved classes online as a vast majority of students transitioned to remote learning.
Prior to the pandemic, the use of digital technologies, including mobile devices, was often demonised and even banned in school settings. However, the move to remote teaching highlighted the use of such technology to access learning that was only available online.
A group of UTS researchers, including Associate Professor Matthew Kearney, Professor Sandy Schuck and Professor Peter Aubusson from the UTS School of International Studies and Education, and Associate Professor Paul Burke from the UTS Centre for Business Intelligence & Data Analytics, and Professor Didar Zowghi from the UTS School of Computer Science, has been investigating how digital technologies might be used in school education to support learning.
“The pandemic offered an opportunity to share research-inspired tools emerging from our mobile-learning, or m-learning, projects and provide teachers with resources they could use to guide their mobile teaching,” says Associate Professor Kearney.
“We shared a set of rigorous resources underpinned by a mobile pedagogical framework that we developed in our research projects over the past decade. These resources assist teachers seeking to modify their online practices from didactic, presentational approaches, to ones that emphasise personalisation, authenticity and collaboration.”
Associate Professor Kearney says these are features of learning that are known to increase student engagement.
The research-inspired resources include a mobile learning toolkit for teachers and teacher educators, a professional learning app for teachers, and a set of robust online surveys for teachers’ professional learning.
Professor Schuck says this crisis has leveraged renewed interest in digital learning.
“Our research will provide a roadmap for effective and innovative practice into the future. The main objective of educational research is to enhance practice and our research-based tools offer opportunities to do so.
“The expectation is that this research will contribute more broadly to the enactment of innovative teaching and learning using digital technologies.”
For higher education institutions, the frantic rush of transitioning from in-person to remote learning provided just one challenge for the sector. As the pandemic took hold, governments shuttered airports and refused entry to international students.
Associate Professor Tamson Pietsch is an expert in the history and politics of universities. She recognised the ongoing implications for higher education, as well as the opportunity for the sector to evolve.
“I’ve spent my career thinking about universities and their entanglement with society. They are crucial institutions that help orient us to our world.
“How Australian universities will fare in a post pandemic world depends on an influential but rarely talked about relationship. This is the relationship between the state, its institutions and the public. What's often referred to as the social contract.”
With the support of UTS’s Impact Studios, Associate Professor Pietsch created ‘The New Social Contract’, a podcast examining the future for students who face bearing the costs of the pandemic.
“By using the lens of the past, present and even the future, the podcast investigates what the public can legitimately demand of their universities, and how higher education in Australia might be remade.”
‘The New Social Contract’ canvases the expertise and opinions of journalists, politicians, union and industry leaders, as well as academics, including UTS Vice-Chancellor and President, Attila Brungs.
For Professor Brungs, the trends identified pre-COVID are happening faster and simultaneously, and a lifetime of learning has never been more necessary.
“People need to learn a lot more all the way through their lives. There’s the need to be training and retraining.
“What I want UTS and the whole sector going towards is how do we support people all the way through their post-secondary education.”
Associate Professor Tamson Pietsch says the podcast has generated significant interest in the media as well as a devoted listenership.
“A broad conversation is developing about the place of universities in society and I’m thrilled that the podcast has helped contribute to that.”
“There is no doubt that universities are entering a period of change. But that change is not just happening because of covid. It is happening because the 1990s settlement between universities and society is no longer fit for the challenges of our times.”
“Meeting those challenges means building a just and sustainable society and that is a public mission that universities must embrace”.
'The New Social Contract' is available on all of your favourite podcast players, including whooshkaa.