On 8 June 2022, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, from the University of Sydney, and FLAME University, from India, jointly hosted an online seminar on ‘The Future of the University’. Academics and students from both universities, and an employer and industry expert panel from India, the Netherlands and Australia, discussed the use of digital resources and how to equip fresh graduates in the post-pandemic world, including ways of navigating online learning.
After a welcome by Professor Poonam Gandhi (Assistant Dean, Experiential Programs; FLAME University) the seminar began in earnest with Mrs Catherine Smyth (Lecturer; Sydney School of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney), Ms Sarah Craske (Educational Designer; Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney), Professor Jasmine Hsu (Co-Chair, Centre for Digital Learning; FLAME University), and Professor Sairaj Patki (Assistant Professor - Psychology; Department of Psychological Sciences, FLAME University) on the Digital resources, showcase of best practice panel. Transitioning to online learning, the University of Sydney has added various functionalities such as Zoom, the Student Relationship Engagement System (SRES) and pulse check-ins on Canvas to engage students virtually.
In contrast, FLAME University conducted online learning before the pandemic where it created asynchronous learning content on Moodle. During the pandemic, FLAME university curated content with students producing their tutorials and undertaking project-based learning for full online delivery.
Following the staff presentation was a student panel featuring Prerana and Srishti (FLAME University), and Josephine and Michelle (University of Sydney), on the advantages and disadvantages of online learning and how to move forward with the hybrid learning model.
Studying online promotes equity learning and flexibility, allowing students to balance their study, health and work commitments better.
The students’ voice – navigation and survival panel went on to comment that online classes also encouraged more active participation as students did not feel judged. However, the four students did note that online learning presented challenges such as unstable internet connection hindering the learning quality, demotivation due to isolation, and excessive time spent on the screen. To overcome these difficulties, open and constant communication was key and keeping members of breakout rooms consistent helped build the cohort experience. The panel concluded that students were in favour to continue adopting the hybrid learning model as well as online teaching platforms and tools.
We appreciate the options to attend in-person and online classes. Online learning should be kept, even after the pandemic.
The third session was an employer panel from India, the Netherlands and Australia of Rashmi Dhanwani (The Art X Company), Erin MacDonald (Head of training - professional skills; Revolent Group), Paulien Osse (Director; Wage Indicator Foundation) and Greta Treloar (Campus Recruitment Senior Consultant; PricewaterhouseCoopers, Australia). Their expectations of job applicants were good communication and collaborative skills. Nevertheless, the employers’ voice - what are they seeking panel noted there had been a greater emphasis on digital literacy and adaptability to tackle future workplace challenges of increasingly competitive job markets and time zone differences.
It is hard for graduates to start their careers virtually. Graduates should remain agile, take the initiative to know their colleagues and show high digital literacy in response to changes.
The final session, chaired by Dr Margaret Van Heekeren (Lecturer; Department of Media and Communications, University of Sydney), featured an academic panel of Professor Peter Reimann (Professor; Sydney School of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney), Dr Chris Chesher (Senior Lecturer; Department of Media and Communications, University of Sydney), Professor Maya Dodd (Associate Professor - Literary and Cultural Studies; Department of Humanities and Languages, FLAME University) and Professor Jasmine Hsu (Co-Chair; Centre for Digital Learning, FLAME University) on the university of the future. Professor Reimann argued Artificial Intelligence (AI) would play a more substantial role in learning as evident in its current ability to analyse weaknesses in debate arguments and future development to facilitate formulating strategies. It presents opportunities where students engage in more immersive learning through virtual reality, but instructors need to reimagine how to engage with students with equity and accessibility needs online.
Attending university allows students to discover themselves. The university of the future should focus on enhancing learner’s experience and employability, creating a positive societal impact, and providing tailored options.
With over 80 registrants, including high school students, parents, academics, professional staff members, and university students from Australia, China, India, Netherlands, USA, and Vietnam, the joint seminar enlightened the international audience on the future of learning and academic and employers’ expectations.
The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and FLAME University (India) Joint Seminar: The Future of the University is just one of the international collaborations supported by Strategic Partnerships and Engagement at the University of Sydney. To collaborate with us, submit a partnership enquiry to discuss how we can work together.