Future of Higher Education

March 23, 2023 •

3 min reading

SoTL 2023 A new day has dawned: The future of higher education

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The 5th annual international Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) conference took place both online and onsite at EHL Hospitality Business School on February 7, 2023. The theme for this event was the future of education through research, community, innovation, teaching, and learning. The purpose of SoTL events is to understand, improve, and share teaching and learning practices across disciplines and schools to prepare a new generation of lifelong learners.

The question of personalized faculty development 

After welcome words from the organizer, Dr. Laura Zizka, the participants followed their first session on faculty upskilling, presented by Dr. Amrita Zahir. While reskilling entails developing new competencies for internal mobility, upskilling involves an accelerated progression to meet career and lifelong learning goals. Discussion revolved around skill building and skill development and which should be offered in the workplace. The overarching question was whether personalized faculty development was a feasible option for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). The group was quite divided in their response.

Some participants questioned if their HEI had the necessary resources to ensure personalized training. Other participants pondered what ‘personalized’ would actually entail: Would they be responsible or accountable for any training they received? Would they receive certifications or evidence of the trainings they embark upon? Clearly, there are many questions that need to be sorted before implementing this type of personalized development.


Learning is a social activity, but also tangible and playful !

Session 2, led by Ms. Gaby Probst, focused on the timely topic of the use of collaborative tools for the classrooms of tomorrow. Research has confirmed that learning is a social activity, thus encouraging this type of activity is crucial in HEI classrooms. According to Gaby, collaboration must be interactive, but interaction is not always collaborative. To demonstrate, she shared the advantages and disadvantages of three collaborative tools commonly used in HEIs: Edupad, Padlet, and Mindmeister.

To continue the collaboration, in the third session, participants onsite were privy to a lesson in LEGO. In fact, two researchers from EPFL, Dr. Natascia Petringa and Dr. Ingrid Le Duc, animated a session on using tangibles to reinforce transversal skills in university teaching. Transversal skills are not specific to a domain, position, or job. They are skills such as communication, project management, ethics, etc. that are needed for every career. After explaining the theory of using tangibles to illustrate complex problems, participants were asked to create their own classroom issue through a LEGO representation. What was most interesting were the explanations that were given to accompany the visuals. By using tangibles, students are obliged to communicate with each other or their visual risks being misunderstood. Quite a bit of food for thought!

After lunch, participants continued to play with Mr. Francesco Reale in a session entitled ‘Game as a didactic tool’. Francesco offered numerous examples of games used in psychology, art, languages, and sciences. As a passionate game player and creator, he shared his passion for using games in HEIs. He differentiated between pedagogical games where participants learn something and recreational games where participants break from reality. According to Francesco, a ‘game is defined by its rules’; otherwise, it is just play. Near the end of the session, we played a few games as well.


Giving feedback digitally

The next session was animated by Dr. Michelle Amos and Dr. Dawna Lisa Buchanan from UCMO, U.S. They presented a session on formative feedback through technologies that maximize impact with minimal effort. The tool they presented was Notability, a new technology for giving feedback digitally. In their cases, they use this tool to annotate students’ written work. They can share with each other, keep a record, and offer more timely and useful feedback to their students.


From an idea to a question

The conference concluded with a session on moving from an idea to a SoTL research question, given by Dr. Lauren Hays from the U.S. Dr Hays offered the most traditional SoTL session that included the core questions of the SoTL philosophy: What works? What is? Visions of Possible? New Conceptual Frameworks? Participants reflected on what works well with their students and what can be done to improve the learning environment. The core question for faculty members remains: What do I need to change to help my students learn more effectively?

And with that thought in our heads, our 5th annual SoTL conference came to a close. A big thank you goes out to all of the presenters and participants. We had over 50 participants onsite and online, a great success for our humble SoTL community.

If you are interested in teaching and learning, if you would like to share best practices or your greatest concerns, OR if you would just like to meet some of the coolest faculty members ever, come and join us in February 2024 for our next conference.

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PhD, faculty member at EHL Lausanne