SoTL 2024 Education and technology

February 15, 2024 •

5 min reading

SoTL 2024 “I am not a chatbot: SoTL meets technology”

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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 6th annual international Scholarship of Teaching and Learning conference took place at EHL Hospitality Business School, Lausanne, on February 1, 2024. This year’s theme revolved around the significant role that technology has taken and will continue to take in education, and particularly in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), and its relevance in HEI community, innovation, teaching, and learning. After three years of blended SoTL conferences, this year, participants were back on site! From the welcome coffee through the closing apero, the buzz of the participants and the enthusiasm that they exuded was contagious.

AI in Academic Writing

The keynote speech was given by Dr. Iain MacLaren. Don’t be put off by the title; the presentation was a cracker! Dr. MacLaren took us through the opportunities, challenges, risks, and implications of AI in HEIs. Over the past year, we have been inundated with workshops and seminars that discussed ‘best practices’ for using AI in HEI classrooms. Dr. MacLaren showed us many of the most popular tools and provided concrete examples of how they work. For example, did you know that Chat GPT can pretend to reflect? Or that it can be persuaded to agree with you if you are insistent enough that you are correct?

Of course, while we were amused by the image of salmon filets floating in the river (as opposed to live salmon swimming in a river), Dr. MacLaren also warned us of potential downfalls: AI cannot handle mathematics (yet), its responses may be biased, and it is poor at original responses. In fact, unlike the common rumor that AI is great for brainstorming, we were cautioned that those same ideas may be the same ideas that anyone and everyone else is receiving as well. Nonetheless, like a placebo, if you believe that AI has helped you in brainstorming and it actually gets you started in your work, then believe it!

As a key takeaway, Dr. MacLaren discussed the future of education in something he referred to as the Human(e) University where the focus is on learning as a type of ‘sense-making’, where students learn to critique knowledge regardless of its origin. A place where research is seen as a long-term journey rather than a race to publish (the antithesis of ‘publish or perish’). Education where technology has a role of experimentation, exploration, and innovation but is guided by critical digital literacy. This is the education of the future that SoTL envisions as well. Thank you Dr. MacLaren for kick-starting our SoTL conference.


Find your unique teaching signature

EHL’s Dr. Sebastien Fernandez followed the keynote with a reflection on technology and our jobs as teachers. Do students still need us? Can we be replaced by AI? Luckily, he was able to convince us that our jobs are (still) safe! In his interactive session, Dr. Fernandez provided us with criteria for identifying one’s personalized teaching signature, from being engaging, organized and caring, to having good material and a sense of humor. Based on a study by Fisher (2022), Dr. Fernandez described the various personalized teaching signatures and, in groups, we first completed and then discussed our own. Such a simple yet effective way to spark dialogue around someone’s teaching signature. This is a keeper for the future!

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Learning sustainability through a blended approach

The final morning session was presented by Dr. Estefania Amer from University of Lausanne. Although a first time participant and presenter at our SoTL conference, Dr. Amer fit in perfectly! She presented the new course she is currently developing and asked the SoTL family for feedback. That is what we do best. We asked pertinent questions about how the new course is organized (predominantly asynchronous with three on campus touchpoints over the year) and made suggestions on how to improve it for the future cohorts. We hope to hear more about Dr. Amer’s project next year at SoTL 2025!


Re-imagining online assessments in a digital world

After lunch, participants digested the topic of online assessments presented by Ms. Melanie Bonvin, Dr. Henrietta Carbonel, and Prof. Jean-Michel Jullien (all representing UniDistance Suisse). Through a series of handouts, participants brainstormed innovative ways to assess their students’ learning. In groups of three, they imagined new assessment formats with no constraints. What great ideas emerged! Four top tips we took away from that session: Physical exams cannot just be put online; there is no ‘ideal’ assessment; students should be integrated into assessment decisions; and effective assessments should encourage autonomous motivation.


(More) course interactions with students

In a follow-up session from last year, Ms. Gaby Probst shared strategies about designing effective questions using technology by using technology to ask us questions. Through one QR code to WooClap, participants responded to a variety of questions in different question formats. This helped us to see the potential of using WooClap in our courses. The key message was clear: No matter what tool or what type of question asked, faculty members need to slow down and allow everyone the chance to respond. In a world where information is practically instantaneous, Ms. Probst reminded us that silence can lead to reflection which leads to deeper learning and self-awareness. Of all of the tools, my personal favorite was the Wheel of Choice (literally an automatic spinning wheel that helps decide who speaks or presents first), which I intend to use in my classroom in the spring.


Creative future of education

The final workshop was led by Dr. Laura Zizka but based on the PhD work and expertise of Dr. Aurelie Boulos. Participants were asked to define creativity and the environment they needed in order to be creative. Like assessment, there is no ‘ideal’ definition of creativity or what it entails. In small mixed groups, they were asked to come up with ONE creative course that encompassed all of their areas of expertise. Participants imagined a title of the course, one task that could be done, and a way of measuring its success (i.e., assessment). The best title had to be the one that began with ‘Mission Impossible’! We were all ready to take that class.

After the final session, the day wound down with a summary of the sessions and the opportunity to provide potential topics and themes for next year. Another great SoTL experience; will we see YOU next year?

If you are interested in teaching and learning, if you would like to share some 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 2025 for our next SoTL conference at EHL Hospitality Business School.

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PhD, faculty member at EHL Lausanne