Internal organisation, research, training, new places of learning: at an annual colloquium in May, the deans of various French universities looked at how to adapt higher education establishments to the digital era.
Specifically, of the 10 proposals made during the event, the delegates identified the following as key for the future of their students:
- Lessons in eCitizenship from pre-school through to post-graduate level, to ensure students have a real digital culture
- Encourage teachers to invest in new teaching methods with services, vocational training
- Develop new learning venues that are conducive to collaboration and innovation
- Develop via digital a training offering for new audiences, combine initiatives, rethink the economic model
- Develop graduates’ digital skills to improve employability.
How LinkedIn can influence universities’ and students’ e-reputation
After the more traditional top university rankings, LinkedIn and its huge database (338 million profiles), could also become one of the biggest influencers of universities’ e-reputation, according to Henri Issac, in charge of “Digital Transformation’’ at Paris Dauphine University. “The professional social network has statistics of entire careers. These rankings mean students can see which university will best prepare them for their chosen career path.”
According to Issac, this will mean universities will have to “help students manage their online presence. At the moment this is done in a very amateur way: it has to be more organised. The visibility and reputation of universities is at stake.”
MOOCs, flipped classrooms, learning labs, collaboration, Twitter…
Following on from some of the leading American universities such as MIT and Stanford, European establishments are also starting to deploy innovative teaching methods.
This involves developing new learning spaces that prepare students for the world of work.
Will lecture theatres be replaced by MOOCs?
Some schools, such as EPFL (Ecole polytechnique de Lausanne) are certainly heading that way. The concept is also being developed in France, according to Florence Kohler, Head of Digital for the Dgesip (Department of Higher Education and Professional Insertion). “The new teaching methods are having an impact on the teaching venues. A 1,000-seat lecture hall where there’s no interaction between teachers and students could be replaced by a MOOC – that’s what happened with the pre-med classes in Grenoble.”
More informal venues designed for MOOCs, collaborative work and flipped classrooms
MOOCs and flipped classrooms don’t have to mean higher education will become less human, but it does require reorganising teaching venues. “Digital completely changes the physical space: you can follow a MOOC while you’re on the Underground but you still need physical spaces. But they need to be more modular,” said one expert.
The Vice-President of EPFL agrees: she believes MOOCs transform interactions and exchanges between students. And universities can’t afford to ignore this trend: “MOOCs are like a concert venue: you want to meet people at least once but then you want to be more flexible and only see them occasionally.” And collaborative spaces or huge reception areas could fulfil this need, provided they have the right equipment: “They need to have Wi-Fi access, video-conferencing solutions and comfortable furniture,” says Rodrigue Galani from the University of Strasbourg.