As part of new role as Research Associate on the Near Future Teaching project at the University of Edinburgh, I recently participated in a collider event led by Chris Speed, which is a design-oriented approach to developing methods, ideas, and approaches that might inform a particular outcome, which in this case was to develop responses to what the future of teaching in universities should look like. Below is the Storify-ied summary of the event followed by some of my notes from the presentations and the group discussions.

When I emphasize Note (as in Note:) that is purely my observation and not necessarily founded in any group consensus from the event. Overall, an engaging exercise, one that forces participants to get outside some of the anchors that might otherwise hinder a design orientation: legacy, history, inertia, existing practice and process. This is about designing a future for teaching in higher education, particularly in a university with such a pronounced digital education remit as the University of Edinburgh.

Near Future Teaching Collider Event15.9.2017; 14:00–17:00 BST; Design Informatics Studio; Edinburgh College of Art, 78 West Port
Room 1.09 Evolution House; Edinburgh

Description: What should the future of teaching in universities look like? Connectivity reduces the need for us to be ‘on campus’, while the growth of distance education raises questions about the value of having a campus at all. Artificial intelligence and machine learning promise to take over some aspects of the work of human teachers, while extended cognition and neurocomputation suggest new forms of human-computer crafted intelligence. In the face of data and computationally-driven social change, what values should drive the way we teach and learn? This collider will bring together professionals associated with the field of higher education to open discussion and a set of creative solutions for near future teaching.


Sian Bayne challenged us with the issue for the day, which was how do we design university teaching for a creative, risk-taking, values-led digital future? To flesh this out a bit, she showed us a series of questions including

And more. Participants then got into groups to brainstorm and design a solution of sorts to one of these pressing questions. These were presented at the end of the session and some common characteristics seemingly emerged across all the groups. The first was an implicit or explicit values-centered design. Many of the groups emphasized values rather overtly. Second was the emphasis, for the most part, on intimacy or development of relationships towards, presumably, resilience and identity formation. Many of the groups chose interactions at the beginnings of the student lifecycle (matriculating, adapting to different social environments, preparation). Third was the repeated emphasis on identity formation. Most of the groups seemed to favor approaches that allowed for the formation of an identity through personalisation and exposure to an evolving set of inputs (curriculum, for example). Technologically, many favored personalisation, such as AI assistants to help broker relationships, make students aware of opportunity, or provide a kit they choose to create a sense of ownership and engagement.

6 Responses

  1. It feels challenging and scary at the same time. The intensive use of technology brings in so much that is not necessarily evident…In my view one needs to carefully and critically address the use of technology with students, interrogating tools with them so they become aware of the hidden power dynamics implicit in the design of each tool. The project looks thrilling and challenging!

  2. Thanks Caroline! Agreed that the power dynamics in the technologies going forward and even in the university structure itself. I hope all is well with your research!

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