Never has the phrase “May you live in interesting times” been more relevant to my role than this year – UTS is in the middle of spending over a $1Billion on its campus redevelopment just as the explosion of free, online learning occurs. Just a few weeks ago Minister Chris Evans was quoted in the Financial Review (3 Oct) as questioning “whether the government should continue to fund university infrastructure as higher education moves online at a rapid pace.” To say there was a level of anxiety in the higher education sector would be an understatement. But, as I said in my article in The Conversation, “any university that can be replaced by a MOOC, should be”. This blog explores why I think UTS won’t be replaced, and how we are achieving that.
So far the following campus redevelopment projects have been completed: new student housing (720 beds); a multi-purpose sports hall; a major refurbishment of our Great Hall; a new space for the conduct of short courses; and major redevelopment of teaching spaces in our faculty of Design, Architecture & Building.
But the biggest changes are yet to come. There are three new buildings in the process of construction: The Faculty of Engineering and IT Building on Broadway (made famous yesterday when the large crane caught fire and the jib collapsed); the new Business School (designed by Frank Gehry); and a new Science Building.
The first two buildings have been designed (long before the MOOC hysteria) to maximise opportunities for collaborative learning – there is not a single standard lecture theatre in either of the buildings – rather there are large collaborative spaces.
This poses the significant challenge of how to change the learning experience of students, so they experience the best of online and face-to-face learning opportunities. We are meeting these challenges through two projects: Learning2014 (the year we will occupy the new buildings) and Learning2020.
Learning2014 is concerned with changing teaching and learning practices to make best use of these new collaborative spaces. Learning2020 is a longer term project to make the necessary changes to larger systems for this change in learning to occur - for example timetabling and other IT systems.
This blog will discuss these initiatives - the successes and failures :)