Oh the things you can find, if you don’t stay behind! — Trying to future proof classes

With the ITS program coming to an end there’s one thing left to discuss: How do we future proof our classes? How to make sure that the classes we plan can give the students what they want and need?

One of the secrets here seems to be to fall back on the Dr. Seuss quote I used in the headline. Adaptation. Relying on antiquated teaching methods, syllabi, and the ‘that’s how we’ve always done it’ attitude are obviously not the path towards a fruitful future. Neither for the instructor, nor the student. With the pandemic raging the world, changing the way we interact and communicate with each other adaptation, being open to change, seems to be as crucial as ever and hence I thought looking into how to adapt in order to future proof classes just makes sense.

In my particular case I decided to look into one of my fourth year classes, “Digital Strategies”, as a class with this title obviously seems destined for change due to the subject matter changing constantly.

Here now a break down of my attempt to future proof this class:

  1. Set-up
  2. Content
  3. Teaching Methodologies
  4. Assessment
  5. Feedback / Reflection

Set-Up

In order to ensure students will have a class that gets them ready for ‘the real world’ (as this is a final year class) I decided to work together with actual industry leaders (for guest lectures, events, field trips) as well as local NGOs and SMEs to act as what we would call clients later down the road.

As this class usually leads to connections with the real world as well as the chance to discuss latest trends and developments this class usually sees a lot of interest from the student body which now lead me to introduce to a few preliminary tasks in order to give everybody interested the chance to show how much they really want to be in this class.

Content

The content obviously has to be adjusted every semester this class is being taught. In regards to keep the content as current as possible and to make sure that the content discussed in class will help students upon graduation surveys are being conducted among industry leaders to learn what the industry values and expects to matter moving forward. As of late the subject of data driven marketing has been mentioned a lot and hence made its way into the syllabus. This is being done on an ongoing basis.

In order to keep students involved there will also be two spots in the syllabus where they will have the possibilities to suggest and vote on their own topics. This means students who participate frequently can suggest topics they would want to have addressed and analyze in class and if those suggestions resonate those topics will be had.

Teaching Methodologies

It’s of utmost importance to keep an engaging and active teaching approach all through the semester which will include a lot of ideas taken from the ITS program. Different educational levers will be applied to get students out of their respective comfort zones.

Classes will be held outside the classroom (if we can go back to in-person classes) or in different platforms (if we have to stay online/hybrid). Gamification also plays a part in the structure of certain classes where students will have to take the lead, actively participate, and work with each other to create learning outcomes that will help their real life projects.

Assessment

In addition to the class structure, the assessment obviously also has to be adapted. This class will not only rely on exams but also on peer reviews, assessment by the aforementioned ‘clients’, and individual participation (e.g. via conferences, events, and alike). All assessment criteria will be published beforehand so that it is transparent and easily understood for every student taking this class.

Feedback / Reflection

As we explored during this course feedback can be a crucial part of the learner’s success (or lack thereof). Hence implementing active feedback loops that check in with students on individual as well as group levels are being implemented on a regular basis.

The feedback loops will be linked to appropriate reflection techniques so that check-ins will not only be about the current task at hand but also about the learning journey as a whole which will be helpful in addressing potential issues and in making adjustments if necessary.

I already can’t wait for the next semester to start (after a short time of rest though ;-) ).

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Ideas and experiments from the Stanford-Thailand Research Consortium’s Innovative Teaching Scholars (ITS) Program.

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Sascha Funk

Sascha Funk

Uni lecturer in #BKK. New Media & ED #Volleyball, #MuayThai. https://saschafunk.com — @mythaiorg, hosting @FunkItPod| it’s not rain, it’s liquid sunshine

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