The 2022 Learning and Teaching Forum opened with a warm welcome to the incoming Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education and Students) Professor Kylie Readman. The energy was enthusiastic as participants joined online and in person for the first forum to deliver presentations and speeches in hybrid mode. In her keynote presentation, Kylie invited us to rethink our approach to learning, establishing some of the key themes to explore that day: human-centred learning, blended approaches, accessibility and equity. 

Equity is the centrepiece to excellence 

Kylie began by highlighting the CSIRO seven global megatrends, including the rapid rise of digitisation and the push for a more personalised and ethical economy. She posed the question: what are our responses to these challenges? Via the Australian Universities Accord, higher education in Australia has made progress towards creating more access and opportunity, but this has not been achieved for all students.  

Drawing on the work of psychologist and author Adam Grant, Kylie proposed that a solution to this is to rethink comfortable or entrenched ways of learning and teaching that may no longer serve all students. Human-centred learning is vital to this endeavour. This approach to learning and teaching emphasises connection, accessibility, inclusivity and enjoyment. It promotes reflective and evaluative approaches that lead to change.

We were encouraged to share our own interpretations of human-centred learning in a Mentimeter survey. Many perspectives explored the interpersonal aspects of learning and teaching, including: 

  • Being compassionate
  • Using your students’ feedback to keep improving your teaching 
  • Prioritising the student-teacher relationship
  • Personalising support and feedback

Kylie left us with the call to action to rethink learning and teaching to aim for excellence, engagement and equity. 

Not just a number 

Continuing the conversation, the Learning and Teaching Forum Student Panel shared their experiences of university. The students discussed some of the challenges they have encountered, including adjusting to academic life in Sydney and navigating the hybrid approach to learning. While enjoying the “best of both worlds” flexibility of online and on-campus study, the students were also keen to emphasise that they are “not just a number” and want to develop and nurture personal connections in their studies. 

In sharing their vision for the ideal learning experience at UTS, the students touched on themes from the keynote address. Learners are seeking opportunities to define their own relationship with university, through greater choice, influence and access. 

Aurora Murphy chairs the student panel on stage

Making meaningful connections 

The main program included more than 50 sessions, most of which were run in hybrid format and some online only. Presentations were diverse, ranging from exploration of the use of poetry for fostering belonging, to investigation into the use of data analytics to provide students with timely and meaningful feedback.  

Lunch on Alumni Green was a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues and sample the ice cream. While Santa was not available for photos (as he was on annual leave), keen forum attendees could take a selfie with Santa’s unicorn. 

Rethinking traditional ways of learning 

To wrap up the day, the Student Panel returned with their reflections on the Forum. They appreciated the discussions about rethinking traditional approaches to university learning and teaching, and underlined that they value feedback, choice and engagement with their tutors on a human level. Finally, in her closing remarks, Kylie lauded the “program of solutions” the forum had showcased in response to the challenges highlighted by the day’s keynote. 

We finished the day with the announcement of the 2022 UTS Learning and Teaching Awards and Citations winners, followed by drinks and canapes. 

Relive the experience with these recordings of the day’s main events:

  • Many thanks to all who organised. I had a genuinely amazing day and was deeply encouraged. Face to face is the win!

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