Reimagining the University Delivery System

It is essential that we re-shape and re-think the delivery structure at universities.

The critical question we must ask ourselves as academicians is whether we are truly doing justice to our students, by keeping them from morning to evening in classrooms bombarding them with one subject after another without truly knowing if the student is truly interested in studying or listening to the lecture.

Being different is difficult and requires out-of-the-box thinking. The new NEP talks about the need to change the teaching and learning process to foster inquiry, discovery, analysis and critical thinking.  If this needs to be realised we will need to move away from the existing model of long lectures and start moving toward preparing students to become independent learners.  The key word here is “independent learners”.  The role of the teacher is not to be the preacher but to become a facilitator of knowledge sharing.  Keeping this in mind and to foster independent learners let us join together to re-shape and re-think the delivery structure of our modules/lessons.

I will divide my thoughts into three sections, How we can change the delivery model, second What needs to be done to make the changes and third How to establish a learning ecosystem in the university.

1). How we can change the delivery model

I recommend we divide our teaching delivery into three broad categories

i) Lectures – Open lecture (the broad idea of the particular topic is provided and additional reading or notes are provided for students to explore)

ii) Seminars – Closed groups (closed groups of students not more than 20, where attendance is mandatory and teachers and students have a more informed debate and conversation on a topic, students should be encouraged to ask questions make presentations and involve in group discussions)

iii) Workshops –  These are sessions that can be either a guest lecture, practical lab sessions,  field visits,  specialized sessions, activity-based study etc. 

Independent learning – This is an essential component of the student’s life at university.  A space to reflect on what is being thought and conduct independent research on a topic should be given emphasis.

To prompt independent learning, we should structure the classes for each student for just 3 or 4days a week.  And every day the classes for one student should be not more than 5 hours. 

So for a typical student, a day in a life at university will have only about 4 to 5 hours of contact classes for 3 or 4 days a week and the rest of the time he/she is expected to study independently. 

Independent study means that the student is given projects, assessments and group work that need to be done.  Students who want to explore different subjects can opt to attend different open modules that he/she finds interesting.

Let’s say a typical week will have 40 hours of classes for a student.  The following can be considered a probably way to break up the timing

3 x 4 = 12 Contact classes – (2-hour lectures and 2 hr seminar)

3x 6 = 18hr independent study

10 hr (workshops, master classes, additional modules etc). 

2). What needs to be done in order to make the changes?

We will need to take a serious look into our curriculum and teach what is relevant and leave the dated knowledge. 

Flipped classroom methods of using recorded lectures and relevant audio and video information should be shared with the students in advance.  Let’s make contact hours in university an important session of learning. 

Seminars are very important and should be focused and students should get the feeling of receiving individual attention as the classes are of small numbers.   Make the seminar session about the students, let’s address the key questions, dive deep into the subject and encourage further research.

Teachers need to prepare relevant reading material and assignments for the independent study hours for students. 

Creative Assignments and peer-reviewed group work should be encouraged in all modules to enhance collaborative learning among students.

Providing the freedom for the student to choose different fields of study, from introductory to advanced levels of learning of a subject, should be made available for students to choose and learn.

In addition to providing direction for independent learning for students, it is also important to have “office hours” allocated to students. Office hours are when students can book a slot with the teacher to discuss course-related discussions and assist with direction and resolve doubts.  (Every teacher can allocate 3 hours in a week to address any issues students may have)

3). Establishing a learning ecosystem in the university  

The learning ecosystem is created when we have open access to knowledge.  Universities should encourage an interdisciplinary format of learning.   Adopt industry-relevant modules and personality /self-development modules. 

Modules like: How to become a better you? , Career planning, How to make good friends? How to become industry relevant? Etc.  These are all courses that go beyond the curriculum and classroom.  These are courses for life and building character in students. 

Every department in the university should collaborate with their relevant industries/organizations.  We can bring in a scheme of work during the day and study in the evening. This works very well for post-graduation students and Ph.D. students. 

Having evening sessions in universities brings a different dimension to the learning ecosystem of a university as it brings diverse students into the campus and the learning ecosystem is enhanced by their presence.

Let’s create a “Knowledge Exchange Center” at the university completely led by the students.  The center will aim to share knowledge, collaborate, and engage in constructive research work.  Students from different streams can meet in an allocated room and share their talent, teach other students, form teams to work on projects outside their realm of studies and engage in entrepreneurial activities.  This center will be monitored by a teacher on a rotational basis.  One teacher from every department must spend time in this center as it gives students a different perspective and expertise that they can use.

In conclusion, if we truly need to change the system we need to have the will and fortitude to do it.  All ideas that just stay on paper are useless.  Prompt and sincere action must be taken to bring a difference to your education system.  If we have to create independent learners, global thinkers, and good citizens then we have to take action and universities are a perfect starting point.  The suggestions come from my experience as an independent student and having visited world-class universities.  Change is never an easy thing, it is difficult but essential.  Every point or idea put here needs collective effort to bring to reality.  Let’s work towards bringing change to our system for the betterment of our students. 

Be the Change and Be the Change Maker.

Author – Christo Joseph , FRSA.

Director Strategy and Planning ,

Board of Management Member,

Garden City University. 

One Comment

  • Sanchaiyata M
    at 2 years ago

    Well written, lucid enough to be understandable by any level of course delivery instructors. The best part of this blog is the simple methods mentioned on how to execute the types of learning methodologies.

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