Experiential learning paving the way to the future of higher education

Posted on Monday, March 1, 2021

Author: Astha Tiwari, Research Software Analyst

Virtual Reality picture

Confucius, a Chinese philosopher and politician, once said, "Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand." This idea encompasses the roots of experiential learning for which all of us, at some point, have witnessed in our education. Increased implementation of experiential learning initiatives at the University have been motivated by graduates’ increasing demands for transferable skills. Last fall, we started a project where students at the University could gain practical knowledge through hands-on work in their field of study. The "Future of higher education" project focused on developing an e-learning model for the uOttawa, especially for a post-COVID era.  

“We have so many unique opportunities at uOttawa to co-create with students and professors for the betterment of the entire community,” explains Enterprise Architect MaryAnn Welke Lesage. “We can collaborate through course projects like ‘The Future of Higher Education’, research projects, and work terms. Did you know that uOttawa has the 2nd largest co-op program in Ontario? These kinds of collaborative projects provide students with valuable work experience while also helping to build the university of tomorrow.” 

This project was special as it enabled three graduate students to work with various stakeholders including, professors, IT leaders, the Library, and Teaching and Learning Support Services (TLSS) to develop the business perspective. They used their own experiences and tapped into the user experience view (UX) to develop their model. They used live exposure to the workings of a corporate system and user experience, to rethink and revamp existing teaching methodologies. The resulting futuristic view includes chatbots as teaching assistants and knowledge resources in the short-term, and immersive virtual reality classrooms further down the line. Consultations with professors sparked ideas, such as detecting student engagement in online learning through methods like computer vision-based tools to identify emotions such as boredom, delight, frustration, and confusion.  
For the students involved in the project, the experience facilitated a deep dive into concepts that enhanced their learning experience. Adam Ben Geried, graduate student in digital transformation and innovation, said “Merging technology with the education system today is a crucial factor for the future of higher education.  This project was interesting as it helped me to tap into user stories and learn the wonders of emerging technologies to make a better e-learning experience. Through this project we researched into the implementation of VR technologies within the classrooms to make hybrid or online learning a more tangible experience.” 

To move forward in building the future of higher education and the university of tomorrow, a chatbot Community of Practice was created. It is a joint collaboration between the Library, TLSS, Information Technology, and University partners to take chatbots from proof of concept to an everyday practical reality. Get involved and join the chatbot community!  

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