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Progress at KTH and down under

Last week, it was my privilege to talk about KTH’s Future Education programme at the T.I.M.E. Association General Assembly at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.  The meeting was followed by a visit to the University of New South Wales and the University of Technology in Sydney. They were fascinating visits, as Australia is regarded as a powerful continent when it comes to educating today’s engineers.

One interesting observation is that the universities in Australia are evolving in the same direction as KTH. The students are being equipped to handle problems for sustainable social development in a changing world. Education is increasingly characterised by active, student-centred learning. In concrete terms, this means seeing far fewer lecture halls.

Instead, active learning rooms are being built, providing a good foundation for student activity, with islands of connected tables with groups of students. Students have opportunities to play an active role in their own learning: individually, in groups around tables, and even between the tables. The teachers are able to help individual students or groups of students, or even all students simultaneously using the monitors on each table. Here and there around the buildings are study pods where students can study whenever they wish.

At all the universities we visited there are experimental environments that develop practical know-how, while also contributing to fresh thinking, innovative solutions and new working methods. The idea is to give all students opportunities to experiment, to give things a try and even to fail. After all, no great success was ever achieved without failure.

Examinations are evolving, becoming more authentic, and a variety of formats may even be used for the same course. Goal accomplishment is enhanced by constructively linking the exam process to learning activities.

Australia took far more comprehensive measures during the Covid-19 pandemic. The return to on-campus teaching after a period of remote learning is not yet optimal from a learning perspective. Having said that, the students that have returned to campus have access to almost everything they need for their daily lives: shops, restaurants, pharmacies, doctors, and so on – it’s a city within a city. This was most apparent at the University of Queensland, where a boat took me to my meetings along the river from my hotel. It was quite a different kind of trip!

It is very apparent that the visited universities are developing in the same direction as KTH when it comes to future education – and that we have a lot to learn from each other.