UNNC proposes blueprint for future digital education at QS Higher Ed Summit: China

19 April 2022

Last week, the QS Higher Ed Summit: China, themed "Knowledge Environments: Expanding education during and after the pandemic", was held online, bringing together higher education experts from around the world to discuss the future development of higher education in China. Dr K. Cohen Tan, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC), and Professor Martin Lockett, Dean of the Nottingham University Business School China, shared UNNC's practical experiences as well as their own insights into the topic of "New Virtual Education".

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"The QS Higher Ed Summit: China" is hosted by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), the world’s largest international higher education network. QS is recognised as one of the world’s most authoritative university ranking systems.

The summit was attended by professors and scholars from top universities both home and abroad, such as Nanyang Technological University, Tsinghua University, Peking University, University of Manchester, University of Sydney, and The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

This year’s summit used an immersive virtual interactive platform that simulated the "face-to-face" experience between guest speakers and the audience.

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Dr K. Cohen Tan presenting at the summit

Vice Provost Dr Tan stated that as an important member of the global family of the University of Nottingham, UNNC had placed digitisation at the core of teaching delivery even before the pandemic. This also allowed the university to react quickly and smoothly transition to a tried-and-tested hybrid teaching model at the outbreak of the pandemic. In April 2020, the university was approved by the government to reopen its campus, becoming the first Sino-foreign university to fully resume offline classes. Since December 2020, UNNC has learned many lessons during the pandemic, identified numerous pain points and has completed 46 Digital Transformation Projects aimed at creating a seamless student experience.

"We always place students at the centre of the learning experience and design our teaching systems around them", said Dr Tan. The Vice Provost went on to say, "Our teaching strategy is to empower students and help them become lifelong learners. We therefore need to not only integrate online and offline teaching methods into a blended delivery, but also re-design our assessment method in an innovative way that integrates desired learning outcomes, internship opportunities and real-world experience. This will in turn allow students to create value and make a meaningful impact on the city where they are located".

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Professor Martin Lockett presenting at the summit

The pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to the teaching style of schools and universities, especially at UNNC with its diverse international student body. Ensuring the teaching experience of teachers and students in different time zones has not been an easy task. At the Summit, Professor Lockett summarised challenges in hybrid teaching as well as areas for improvement, such as learning design, teacher-student interaction and technology. Professor Lockett stated, "Hybrid teaching has become a necessity given the global pandemic situation. UNNC has focused on protecting the student experience through various measures such as infrastructure upgrades and online interaction initiatives, but there is still a lot we need to do in the future". He said, "We have been adjusting teaching methods and improving a hybrid teaching system through which we aim to generate similar levels of student satisfaction and engagement that the face-to-face teaching experience provides".

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The university’s virtual education has a proven track record. In the Digital Heritage Centre project at the local Ningbo Bang museum, UNNC students employed a transmedia narrative approach to create an immersive experience for museum goers. In addition to helping spread the local heritage and cultural identity of Ningbo, the project won the 2021 China Social Impact Award and the 2021 European Chambers of Commerce 8th Corporate Social Responsibility Award. UNNC was also recently shortlisted as a finalist for the "Teaching and Learning Strategy of the Year" award in the THE Asia Awards 2022. This is a further testament to the University’s commitment to digitising education.