"Digitising a borderless university": UNNC shortlisted for Times Higher Education Awards Asia

14 April 2022

Times Higher Education (THE) recently announced that the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) was shortlisted as a finalist out of 500+ universities in Asia and Middle East for the "Teaching and Learning Strategy of the Year" category in the THE Asia Awards 2022.

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UNNC was one of eight universities shortlisted for the award, including Hong Kong University, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Nanyang Technological University and the National University of Singapore.

Widely known as the "Oscars of Higher Education", the THE Awards has a prestigious reputation in the UK higher education sector for 17 years, and the THE Awards Asia is beginning its fourth year on the Asian continent.

THE Awards Asia will feature 10 different categories. In addition to UNNC, five other universities from Chinese Mainland have been nominated, including Zhejiang University, University of International Business and Economics, Wuhan University, Shanghai University, and Central South University.

The "Teaching and Learning Strategy of the Year" award that UNNC is shortlisted for recognises unique and innovative teaching and learning strategies that enhance both the student and staff experience, and reflect an institution’s core values.

UNNC Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, Dr K. Cohen Tan, believes that the nomination reflects the University’s ambition to develop high-quality learning experiences for all students. The award also recognises the University’s commitment in the digital transformation of education and the efforts by colleagues to realise UNNC’s aspiration of a borderless university.

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Dr Tan said, "UNNC’s nomination for the 'Teaching and Learning Strategy of the Year' award is a testament of the university’s achievements in digitising education. While the pandemic has created headwinds for many HE institutions, we embrace the digitisation of education as a positive disruption to deliver a best-in-class teaching and learning experience. The vision for digital transformation at UNNC is to empower students and staff through transformative digital experiences throughout the entire education life cycle by establishing fully-integrated, process-optimising and user-centric systems enabled by innovative digital solutions and technologies. Since December 2020, UNNC has completed 46 projects and made fruitful progress."

Since the pandemic, UNNC has created a number of upgraded "student-centred lecture rooms" that facilitate a blend of online and offline teaching styles. The lecture rooms come with flexible furniture and interactive touchscreens that can be flipped to shift the emphasis from being teacher-centred to a student-centred interactive communication. Thanks to these technologically advanced "flipped classrooms", students can enjoy an enhanced interactive learning experience regardless of their geographical location.

More recently, UNNC launched the V-ROOM, an interactive laboratory that combines virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies to pilot an immersive and engaging learning environment. Over 600 students participated in creating learning programmes for V-ROOM. Some with zero experience and knowledge were trained to use 3D design software to co-design simulations aimed at language learning, design and architecture, and engineering modules.

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Interactive Learning Lab - V-Room

Dr Tan believes that new technologies not only improve learning experience for students, but also empower academics. At UNNC, a Decision Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab was created to facilitate teaching with advanced technologies in real-time data analysis and model development. "We also promote the sharing of best teaching practices among academics by providing them with online training courses and communication platforms. This will in turn benefit students and help them to reach their full potential". He said.

Dr Tan says the university will continue to incorporate digital technologies, not only in the delivery of education but also in terms of pedagogy development, to cultivate talent and prepare students for the Future of Work.