Reaching and inspiring today’s students

Last month, I had the pleasure of hosting a number of customers at our annual HE sales conference in Brighton. Our speakers came from a range of institutions, disciplines and countries, and yet I was struck by a common thread that unites their work: a passion for re-inventing teaching; for finding new ways to reach and inspire today’s students.

Those students have grown up with smartphones and high-speed internet; they live in a world where knowledge is ubiquitous. The challenge for teachers, and for us here at Pearson, is to keep those students engaged and motivated. Relevance and immediacy are key. And students rightly expect to be treated as individuals – shops, banks and music streaming apps can all understand and anticipate their needs, so why should education be any different?

But at a time when many first year courses have cohorts in the hundreds, and faculty have more and more calls on their time, how can teachers possibly meet these expectations? These are the challenges our teachers talked about in Brighton, and I was inspired by the dynamism and ambition of their answers:

  • First, by using data and smart assessment to better understand what’s happening in class. Pearson is the global leader in this area, and we know that technology alone isn’t the answer; that’s why all our products and services are underpinned by a deep understanding of learning science – of how students learn, and what works to help them (late last year we published our detailed guide to learning design). We also know we can’t do this alone – that’s why we’re partnering with other global leaders such as IBM Watson and Microsoft to find new ways to support great teaching and learning around the world.
  • Second, by using class time in new and exciting ways, ensuring students come to class ready to discuss, debate and apply their learning. The recent report from HEPI, “Rebooting learning for the Digital Age”, gives some great examples of how classrooms are being flipped in this way.
  • Third, by harnessing peer-to-peer learning and group work, often supported by real-world simulations, that allow students to share and build their knowledge together, enriching their experience and preparing them for the working world. We see this clearly in the work of our own products and services, like the mini-simulations in MyMarketingLab that you see here.

Just like their students, universities themselves have to keep learning. Pearson’s upcoming study, “Building efficacy in Learning Technologies” will look at the interplay of educator practice, student behaviours and well-designed technology that most makes a difference to learner outcomes.
One thing is certain: the demands of students will continue to grow. And having seen the passion with which teachers are rising to this challenge, I believe this can only be a good thing for higher education.