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CHANGES IN TEACHING AND LEARNING -THE TRANSFORMATION OF KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER Decline or renewal of higher education? Threats and possibilities amidst a global epidemic situation Horizon Scanning Report Series VOLUME 1

  • Future of Higher Education Research Centre at Budapest Business School


The Future of Higher Education Research Centre at Budapest Business School started a Horizon Scanning Report Series which aims to find answers to the question ‘What trends can be identified affecting the future of higher education (HE) based on academic and semi-academic discourses?’. The abrupt change in HE (just as in any other spheres of our lives) due to the COVID19 global pandemic made this exercise more urgent and topical. Therefore, we decided to publish our initial collections to help orienting the different stakeholders in HE. In the first volume we collected the changes and drivers related to the knowledge transfer role of higher education .
Decline or renewal of higher education?
Threats and possibilities amidst a global epidemic situation
Horizon Scanning Report Series
Gábor KIRÁLY – Zsuzsanna GÉRING
Future of Higher
Budapest Business School
Budapest, 2020
This report is the first part of a series by the Future of Higher Education Research Centre at Budapest
Business School, which aims to find answers to the question ‘What trends can be identified affecting the
future of HE based on academic and semi-academic discourses?’. The abrupt change in higher education
(just as in any other sphere of life) due to the COVID19 global pandemic made this exercise more urgent
and topical. Therefore, we decided to publish our initial findings to help different stakeholders in HE find
their way in this labyrinth of challenges.
Details about the series and the Centre:
This report aims to analyse the changes and drivers related to the knowledge transfer role of higher
education. It starts with a short description of the present state, then outlines some major challenges and
initiatives regarding the changing field of learning and teaching. Finally, it introduces three possible
pathways to higher education institutions in order to initiate individual reflections and collective
discussions about the future of HE.
The question of teaching and learning is always at the forefront of higher education agendas. Today, in the
midst of a global pandemic, this question has become urgent and several actors in the field attempt to
adapt to this new situation in which brick-and-mortar institutions have had to become digital universities
almost overnight. While trying to deal with this system shock, the challenges represented by a fully online
mode of operation might also offer some opportunities to rethink our teaching and learning practices.
These practices need to be rethought and discussed with as many stakeholders of higher education as
possible. For example, it is not a taken-for-granted fact that learning truly occurs for students at higher
education institutions (heretofore: HEIs). And even if they learn something, do they learn the right things?
Therefore, the question of teaching and learning is twofold.
The first aspect is related to the issue of whether ‘real’ learning (i.e. one that is deep, long-lasting and
transferable to other contexts) occurs at HEIs, or students mainly busy themselves with jumping hoops in
the form of exams and forget most of the material shortly after these academic trials. The second aspect
is concerned with the issue that even if they learn something, is that something useful and applicable in the
‘real world’, that is, in their jobs and everyday lives.
If we are honest, it is obvious that we need to reflect on and deal with these issues. In other words, we need
to discuss both the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ of learning. Fortunately, intentional experimentation – with new
forms of teaching and learning and new areas of study – has already been started around the globe.
In this short report we collected the most important changes and innovative practices in relation to
teaching and learning. These can contribute to shaping and (re)designing higher education to become
more conducive to ‘real’ learning in particular, and to become more future-proof in general. However, we
also include some critical notes in relation to the contradictions of these practices in order to present a
more nuanced picture. After discussing these practices and trends, the closing section offers three distinct
future possibilities for HE. These should not be regarded as predictions for the future, instead they are
possible developmental pathways for higher education. Various stakeholders of HE might use them to
think about and discuss what kind of teaching and learning they would like to promote at their institutions
during and – maybe most importantly – after the global pandemic.
Just-in-time learning
There seems to be a shift in preferences towards the so-called ‘just-in-time learning’. This represents a kind
of target-driven learning experience, that is, providing the necessary knowledge and skills for a particular
task. Since the nature of professions changes gradually and sometimes dramatically, the tasks related to
these professions also constantly involve the acquisition of new knowledge and new skillsets. The idea
behind just-in-time learning is that it provides the necessary amount of these (knowledge/skills) at the
right place, at the right time (using Levine’s rather direct example: “teach me the newest programming
language by Thursday”). This form of learning can be modularised or even come in ‘snippets’, that is, in
micro-learning opportunities throughout one’s professional life.
This is quite different from the conventional ‘just in case’ education where there are relatively long
(undergraduate, graduate) programmes with a broad focus on offering general knowledge and a broad
skillset at a relatively superficial level. ‘Just in case’ education presupposes that students may need these
(knowledge, skills) at one or several points in their professional life, so it is wise to cover a wide range of
issues and a quite diverse set of skills. This type also assumes that people in their professional life will be
able to retrieve these pieces of knowledge and skills from their memory and utilise them in a different
context should the need arise. These assumptions might be too optimistic with regards to the outcomes of
learning since both long-term knowledge retention and knowledge transfer to areas and contexts outside
of classrooms tend to be rather limited. Just-in-time education attempts to deal with these limitations
providing situational and topical pieces of knowledge when the need of learning arises.
Critical note:
If it is demanded from HEIs that they provide not only just-in-case but also just-in-time learning, this can
significantly alter the provision of services and their mode of operation. The question, of course, is
whether traditional HEIs can become proficient at offering just-in-time learning, or it will be covered by
alternative providers. Another aspect of this is related to the certification of just-in-time learning. We will
cover this issue in a further short report on credentials and validation of knowledge.
Collaborative learning
Collaborative learning is often mentioned in the discourse concerning the future of higher education.
Mostly this form of learning means that students work together in a shared physical or virtual space in
order to create something and/or to solve a problem (more on problem-based learning below). Proponents
of collaborative learning emphasise that in most work contexts in the future, people will work in teams
either on maintaining and fine-tuning existing services, organisations and systems, or on creating new
products and services. Hence, collaborative learning not only leads to knowledge acquisition but it can
also offer valuable experience in working with a diverse set of people. This diversity can include people
with different personalities, specialisations, as well as different cultural backgrounds.
Critical note:
Some voices downplay the role of technology in creating a classroom atmosphere which facilitates
collaboration between people. Their arguments are based on the assumption that collaboration mostly
happens between people who are present in a shared physical space. This form of (physical as well as
mental) presence can facilitate (self-)reflection, a conscious experimentation with group dynamics, as well
as discussion and shared thinking. Furthermore, some even argue for a ban of technology in classrooms. In
their view, students’ use of technology hinders real engagement and collaboration, turning university
classes into “knowledge-download sessions". Nevertheless, the aims of university learning are to
understand and apply theories and to develop critical thinking. These aims can be achieved by collectively
processing and discussing relevant materials together with others.
What is interesting in relation to this approach
is the role of technology. In some cases,
technology facilitates the process, providing
the very means for collaboration (for example
when students write educational blogs to each
other under the supervision of their
In other cases, the technological infrastructure
(such as a digital learning environment) is the
very medium through which collaboration
between students occurs. Consequently, it is
easy to envision a fully technologised campus
with online courses and online arenas of
collaboration. In line with this, some argue
that online learning has the potential to
become a much more dialogical, as well as a
collective experience to all involved.
Online learning communities
Communities of learning can be organised around online content, making it possible to learn in an
informal way. These can be completely independent from formal learning institutions and environments.
While some find schools and universities boring, alienating or even hostile environments, people create
online educational contents for others (for example on YouTube channels) where learning can happen in a
less stressful way. These educational contents are often freely available for fun and for engaging the
curiosity of the audience, which can be quite diverse both in age, level of education and cultural
background. Being involved in such a learning community can be a completely different learning
experience compared to those they had to go through in educational institutions. Moreover, learning
communities might also involve those who do not have access to formal organisations of learning.
Critical note:
It has to be mentioned that these contents are not curated or fact-checked in any way apart from the
feedback of the community itself. So, learning communities can be about astrology, flat earth and other
pseudo-scientific topics reaching a wide audience with their “educational” content.
In relation to higher education, it is still a question whether the institutional academic environment can
be conducive to forming and maintaining such learning communities. It would be reinvigorating for HEIs
to bring in this level of creativity, commitment and intellectual energy invested in learning communities
and creating content for audiences inside and outside of academic institutions. At the very least, HEIs can
find ways to formally acknowledge achievements if their students are involved in these types of
Personalised learning
The proliferation of online (high-)quality teaching and learning materials makes it possible to provide a
customised and personalised learning experience, as far as knowledge transfer is concerned. Online
learning in general, and MOOCs in particular, allow for each student to process the given materials at their
own pace and progress accordingly. Mobile devices, especially smartphones, allow easy and convenient
access to these contents, as well as provide tools for continuous assessment and feedback.
As for skill development, adaptive learning solutions can help tailor the process of education to students’
personal needs and abilities. During their studies, students can be given problems at their respective skill
level, in their “zone of proximity”. This would mean that each student progresses at their own pace by
solving problems which are challenging enough to stretch their abilities, while not so complex as to make
them lose their interest and hope in their studies. This form of ‘deliberate practice’ based education might
have the potential to keep students more engaged and develop their skills gradually over time.
Critical note:
While adaptive learning technologies can make learning much more personalised and convenient, they
also mean that each student progresses individually. However, highly individualised learning tracks can
easily make any collective activities such as sharing of thoughts, discussions and common reflection (see
above at collaborative learning) impossible.
Also, adaptive learning presently is still in development, and most HEIs are still waiting out to see how
they can apply this approach to their own programmes. While this form of automated system might work
well with closed problems (ones we can find in mathematics and natural sciences), it is much more difficult
to codify open problems in a way which facilitate the development of students and help their progress
from less to more complex problems.
Problem-based learning
Critical note:
One of the most difficult challenges in problem-based learning is to provide problems which are complex
enough to be challenging but not too difficult so that students get frustrated and disheartened. Moreover,
this also requires a radically different instructor role. Most of the lecturers and professors today might be
skilled in identifying and framing research problems, but they can be just as lost as students when it comes
to practical problem-solving exercises.
Moreover, while it might seem a good idea in theory to organise the whole learning process around
practical problems, in practice this can lead to shallow knowledge and unnecessary frustration of
students. According to extensive cognitive science research results, problem solving without having a
prior, well-established knowledge base in the given field is almost impossible. Therefore, the main
question is how to design a learning process in such a way that students have the necessary knowledge to
solve the problems they are facing – or, at the very least, to help them recognize what their learning needs
are. This requires specific redesigning of the whole learning process (see curriculum design in a further
report), as well as instructors prepared both in pedagogical and in practical (problem solving) matters.
Changes in the labour market necessitate a new, 'challenge-driven' form of education whereby students
collectively solve a real-world problem in an interdisciplinary manner. This means that learning and
knowledge acquisition is organised around a problem. These problem-solving learning experiences imitate
the type of situations students will meet in their “real” professional lives.
So, one of the main issues in higher education is how students can gain not only theoretical and
conceptual pieces of knowledge but also apply them under ‘quasi real-life’ circumstances. This type of
education might have far-reaching effects since students who learn to identify, frame and solve problems
(as well as build diverse teams to do so; see collaborative learning above) might become better in shaping
and transforming their environment for the better in their professional life.
That also means that HEIs and their programmes
have to find ways to incorporate problem solving
exercises alongside simple knowledge transfer,
which dominates most programmes today. If
MOOCs and other forms of online education will
cover many (if not most) knowledge transfer tasks
and basic skill development, these problem-oriented
activities can become central at HEIs. These
additional educational elements might involve
giving students complex yet manageable problems
to solve, as well as providing the necessary space for
experimentation, feedback, and critical reflection.
Human aspect of teaching & learning
The question of the human side of teaching and learning in a world increasingly dominated by digital
technology is also present in the discourse on the future of HE. Several sources emphasise that humans
will always be essential in the process of learning since the most important, long-lasting and formative
experiences in education are not the ones of simple content memorisation. Instead, the main question of
education is how to get students involved in the content intellectually with the help of skilled instructors.
Intellectual engagement can happen by reading critically, writing about personal understanding, as well as
being engaged in intellectual discussions about the content. These activities, at least for the time being,
presuppose close connections and often personal mentoring and support from a tutor.
Since these activities are rather expensive and difficult to organise, they represent the exception and not
the rule at today’s HEIs – especially at an undergraduate level. The main issue about the human aspect of
teaching and learning is, then, how HEIs can reorganise the division of labour between instructors and
technology so that several repetitive tasks can be delegated from the instructors to algorithms designed
to support education. This shift may allow an educational arrangement where humans spend most of their
time with activities (mentoring, coaching and intellectual development of students) in which they are
better than any current and possibly any future technology.
Critical note:
In case that this division of labour becomes more accentuated, it is highly probable that online courses and
other digitised solutions for learning will be the go-to form of education for the ‘masses’. Since they are
relatively cheap, fast and convenient for many, this highly digitalised form of HE can easily become the new
version of massified higher education. That would also mean that elite HE would mostly deal with those
aspects of education which cannot be covered by technological means. If traditional HEIs cannot adapt and
develop a new arrangement to combine the best of the two possible worlds (i.e. human and technological),
private, independent providers may step in and offer personalised intellectual and skill development to
prospective students (both in terms of personalised learning tracks and providing human connection).
A wide & fast
highway of (mass)
online education
higher education
with online courses
as add-ons
Online higher education is like travelling on a highway
One of the possible pathways after the global pandemic is that the unexpected experience of a fully online
operation instigates some institutions to migrate to the digital sphere, or alternatively build up a digital,
“no-frills” version of their programmes alongside offline ones. In line with this, we can imagine a sort of
higher education which aims to provide fast, relatively cost-effective ways to learn for a large number of
people. This type of higher education would fully utilise the possibilities inherent in online learning and
adaptive learning solutions such as flexibility, convenience, accessibility and customised learning pathways.
It is possible to think about this type of fully online HE as a highway which offers a quite convenient manner
to get from A to B. In this interpretation the destination of those on the highway is decided beforehand and
there are several signposts and maybe adaptive navigation applications to help them stay on course.
Moreover, there are also separate lanes for those who want to go faster and for those who opt for a slower
pace. Highways are both useful if one aims to travel shorter or longer distances.
In line with this allegory, higher education can become a way to learn something in a convenient and flexible
manner by participating in online courses. These courses have well defined learning goals and are designed
to guide students along a straightforward learning track. They can be relatively effective ways to learn
something. Since online courses are products of the digital economy, they are relatively affordable and
accessible, so a very large number of people can participate without hindering each other's learning or
progress in any way.
These courses, at the moment, often have inbuilt assessment possibilities which help students to test their
understanding of the given subject matter and see if they need to practice or learn more to master the
material. It is also highly likely that several adaptive learning solutions will find their way into online courses
providing a more customised learning experience for online learners.
Online courses are applicable for a ‘just in case’ type of learning which might serve as a basis for students’
further studies. As an example, we can think of Khan Academy courses which cover basic knowledge areas
and skillsets in mathematics, physics, biology etc. from primary school to undergraduate levels.
Furthermore, they are also applicable for ‘just-in-time’ learning offering short online courses in specific and
sometimes highly specialised areas (like special program-languages or a new solution in logistics etc).
Business-as-usual higher education with online courses as add-ons
We can also imagine, and maybe this is the most likely, that once the pandemic is over, higher education goes
back to its normal, business-as-usual operation while learning from the experience of full online education
and attempting to maintain some of its advantages.
To continue the analogy from above, this form of education will be like travelling on country roads. On a
country road, the progress may be slower than on the highway (especially for those who would use the fast
lane on the highway) but it also provides a deeper knowledge and understanding of the landscape. Since
overtaking other cars is difficult, most of the travellers stick together and move at the same pace. That also
means that the capacity of the country road is limited so fewer people can drive on it at the same time.
Travellers may need human guidance and navigation advice especially at the tricky sections of the road, so it
is possible to slow down and ask for help from people around who have extensive knowledge about the area.
Nevertheless, for some sections of the trip, drivers might use the highway to find shortcuts and to save time
(as well as money in some cases).
So, in this form of higher education, fewer people can participate in courses which are mainly still offline.
While some courses are offered fully online and students can study on their own, most students proceed at
a similar pace. This ‘synchronicity’ in terms of time and space also allows for collaborative learning
experiences among students. This form of higher education might lead to deeper learning especially if the
academic environment fosters human connections between students and lecturers. It also means that the
advantage of this form of learning for students is that they can receive guidance and mentoring from their
lecturers. This also means that if they want to learn more about something because something arouses their
curiosity, with the help of their instructors they can dig deeper in a given subject matter and becoming
experts themselves eventually.
Non-directive experiential learning
In line with these thoughts, learning can be non- or self-directive when students, with the help of their
instructors, identify problems, form projects alone or with others. This form of learning is highly
experiential and experimental, and may be a good opportunity for students who are driven by their
curiosity and creativity. Participating in higher education can provide space for experimentation, feedback
and reflection as well as the possibility to participate in communities of practice.
However, to be able to solve problems, participate in projects and processes of innovation, students need
to have some prior knowledge which they can acquire by participating in offline or online courses. Apart
from this basic knowledge set, when they start to work on problems and projects, they also see in what
areas they need more knowledge and where they have to develop their skills. Instructors are there to
facilitate learning, help when students are blocked and offer materials and guidance when needed.
It is difficult to pre-define indicators for successful learning and learning goals, since an unsuccessful
problem-solving exercise or a failed project can be just as or even more formative a learning experience as
'success'. Nevertheless, only a small number of students can work with one instructor and the amount of
time needed to complete a “course” might vary from student to student. These attributes make this form
of higher education quite expensive and time-consuming. Nevertheless, since most knowledge transfer
and basic skill development activities are delegated to online courses and adaptive algorithms which are
accessible when needed (before or during these problem-/project-based courses), the main role of human
instructors is facilitation and guidance in problem-solving and project-based learning.
travelling is for its own sake, not for reaching some destination as fast as possible. From the perspective
of other types of travelling, this one can be considered rather slow and cumbersome and therefore, it is
only enticing for a very small fraction of the possible travellers. However, on the upside, it develops high
level survival, problem-solving and adaptation skills, as well as full immersion in the landscape, leading to
a much deeper and detailed knowledge about it. Travellers are accompanied by trained human guides who
give timely advice and help when somebody gets lost on their way. Nevertheless, in order to get to
mountain paths, one might need to use country roads and/or the highway first.
Lastly, it is also possible to envision a form of higher education
which is mostly based on human connections between instructors
and students, who see each other as partners or fellow learners at
different levels of expertise. This form of higher education would
involve problem-based learning and collaborative projects
involving both students and faculty members.
To come back again to the allegory of travelling, this can be
imagined as hiking on a mountain path by foot. The defining
characteristics of this type of travelling is openness meaning that
neither the trails nor the destination is predetermined beforehand
– it can even be said in a hopelessly romantic manner that
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Published by: Future of Higher Education Research Centre, Budapest Business School, Budapest, Hungary
April 2020
Future of Higher Education Research Centre, Budapest Business School, 2020
Király – Géring, 2020
How to cite: KIRÁLY, G. – GÉRING, Z. (2020)
Horizon Scanning Report Series, Volume I.
Future of Higher Education Research Centre, Budapest Business School, Budapest
This report was prepared as part of the project ‘The future of business education’ funded by National Research,
Development and Innovation Office, Hungary (FK127972).
Future of Higher
Budapest Business School
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Conference Paper
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In laboratory higher education critical evaluation and assessment of obtained data and the implemented measurement procedures are addressed. Typically, to foster this reflection process laboratory reports are requested. Such written assignments are usually carried out individually or by reduced groups of students, therefore more focused on the individual evaluation of one's own experimental experience, than on sharing the results of such evaluation with other students. Sharing results and expectations for a given experiment in a transparent way with one another may help identifying sources of error more easily. But above all it may help sharing their knowledge and the insight they gained from the experiments, thereby facilitating the achievement of a more complete assessment and set of conclusions obtained. To foster such a participation process the Introductory Laboratory of the Postgraduate Program Renewable Energy and the European Master in Renewable Energy at the University of Oldenburg which usually consisted of theoretical lectures, laboratory days and evaluation sessions was extended in autumn 2015 by a " Seminar Blog " a WordPress based collective e-portfolio concept, which makes it possible to depict rising questions, steps and results of a research process. Collective-shared representations function as a gateway for discussions and feedback-activities. The dynamically mapping and representation of the research and learning process open ways of prompt and 'timely' communication about questions and uncertainties. In this paper results from the implementation of the " Seminar Blog " as an online tool for enabling the direct and transparent share of experimental results are discussed.
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Universities play an important role in shaping the future of the world society in terms of sustainable development by generating new knowledge as well as contributing to the development of appropriate competencies and raising sustainability awareness. During the last years, many universities have undertaken activities for implementing Higher Education for Sustainable Development (HESD). Many have asked which key competencies are most relevant for sustainable development and hence should be developed in future-oriented higher education. Different approaches for the selection of sustainability key competencies have been developed, but there is little international agreement in the debate around the most important key competencies. Consequently, this paper asks which individual key competencies are crucial for understanding central challenges facing the world society and for facilitating its development towards a more sustainable future, and thus identifies those competencies which should be fostered through university teaching and learning. The empirical design of the study is related to a Delphi study in which ‘sustainability key competencies’ are defined by selected experts from Europe (Germany, Great Britain) and Latin America (Chile, Ecuador, Mexico). The results show that twelve key competencies crucial for sustainable development can be identified; the most relevant ones are those for systemic thinking, anticipatory thinking and critical thinking.
One of the main missions of higher education is to prepare the young (but not exclusively them) for future challenges. It not only has the potential to change individual lives but it can also make the social fabric more resilient and adaptive. However, presently this future is highly uncertain and fraught with risks. This radical uncertainty makes it difficult to identify future-proof knowledge, skills and capacities. Moreover, it also raises questions about the possible roles higher education should play in future societies. We argue that higher education should be an active agent in shaping future society. In order to fulfil its potential as such, this type of agency-orientation should transcend its core activities, like research and teaching, currently built into its institutional settings. This special issue highlights certain possible directions for change as far as HEIs are concerned. These future possibilities are in relation to learning, ethics, fairness, community involvement and the role of research at institutions which were formerly teaching-oriented. These can be seen as first steps towards understanding what organisational changes are needed for HEIs to maintain their social relevance and to actively shape their environment.
Transforming university teaching. Centre for Global Higher Education working paper series
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