An educational forum on innovation in higher education teaching in the internet era was held at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University.

The forum, organised by the Institute of Leadership and Education Advanced Development (ILEAD) at XJTLU, attracted experienced academic staff, managers and admin staff from around 30 universities in China.

Focusing on higher education reform, participants discussed problems and development trends in higher education from the perspective of innovation at universities and in staff practice, support and development.

Professor Youmin Xi, executive president of XJTLU, said: “In the internet era, traditional teaching has been impacted and challenged by new educational concepts and technologies, such as ‘virtual classrooms’.”

He said that in order to adapt to a changeable and complex social environment in the future, universities need to return to the essence of talent development, understanding social demands on students and realising a student-centred approach through reshaping education.

He added: “XJTLU aims to help students grasp the skills needed to meet uncertainty in the future and maintain competitive skills.

“The University advocates that higher education in China needs to transform from a traditional ‘knowledge feeding’ approach to research-led teaching, developing students’ knowledge integration skills and enabling them to develop the capacity to constantly update their abilities.”

A number of participants and trainers gave presentations at the forum.

Professor Yihong Fan from the faculty development centre at Southwest Jiaotong University presented on a staff development project.

She said: “In addition to institution design, we needed to attach importance to staff demands to make participating in this project feel meaningful. Teachers responded positively and they all cherished this opportunity. An atmosphere of trans-disciplinary communication was formed based on their common interests.”

Professor Yunrui Han from the Department of Mathematical Sciences at XJTLU said he believed it was very important to help students transform their studying style at an early stage.

“We should encourage students to actively participate in the whole teaching process and change their learning from passive to active. We need to help students understand the value of the knowledge they’ve gained and train them to apply it,” he said.

Professor Bixia Lin, from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the Education University of Hong Kong, analysed the background, development and practice of educational innovation in universities.
She said that the trend of globalisation was the main element affecting educational innovation in universities and that the topic had gained more attention internationally.

Dr Xiaojun Zhang, deputy director of ILEAD, shared his thinking about research-led learning based on practice at XJTLU. He said he thought education reform was not equal to student growth: “Reform should not only concern staff and teaching, but pay attention to students and learning,” he said.

Jing Tian, dean of the business school at Taishan University, had participated in previous training on research-led teaching, organised by ILEAD, and said that she was impressed by XJTLU’s educational approach and philosophy.

She said: “I have a deeper understanding of teaching innovation through participating in this forum. Although we cannot simply copy good experience, communication with and learning from others helps us develop and change our teaching approach. Reform needs to combine innovative teaching ideas with our actual situation.”

The XJTLU education forum, a quarterly activity hosted by ILEAD, is a key platform for discussing higher education reform and innovation in China.

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