Students in a state-of-the art classroom in China wear virtual reality (VR) headsets, gesturing in the air as they work on a design. Students at home in Abu Dhabi, in London, and in Ireland do the same, all led by one instructor in real time as they collaborate on a project, from around the world.

This is just one vision for the XJTLU Learning Mall, which Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University will launch at a ceremony 22 May from 2-4 p.m.

The XJTLU Learning Mall (XJTLU-LM) is a unique type of innovation centre, set to be the first online-onsite learning ecosystem to provide English-language educational experiences in China through a diverse range of content providers, including other universities and industry partners from within China and overseas. The learning hub will also include Chinese and bilingual Chinese-English content.

“With this alliance of innovation, there will be stronger ideas, a stronger product and a stronger offering,” says Professor Youmin Xi, executive president of XJTLU.

“It will challenge the conventional norms for learning engagement.”

“The XJTLU Learning Mall will provide premier resources for lifelong learners, including skills for the industry leaders of tomorrow as they prepare to meet the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with its emphasis on artificial intelligence and robotics,” explains Dr. Bill Boland, Director of the XJTLU Learning Mall.

“Someone might initially visit the XJTLU Learning Mall platform for a business course, but then decide to sign up for English and career-specific industry skills courses as well. Providers will benefit from a collaborative platform since they can gain customers who previously might not have been aware of their offerings.”

Those who have an online, onsite, or combination “store front” in this unique learning hub are not limited to those with educational offerings. Innovators, inventors and researchers will also have spaces, enabling the cross-seeding of ideas to generate unique educational products. This will create opportunities for students to connect with mentors in startup companies and find internship, job and career opportunities and information.

“Participants will be able to pool their resources, leverage their strengths, and mitigate their weaknesses in a collaborative effort,” Dr. Boland explains.

“For example, an entrepreneurial boot camp held in an onsite space in the XJTLU Learning Mall might tap into the first-hand experiences of an entrepreneur in China with a hybrid space and an inventor in Germany with an online space.”

“The XJTLU Learning Mall taps into the University’s mission to transform the education landscape through its research- and student-led philosophy,” says Professor Xi.

Termed “Syntegrative Education,” this philosophy develops industry leaders for the high-tech world of our future through the integration and synergy of academic theory and real-world learnings from research and industry experience.

“To amplify the value of education in the digital age, the XJTLU Learning Mall will build on our future-oriented Syntegrative Education philosophy, world-class campus facilities and excellent internal and external education resources,” says Professor Xi.

“Their integration will create interest-oriented, individualized and active life-long learning opportunities endorsed by a community of educators, innovators and entrepreneurs that can be accessed from anywhere, at any time.

“Universities deserve their continued existence only if they maximize their value, not just for university students, but also for graduates and the wider community. Combining the best aspects of onsite education and technology – as we are in the XJTLU Learning Mall – is how we maximize that value.”

The XJTLU Learning Mall platform is expected to be operational in about three months. Its main physical facility, to be located on the XJTLU Entrepreneur College (Taicang) campus, will be completed in approximately 24 months. Initial users will be XJTLU students, faculty, parents, and alumni, and then users will expand to Jiangsu Province, greater China and the wider world.

Offerings at the XJTLU Learning Mall will constantly evolve based on users’ needs and its providers will be able to choose how much support they want from the learning hub’s staff, Professor Xi says.

“This differentiates us from other organisations. We are directly involving all stakeholders in informing our evolving platform. We not only have an internal task force but also we are involving outside stakeholders.

“Furthermore, we communicate constantly with prospective users. This combined input helps us form our strategy, which will continue to evolve,” he says.

The XJTLU Learning Mall launch ceremony, to be held at the Central Building in G23W and by livestream, will include a signing of Memorandums of Understanding with partners and a roundtable discussion on online, hybrid, and lifelong learning.

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