Last month, Dr Xin Bi, Director of the Centre for Knowledge and Information at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, participated in a panel discussion at the Times Higher Education Asia Universities Summit 2023 in Hong Kong.
During the discussion, Dr Bi shared how XJTLU utilises digital technology to promote teaching and learning, as well as the challenges the University faces and the solutions it has implemented to overcome them.
From left: Kelvin Yuan, Dr K Cohen Tan, Dr Xin Bi, and Chloe Chiong
A shared vision
Dr Bi said at XJTLU, there has always been a strong focus on leveraging technology to improve the quality of teaching and learning.
“Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University is the largest joint-venture university in China with more than 23,000 students and 2,000 staff members. Given that some of the modules have large class sizes and the need to provide quality education, we’ve always prioritised using technology to enhance teaching and learning.
“It’s not just the responsibility of one department, but a university-wide concept and ideology that we’ve embraced. This involves senior management, schools, departments, and faculty members all working together to combine education and technology.
“Over the past three years, we’ve seen a shift towards digitalisation. It’s important to have a shared vision at the university level and to provide easy-to-use technology and strong support for staff.”
The digitalisation of education at XJTLU, as it would be at any other school, has not been without its challenges. Dr Bi shared some of the hurdles that the University has encountered, and how they were overcome.
“Our first challenge is adapting to the speed at which the students are using technology. For example, while the universities are still drafting policy mandates for using ChatGPT, students are already using it. This presents a big challenge for university management.
“We also encountered resistance from faculty members who are reluctant to use technology, and we need to find ways to get them engaged and willing to catch up.
“Another challenge is the gap in technology provision between the IT team and faculty’s needs. When offering support, the IT team might not fully understand what’s happening in the classroom or what exactly the faculty needs in that context, and different subjects also require different teaching technologies.”
However, XJTLU has found solutions to these challenges.
In 2020, the University established XJTLU Learning Mall to provide a more engaging and personalised learning experience.
XJTLU Learning Mall homepage
“Learning Mall is a platform that offers a wide range of digital resources, including online classes, interactive learning materials, faculty development and pedagogy training courses.
“For students who are self-disciplined, they benefit greatly from self-paced and interest-driven learning. Instead of just sitting in a classroom, they can visit XJTLU Learning Mall, access teaching content, and learn at their own pace. They can also repeat recordings as many times as they need,” said Dr Bi.
Learning Mall also makes it more efficient for faculty.
“Before, teachers had to repeat the same content for different groups of students multiple times a week. However, they can use Learning Mall to record lessons, design activities and interactions, create forums with their students, and provide rich learning resources. This has greatly improved efficiency and learning outcomes.”
In addition, XJTLU’s IT team can also provide immediate assistance to faculty when they experience difficulties using technology.
“We have WeChat groups where faculty members can ask questions and receive immediate support. This has led to a cultural shift where faculty members are more engaged and willing to use technology in education.”
Digitalisation has greatly improved the quality of education at XJTLU, and the University remains committed to fostering a user-friendly digital environment for everyone involved.
“After all, we need to make digitalisation meaningful,” said Dr Bi.
During the discussion, speakers from two other Chinese universities also shared their viewpoints on digitalisation: Dr K Cohen Tan, Interim Vice-Provost for Teaching and Learning from the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, and Kevin Yuan, Manager of the Information Technology Development Office from Macau University of Science and Technology.
The panel was moderated by Chloe Chiong from Times Higher Education.
By Xinmin Han
Edited by Patricia Pieterse