Singular Days in Singular Universities: the UOC’s new podcast on educational innovation

5 May, 2022

The aim of the podcast, from the eLearning Innovation Center, is to analyse the most important topics in contemporary higher education with experts from other leading institutions around the world


The eLearning Innovation Center (eLinC), the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya‘s (UOC) innovation centre, acts as a radar and a lighthouse on the lookout for educational trends and singularities, with a special focus on innovation in the different fields related to teaching in society. With the aim of sharing this knowledge and reflecting with other unique educational institutions around the world, the new podcast from eLinC Días Singulares en Universidades Singulares (Singular Days in Singular Universities) is being launched, in which the world of education, its present and future, will be discussed, and innovative experiences that are transforming education will be shared. As Sílvia Sivera, the director of the eLinC, explained: “With this podcast, we intend to transfer knowledge about university education in an original and easy-to-consume format, like audio. And we present it in Spanish because the UOC is a leader in educational transformation for many Latin American educational institutions which we have assisted through eLinC.”

In each podcast, a “singular” meeting will be broadcast, at a “singular” time or place, featuring specialists from the UOC and other universities who will take the opportunity to lead the conversation and reflections. “The idea is to connect singularities: the things that surround us with things relevant to the university. This allows us, for example, to link Banksy’s protest art with the contemporary university, which is what we’ll look at in the first episode.” The conversations to come will analyse various aspects of current higher education, projecting towards the future and contributing ideas for reflection. In eras of great transformation, such as this one, the concept of singularity can be extended to all sectors and to other realities, including education.

Singular Days in Singular Universities: from protest art to education with high social impact

In the first episode of the podcast Singular Days in Singular Universities, Sílvia Sivera, director of the UOC’s eLinC and Mildred Guinart, director of the Knowledge Generation and Transfer unit, talk to Carlos Fosca, who was vice president of Administration at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP), holds a doctorate in chemical sciences from the Complutense University of Madrid and is a mechanical engineer (specialized in the fields of corrosion, welding and failure analysis in mechanical components). He currently serves as senior professor in the Department of Undergraduate and Postgraduate Studies at PUCP. The conversation takes place while visiting the exhibition “Banksy, the art of protest” at the Design Hub in Barcelona.


                                              Sílvia Sivera, Mildred Guinart and Dr. Carlos Fosca


Resistance to change: handicap for the digital transformation of higher education

One of the most emblematic works by the British artist is “Girl with Balloon”, renamed “Love is in the Bin” after the artist destroyed it when it was auctioned in London in 2018. Banksy said that “the urge to destroy is also a creative urge” and Sivera asked the guest: “What should we destroy in contemporary universities?” “Their enormous resistance to change,” Fosca replied. “It’s what at the moment leads the entire higher education system to change. It’s a crisis in which only if we promote innovation and concentrate on the changes that the pandemic brought about in a conscious way, working on every aspect of pedagogy and technology, together, will we be able to face the challenges of a knowledge society that demands increasingly complex skills.”


             “Banksy Girl and Heart Balloon” by Dominic Robinson  CC BY-NC 2.0 license

“Emotion is the missing ingredient in the development of teaching and learning planning processes”


And when we talk about virtual education, we cannot leave anything to improvisation. “It’s something that’s hard to understand,” Guinart noted during the conversation. It is not that there is no planning in education, but that, as Sivera added, “there was the impression that the online world was a simple transposition of what was done in the face-to-face world and it’s not so, there’s a very different planning.” Beyond planning, it is important to address emotion, something that Fosca thinks is missing in the planning process and that is key in learning: “Planning is good to the extent that you generate an impact on the student’s learning. And sometimes we plan, but it doesn’t have that impact. Young people learn, we all learn, and we all get excited, and I think that’s the missing ingredient in the process of planning teaching and learning processes.”


The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation of educational institutions

The relationship between the Peruvian institution and the UOC arose from the relationship of the presidents of the two universities, but it was not until February 2019 when, as explained by Mildred Guinart, director of the Knowledge Generation and Transfer unit at eLinC, “we carried out a support process to define, transform and even improve the educational model of the Peruvian institution.” This support by the UOC, explained Fosca, began in the middle of the pandemic, when the exceptional situation affected all universities “in practically every aspect. The pandemic forced us to develop a series of initiatives from the point of view of technology and work almost in emergency conditions, as has happened everywhere, to continue teaching using educational technology remotely.” This change not only became the educational model “but also the administrative one since we had to work remotely, and that’s remained the case up until now,” he pointed out. “All this has led to very important changes, some of which have effectively moved into the educational model, and we believe that they’ll allow us to face the challenges to come in the post-pandemic era.”


Pedagogy + technology in teaching-learning strategies: the necessary impetus for educational innovation 

With regard to boosting innovation in higher education, this is not a question of radical change of the system but of “working in a constant way within the system. Although innovation must be driven from above, it’s the dissatisfied members of the system who eventually bring this innovation to fruition. We need to look for more dissatisfied people working in the academic world to achieve this,” explained Fosca. The pandemic has shown that universities need to have teaching and learning strategies, dedicating themselves jointly to pedagogy and technology to be able to face these challenges posed by the knowledge society.


“Although innovation must be driven from above, it’s the dissatisfied members of the system who eventually bring this innovation to fruition. We need to look for more dissatisfied people working in the academic world to achieve this”


One of the topics that is also important to work on and that was reflected on in this singular conversation is that online assessment should not be seen as an isolated phenomenon but, as Sílvia Sivera pointed out, as “a change in the assessment model. It’s not a one-off moment where I certify that a certain person is the one doing the exam, their identity and authorship, but rather the whole process must be planned from the beginning.” For Fosca, online assessment has been the central theme of teaching during the pandemic and now we have to see “how we can develop learning assessments that break the traditional model, which is causing increasing stress to students who, in the end, are those who are harmed.” Teachers are key players in this change, but, as Mildred Guinart pointed out, “some of the teaching staff are also reluctant and, therefore, the change that we must all promote is a university issue,” she concluded.


Education accessible to everyone

The Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) is a private and non-profit university, the oldest and most prestigious in Peru. Its singularity is due to comprehensive training with a very high academic level that has allowed its students “to be highly recognized internationally,” as Dr Carlos Fosca explained in this first podcast.

The Pontificia brings education to the entire population and for more than half a century has established different strategies to ensure that education remains accessible to all. The first strategy has been to ensure that finance is not an obstacle to studying and learning, by implementing graduated fees so that “the student can pay for tuition in accordance with the economic resources of their family,” said Fosca. However, the Peruvian institution has chosen to develop non-academic activities that can generate more income and make the institution’s service model a differentiating and unique feature, while ensuring that tuition costs do not affect the family economy: “Currently, 50% of the entire budget comes from non-academic activities or those in which the payment of tuition is not directly involved,” he concluded.

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