Monash Malaysia looks to creatively disrupt education

At Monash Malaysia, the cogs are always turning to keep education fresh, innovative, and relevant for students. This year, new initiatives are in place to disrupt the status quo with regards to teaching and learning on the campus. Education will continue to be learner-centred, but there will be renewed emphasis on moving both teachers and students out of their comfort zones to make classrooms more engaging and impactful.

For Professor Andrew Walker, President and Pro Vice-Chancellor of Monash University Malaysia, educational innovation has been a career-long passion. “To me, the most exciting aspect of educational innovation is that it breaks down the old model where there’s a teacher providing content to a student,” he says. “Instead, both teacher and student become collaborators in curating and collating content. There are thousands of creative, smart students out there who can generate educational content – by writing, reading, sharing, and reflecting. To me, this is very promising, and I am excited that there is such a strong emphasis on collaboration in learning at the university.”

One of the key changes at Monash Malaysia has been the introduction of a new Education Excellence team. Established last year, this team aims to encourage educators to switch things around in the classroom, using technology and innovative design to engage students as active learners. “We will create an environment of innovation by disrupting the way teachers and students are currently doing things - in a constructive way, but also in a somewhat challenging and confronting way,” Professor Walker points out. “I want the Education Excellence team working with teachers, asking why they are delivering content in certain ways, what they are trying to achieve, and how they are working with students to develop new skills. The members of the Education Excellence team are our creative disruptors.”

The Education Excellence team will also seek to support teachers so that they are equipped to commit to new educational methods. Active learning sessions confront teachers with numerous logistical challenges, from classroom design to student numbers, so it is vital that they have adequate support in the form of skills training, as well as improved facilities. This will help teachers find a middle ground between established teaching techniques and innovative new ones, making sure that the disruption taking place is fruitful in actual classrooms.

Moving forward, Monash Malaysia will be looking to modify its physical infrastructure to better suit its innovative approach to education. This will involve the remodeling of learning spaces, with the aim of transforming not just the classroom setting but also the wider university experience. The goal, according to Professor Walker, is for the physical campus itself to “help do the work of innovation”.

“A big challenge for the campus is that we were built as a conventional teaching campus,” he reflects. “We need to transform this, and I think that physical transformation has got two elements. First, there’s the practical effort to create formal and informal learning spaces that are consistent with new approaches to learning; but, at the same time, we also need to create a broader campus experience that encourages creativity, innovation, and even a dash of naughtiness. I think by setting up the right sorts of spaces and environment, we can get that educational vibrancy going.”

The campus’ investment in educational innovation is, naturally, designed with students’ career outcomes in mind. Changing old learning formats also makes more room for valuable industry encounters that will help students develop the skills they need in a competitive job market.

“Industry engagement is crucial in enabling students to start thinking, throughout the life of their degree, about how the skills they are learning are relevant to the workplace,” Professor Walker explains. “Students need skills - to assimilate, evaluate, and critically engage with material. They need cross-cultural skills in globalised economies where they will work with people from different backgrounds. The focus of our innovation is on developing those skills.” Indeed, with the campus committed to transforming both teaching and learning, both educators and students alike will have a lot to look forward to, as they develop fresh and innovative approaches to knowledge.