Over 650 students recently participated in a 30-hour hackathon – the largest ever held in Israel

Universities must adapt in order to thrive.Technion is reinventing educational paradigms in order to empower future generations.

We are at the cusp of a sweeping evolution, if not an outright revolution. Not long ago, we only had chalkboards, books and notebooks, but the modern digital age generated MOOCs, flipped classrooms, video lectures, project-based learning and peer instruction.

Thanks to technological and pedagogical innovations, education is rapidly becoming more personalized. We are witnessing a transition to innovative, non-traditional forms of learning that promote student involvement through hands-on experience. The learning environment is becoming 24/7, with greater flexibility, customization and real-time engagement.

At Technion, these changes are being spearheaded by the Technion Center for Promotion of Learning and Teaching. “Technion is a leader in academic education, encouraging pedagogical innovations and promoting state-of-the-art instructional methods as role models for other universities,” notes Dr. Abigail Barzilai, who heads the Center.

In a digital learning environment, courses will be customized to the unique needs of individual students. “Education is going to be personalized and we are in the process of adapting new instructional methods to meet the students’ needs,” reveals Assoc. Prof. Miri Barak, Head of the Science and Learning Technologies group in the Faculty of Education in Science and Technology, adding that, “Teaching is shifting from lectures to small group settings – from a sage on the stage to a guide on the side.”

“Education is going to be personalized. We are adapting the methods to the students.” – Assoc. Prof. Miri Barak

Indeed, globalization and accelerated technological development require a rethinking of teaching and learning processes in 21st century higher education. In the past, only the lecturers had access to new information, but today web and cloud technologies connect students to a pipeline of infinite information and they can share knowledge with people from all over the world. Since students perceive classroom lectures as anachronistic, meaningful learning must occur in new ways.

One of the trends that will accelerate in the near future is the transition from large lectures to small groups. Project-based learning will be widespread: students will work mainly in groups, often in collaboration with peers from all over the world and with the private sector.

Another learning model that is gaining steam is the ‘flipped classroom,’ where students learn theoretical aspects at home and come to class for the purpose of deeper discussions and solving problems in small groups. Today, it is easier for many young people to watch lectures online at their own pace and in their own free time, rather than in a classroom. Technion’s newly renovated Ullmann Building includes innovative classrooms specifically designed to meet the needs of these new teaching styles.

Despite technology’s expanding role in the classroom, the human factor will continue to be important. Teachers will focus on imparting skills at a high level and will provide added value to their students.

Students will learn more “soft skills” such as entrepreneurial thinking, interpersonal communications, ethics, multiculturalism and creativity, as well as adapting to interdisciplinary learning and working in teams.

MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – epitomize the future of education and, as such, their popularity is growing exponentially. In Israel, Technion is a leader in this field, heading a consortium of seven Israeli universities that produce MOOCs in basic Math and Computer Science on behalf of the Council for Higher Education. Of the 15 MOOCs produced in Israel in these fields, seven are Technion courses. In order to keep up with the growing demand for MOOCs, as well as the increasingly professional and sophisticated production of these courses, universities need professional studios.

Prof. Barak predicts that universities that are top suppliers of MOOCs will become tomorrow’s top universities.

As more courses are available online, universities will increasingly shift resources to offering educational support through direct mentorship and hands-on experience. Preparatory courses at Technion – such as Physics, Chemistry and Math – are already available online. In the future, most introductory-level courses and enrichment courses in the humanities will be digital. Dr. Barzilai expects that within five years virtual and augmented reality will be common in the classroom and will enrich learning.

At the epicenter of educational innovation, Technion continues to be a pedagogical and technological leader attuned to the needs of tomorrow.

Assaf Rappaport, CEO of Microsoft Israel’s R&D Center, addresses
a t-hub event on campus