Chatbots and a virtual staff room

Chatbots and a virtual staff room

SBE town hall meeting about the digitalisation of education

05-05-2021

How do employees at the School of Business and Economics (SBE) think digital means should be used in education? Last Thursday, there was a ‘town hall meeting’ to exchange ideas on the matter. About eighty employees joined in.

‘Technology enhanced problem-based learning’: it is one of the spearheads of SBE’s  latest strategic plan. Exactly how this should be done, has not yet been cast in stone, said dean Peter Møllgaard previously to Observant. The purpose of these types of meetings is to arrive at more concrete plans.

With what should we start, stop or continue at SBE to help students develop skills for the future? This was one of the questions put to the employees last Thursday. They can submit their answers anonymously using their phones. “Stop using chalk,” one said. Most likely a joke; there is room for humour during the session. But in general, the discussion is serious.

Both plenary and in groups in breakout rooms. Associate professor Dirk Tempelaar, PhD candidate Vinzenz Peters, and researcher Tesfa Habtewold are considering the question: How do you think technological progress will change the future skills of students? The emphasis will be on finding information quickly instead of having it ready at hand. This breakout room agrees with that. “Present-day students have grown up with technology. They already have a good command of digital skills,” says Peters. Correct, says Tempelaar. Although he does notice a great difference in level between his students. “It usually takes me some time to fix these differences. That is a pity, because that takes time away from the content of the subject.” He does have a possible solution for this problem: “Although I feel that universities are not actually responsible for this kind of catching up, it may be an idea that the UM, in addition to offering subject-specific summer schools, could also design courses to improve digital skills.”

Halfway through the town hall meeting, there is a lecture by Amber Dailey-Hebert, professor of Adult and Organizational Learning at Park University in the United States. Her keynote speech is “to provide inspiration,” says Damien Nunes, programme developer at the UM and host of this session. A selection from the tips by Dailey-Hebert for the UM: hold on to the power of the university: problem-based learning, encourage students to think about the content of the curriculum, use chatbots to communicate with students, and think about alternative ways to meet each other. For example, in a kind of computer game, with characters at a digital table.

Her advice is appreciated, as becomes clear when the following question is put to the audience: how can we use digital technology to revolutionise SBE education? Nunes: “Remember, assume that there are no limits.” Only ideas: “A virtual-reality staff room”, “chatbots to lower work pressure,” “lecturers from all over the world,” and much more. All answers will be carefully – but anonymously – registered, says Nunes. The faculty board can get to work.