“Digital transformation has an impact on how we set priorities in research and teaching” – The University Partners at Kickstart

November 13 2018
35+ collaborations resulted from Kickstart 2018, 10 of which in the EdTech & Learning Vertical, that took place for the first time in Zurich. 7 of the PoCs in this new vertical were launched together with Kickstart’s University Partners ETH Zürich, University of Zurich and ZHAW. Time to ask them some questions.

3 Questions to Prof. Michael Hengartner, President of the University of Zurich:

In what way will the digital transformation change the way we teach and learn?
Digital transformation has a profound impact on how we set priorities in research and teaching at the University of Zurich. Research with large datasets is already today found everywhere, from the natural sciences to medicine to the humanities, and the demand for talents with data science proficiencies will increase even more. We are observing a similar development, but with a lag, with machine learning and AI. The promotion of digital skills and digital literacy is thus becoming a key element in our portfolio of courses and curricula. And this is even more true in the area of continuing education: the ongoing technological revolution dramatically increases the risk of de-skilling and makes life-long learning all the more important. The digital transformation also changes the way we teach, in offering us new tools, from MOOCs to VR to AR, and helping us personalize the educational support that we can offer our students. E-learning and online courses make it possible to study virtually at any time and from anywhere, creating new opportunities for cooperation and exchange.

Are you –personally – a “Techy”?
I am not an early adopter, but certainly very interested in the benefits that new “tools and toys” can offer. I recently moved to running an almost paperless office – but still have a lot of “legacy paper” lying around! (laughs)

Which technologies in the field of EdTech excite you?
Personally, I find the potential offered by intelligent virtual and augmented learning
environments (VR and AR) particularly exciting. Virtual environments allow students to
experiment and learn in ways that would have been impossible before. In a simulated laboratory, for example, students can conduct experiments that would be financially prohibitive in the real world. Or they can train a particularly tricky or perhaps even dangerous experiment or intervention first virtually. Virtual learning environments have a great potential for providing new insights in almost every discipline. In the future, it might be possible to simulate social settings of past centuries or distant geographic environments.

I am also a great believer in the value of personalized learning. Here I do see however a major challenge in how to secure the protection of these highly personal data, and this possibly over a very long time. Overall, it is clear that EdTech can greatly improve the quality of our education, especially whenever there are structural limits, like large student numbers or limited financial resources.

3 Questions to Stephan Loretan, Member of the Executive Committee of ZHAW School of Management and Law

In what way will the digital transformation change the way we teach and learn?
New technologies will lead us to didactic possibilities, some of which are still unimagined today. For example, the use of virtual reality in case studies will lead us to even greater practical relevance. Imagine you are running an assessment as part of your leadership training with (real) cases represented in the virtual world such as salary or contract negotiations. In this case, the digitization opens up the possibility for students to improve their skills regardless of time and place. Furthermore, in the case described above, the unlimited use of digitization can also save costs.

How and why is ZHAW working together with startups?
The ZHAW cooperates with startups in various fields. This already begins with the offer of modules on the Bachelor level in the field of “Entrepreneurship”. We also carry out training for start-ups on behalf of Innosuisse. Furthermore, we support startups in picking up speed, especially at the early /seed phase in our RUNWAY Incubator. We select the startups according to the criteria high level of innovation, respectable market chances and strong founding team with high commitment.

Why is ZHAW supporting Kickstart Accelerator?
The ZHAW is convinced that aspects such as new learning experiences (i.e. Gamification, mobile learning), digital / blended teaching formats, customized / individualized learning strategies and products, collaborative learning platforms and lifelong learning concepts will become more and more important in the education sector. The Kickstart Accelerator offers us the opportunity to get to know startups that focus on these aspects and, if possible, to launch a collaboration with them.

In the EdTech & Learning Vertical, the following 10 collaborations were agreed on: 

Details can be found here. Pictures: UZH / ZHAW