SMU recognised in the QS Reimagine Awards for innovative teaching and learning approaches

The QS Reimagine Conference and Awards was held virtually this year from 5 – 9 December. Open to educational innovators from all around the world, the conference brings together academic faculty from top institutions, Chief Innovation Officers, university leadership, teachers, edtech start-ups, and other stakeholders in the future of higher education teaching and learning. The Reimagine Education Awards – the ‘Oscars’ of Education – reward innovative approaches that enhance student learning outcomes and employability, offering $50,000 in funding to the overall winners.

The Singapore Management University was nominated in three categories for the awards and bagged the silver and bronze titles for two categories.

In the Presence Learning and Teaching category, winners are selected for their ingenious and innovative presence-based pedagogies, for their reimagination of the traditional presence-based learning environment to a monumental effect for students. Senior Lecturer Rosie Ching’s “Statistics for Social Impact” won the global Silver Award here, for her unique teaching of Statistics where  students apply what they learn to uncover and analyse Singapore’s societal problems. The original projects analyse nationwide perceptions towards Alzheimer’s disease, end-of-life preparations, public toilet hygiene, breast cancer-screening, stigma and mobility problems faced by the blind, among others. These projects are firsts, with that on dementia now referred to as the first-ever national survey on dementia in Singapore by the press.  With more than 45,000 surveyed in active fieldwork countrywide since, Rosie’s teaching gives her students deep training in statistical analysis, communication and rich creativity in presentations, with application trained directly onto society, giving unprecedented exposure to students who witness real impact in society and on citizenry.

Says SMU graduate, Soundarya Soundara Rajan, “Every lesson felt like a thought-provoking entertainment session where learning happened almost subconsciously. Ms Ching involves students in a unique, large, and impactful project to apply statistical concepts to improve the status quo of many important matters surrounding us. Despite the pandemic and online learning environment this year, she continued to motivate her students to work statistically on raising awareness on challenges facing the visually-impaired community and how much room for improvement the public feels our public transport system needs to have for them.”

SMU-X brought home the Bronze Award for the Nurturing Employability category, which recognises projects that clearly demonstrate a link between a project’s approach and improved employability outcomes. The “Grooming Future Ready Graduates For The VUCA Workplace Through Experiential Learning” programme trains students to be attuned to challenges and realities of industry to stay relevant.  The experiential learning programme which piloted in 2015 brings students, faculty and industry partners together to devise solutions and provide perspectives to business, social and emerging challenges through real-world projects faced by the industry.

Industry partners are an important part of the learning ecosystem, playing an active role in the project, interacting with students and faculty, instead of waiting passively for project solutions. Students’ industry experience is strengthened through the extended collaboration with partners. This equips them with broad skill sets beyond the classroom and enhances their employability in the global marketplace and their ability to deal with a demanding VUCA environment.

SMU student, Toh Xiu Jin, shared, “Reading SMU-X courses was truly impactful to my education journey at SMU – it allowed me to apply what I learned in the classroom into the real-world context through cross-cultural engagements with projects faced by organisations, bolstered by mentoring from faculty and industry practitioners. This eye-opening experience gave me a greater understanding of the complexities organisations have to deal with, equipping me with the knowledge and skillsets to be better prepared for the global working world.”

SMU-XO’s Accounting Study Mission Course, a virtual project-based experiential learning collaboration between universities amid the COVID-19 pandemic was nominated under the Hybrid Learning Category which rewards best projects that unify web-based learning delivery and traditional learning practices. The course focuses on evaluating problems faced by the accounting, finance and other functions of companies in an Asian country and recommending solutions to these problems. Students learn how to solve business problems with guidance from the faculty and project sponsor mentors, from problem definition to final client presentation, while simultaneously testing their skills in real world settings. The course was mentored by Associate Professor of Accounting (Education) Yuanto Kusnadi and was conducted in collaboration with Indonesia’s top university – Universitas Indonesia (UI), and various organisations based in Indonesia, including UOB Indonesia and Genesis Indojaya. Through their projects, students had a chance to work as a multi-cultural team which brought different perspectives to the table during discussions with the partners.

The accolades gained from the QS Reimagine Awards are definitely a testament to the innovative and practical pedagogies employed by SMU to prepare students to tackle challenges of the future.