Professor Andreas Barner
President of Stifterverband
After the pandemic, should we completely return to in-person courses, continue to offer purely online teaching, or offer hybrid teaching?
The answer is not either/or, but both/and. Neither old habits nor fundamental beliefs should guide us here, but the simple question of which goals we can best achieve with which formats.
Which teaching formats would you like to see online, and which face-to-face?
Large lectures with little interaction between participants and instructors can probably easily be transferred to a virtual format. Concepts for an "international classroom" could also be completely rethought and efficiently implemented in a virtual format. When it comes to anything Socratic, i.e., inspiring, searching, and open dialog, in-person sessions seem a crucial format to me.
(How) can teaching and learning be organized together with companies? Is this something to strive for?
If we take a completely new topic such as quantum technology: research, application, and teaching and learning are hardly conceivable without company participation. And there are more and more examples where knowledge from companies could also be used productively for academic teaching.
Will we still need instructors in ten years' time, or will AI/robots be enough for teaching and learning?
We will always need instructors. But AI can assist in teaching and learning, as learning processes can be analyzed much better. If we are honest, we still know far too little about what happens in humans during the learning process. This is where algorithms could help in the future.
Your vision: What should the successor model to a conventional lecture that integrates research and application (whether face-to-face or online) look like?
Theory can also be taught if you derive it from real challenges. We are seeing more and more approaches of case-based or challenge-based learning settings, which are also well suited for lectures.
A number of demands are coming from industry and society as to what universities should include in their curricula in the future. If studies are not to be extended, we must also ask what we will no longer need in the future. Do you have any suggestions?
It is not as if curricula are static. New insights also change curricula. If new skills are needed in the digital world of work, this must also be incorporated into academic learning. Anything else would not fit in with the institution of the university, which per se is always looking out for the new.
How can universities become better at transdisciplinary teaching and how can they help students improve their transdisciplinary mindset?
Our societal challenges and transformation processes do not follow a disciplinary logic. Nevertheless, we need deep disciplinary knowledge. Here, too, I recommend cleverly coupling one with the other, as is already being didactically developed, for example, in challenge-based learning. In addition, especially in the research-oriented Master's area, one could dare much more transdisciplinary curricula, because research already works this way in many cases.
Quote from Professor Anant Agarwal (edX): "It is always fun to dream about what the future could look like at universities. Most importantly, what are the ideal facilities for learners?" What do you think?
It is interesting, after all, that Bachelor's and Master's degree programs in English-speaking countries, for example, are conceived and structured quite differently than they are here. Is there actually a comparison on the "output" of both systems?
Professor Lynda Gratton (London Business School) posed a very central question at the Science Evening: "How do we develop learning environments that allow creative people to meet others who have never met?"
That is an exciting question also for the big topic of "learning architectures," where we can holistically rethink spaces and formats that bring together the best of the physical and virtual worlds.
What other question from "university teaching and learning" would you like to discuss with colleagues?
i would like to discuss the question "What can we do to ensure that more professors are as enthusiastic for teaching as they are for research? And: Research is increasingly organized in teams and smart division of labor. What would such a model for teaching look like?
Professor Barner, thank you very much for taking the time for this interview.