IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - June 2021 - 52

Opinion
a blackboard online, how to avoid the impact of network
instability on the reasoning process, how to select
a suitable network platform, or to avoid disturbance at
home; these were their key concerns and worries. And
they found very practical solutions; the faculty who are
used to teaching with a blackboard decided to come
to campus to record or live-stream online, facing the
empty classroom, so that the students could watch the
courses online at any time, anywhere.
LR: The experience of adapting to online teaching
has definitely made me think about my own teaching
practice, raising many reflections: Why do I teach the
way I do, and can this move easily into an online format,
or do I need to be thinking about changing that?
I'm very conscious of how hard all my colleagues
throughout the university have been working. We are
all of us giving a huge amount of our time and effort to
this, and here in the U.K., our government has changed
its mind and direction many times. So, we have found
ourselves putting a lot of plans in place, and then the
next day they change their mind, and you have to revise
and adjust. The support from my colleagues across the
university and within the college has been absolutely
vital to being able to keep going.
I have thought a lot about the fact that, as a teacher,
we like to be in control of our space. We like to walk
into a classroom or a lecture hall thinking, " I know my
subject, I know what I'm going to say, I know how I'm
going to say it, " and everything works as we anticipate.
This time has made me realize that I'm not in control,
I'm at the mercy of the internet suddenly going down,
or the shared screen not working, or one of the students
finding they can't hear what I'm saying.
So, I've had to relinquish that sense of control to
some extent and be much more open about sharing
with my students that I'm uncertain about this, I'm not
entirely sure how this is going to work, but we're going
to do this together and we're going to work through it.
I have felt increasingly tired as the months have gone
past and have considered what effect that might be
having on my effectiveness as a teacher, and even
more as someone who is very much involved with the
emotional and mental health of our students. We all
know we can only be good teachers, effective teachers
if we understand ourselves and this time has made
me reflect a lot on that.
So how well is the institution looking after us? As
teachers and as universities we are focused on our
students, as absolutely we should be. But it is a valid
question, how well is the institution set up to look
52
after us, because we are in many ways its most valuable
resource.
SW: Someday, the pandemic will walk away. And
when that happens, do you think that teaching will
return to what it was before COVID-19? Indeed, now
that everyone has found that they can attend " university
by zoom " , will we continue to need a physical
university?
LR: One thing that has become very obvious during
this pandemic is that, absolutely, we need universities.
We need physical universities, and we need
students in them. There's a lot of scope for creativity,
particularly when it comes to issues of inclusivity and
diversity, and access, and we can and should use
everything that we've learned during this time to think
very seriously about how we go forward with that in
our universities. But I have no doubt that we need
physical universities. If there ever was any doubt,
I think the pandemic has shown us how much universities
are needed by our populations and our planet.
HS: I agree that we do need physical universities. We
are embracing online teaching, and now the mission
of university education is not only knowledge delivery,
but also how to develop further and be ready for
career development and personal life. So, in the education
reform driven by technology, I think two issues
should be addressed. First, talent training should go
beyond disciplinary boundaries. For example, public
health during the epidemic required not only talents in
medicine but also in fields such as biology, communications,
political science, international relations, engineering,
and others. Second, teaching and learning
platforms work best when they are conducive to delivering
and sharing high-quality education resources.
I think world-class universities such as Oxford will continue
to take a leading role in the future.

Shidong Wang received the Ph.D. degree in
maths from Bonn University, Bonn, Germany.
He is the Director of Oxford Prospects and Global
Development Institute, Regent's Park College, Oxford,
U.K. He is also a Visiting Professor with the China
Youth University of Political Science, Beijing, China,
and Fudan University, Shanghai, China, and runs the
U.K.-China University Presidents' Round-table
dialogue, an annual event for senior leadership of
leading U.K. and China universities to discuss joint
challenges and opportunities.
Wang is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - June 2021

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