SMU is at an inflection point. The student body has grown, student profiles have changed and the way of learning has evolved. There is a need for SMU to review our way of providing quality education in Singapore while staying relevant to business and our wider community.
It was also is clear to us that the scale and complexity of the challenges facing the world and our graduates today are unprecedented. Sometimes solutions won't come from any single field, but from collaboration between innovators who can see beyond the way it could be. It is timely then that SMU prepares students sufficiently to face these challenges.
With that in mind, SMU zoomed in on:
a) How we could enhance our interactive pedagogy and make learning more pertinent and;
b) How we can improve the out-of-classroom spaces design to fit into students out-of-classroom learning habits
We took a collaborative approach in coming up with the pedagogy and space.
a) On pedagogy;
- We studied innovative models of other universities around the world
- We conducted surveys with prospective students to see what attract them
- We held discussions with current students to get feedback on the current method
- We conducted surveys with employers to see what characteristics they would like to see in potential fresh hires
"Students should be co-creators, planners and managers, not in a traditional passive role."
b) On space design;
- We engaged space planners and architects to work with the university
- We studied interesting spaces in other universities, companies through visits and through asking students on exchange to take photos of spaces they would like to see in SMU
- Our student leaders took a photo diary of their daily activities in SMU
- We conducted surveys with students, staff and faculty to understand their movement patterns within SMU
- We spent time observing students' out-of-classroom behaviours
SMU-X is about changing mindset and encouraging collaboration and is made up of the following 3 components:
SMU-X aims to get the SMU community to collaborate and step out of their current silos. Students, centre- and community-partners bring their expertise and industry-specific viewpoints into SMU-X and collaborate radically using both disciplinary knowledge and multi-perspective approaches. SMU-X will inculcate in recipients the understanding that there are various ways to tackle an issue and by focusing on human values complemented by disciplinary knowledge, our students and partners will be better equipped to take on new unknown challenges in the workplace.
An SMU-X course has the following characteristics. It combines academic with experiential learning through the heavy use of projects. It challenges talented students to use their disciplinary knowledge and skills and tackle real world problems and issues through interdisciplinary approaches and activities. We will partner with corporate, non-profit and government-sector organisations. Our partners and our faculty are involved in active mentoring so that the students benefit most out of this deep relationship. An SMU-X course becomes a learning loop for the tripartite: our students get a better understanding of what it means to use theory learnt outside the classroom, our faculty learns how real world adapts theory and our partners deepen their own learning. This inculcates in our students and our partners the value of continuous learning which is imperative going forward given our rapidly changing economic conditions.
Physical space is still relevant and important even as we move towards an increasingly virtual world. What's more, SMU students are heavily involved in projects and spend most of their time out-of-classroom. And these kind of spaces is exactly what was lacking in SMU! SMU-X, as a facility, is a co-working learning hub that is opened 24/7 to allow 'after-work hours' meetings, bonding and just hanging out. The current facility - SMU Labs - supports the SMU-X mindset and curriculum and facilitates the coming together of individuals and groups around an identified project and/or issue.
"SMU-X is a ground-up initiative driven by faculty who are passionate about promoting inter-disciplinary learning that is coupled with strong industry relevance. SMU-X not only promotes greater connection across School boundaries, it also benefits research and exposes students to more opportunities. By deep diving into current and actual problems and constraints, SMU-X courses can accelerate our students’ learning to go beyond hypothetical classroom exercise." - Vice Provost (Undergraduate Matters and Student Development), Professor Pang Yang Hoong