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​NTU sets up new $30 million initiative to advance tertiary learning

Published on: 23-Mar-2017

Education veteran Prof Lee Sing Kong to spearhead education strategies at NTU

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is raising the bar in tertiary learning. The University is establishing a new centre to fill the void in research on the best learning practices specific to Singapore’s tertiary education sector.

Known as the Centre for Research and Development in Learning, or CRADLE for short, it will bring new insights and a sea change in university learning.

“For the last two decades, the National Institute of Education at NTU has been leading Singapore’s research in learning at the primary and secondary school levels. Through CRADLE, NTU will move into research on higher education learning,” said NTU Provost, Professor Freddy Boey.

The University has appointed Professor Lee Sing Kong, currently Director of National Institute of Education, to a new position as the Vice President for Education Strategies. Prof Lee, who steps down as Director of NIE on 30 June 2014 after more than 7 years at the helm, will lead the development of NTU’s strategies and innovations in curricula, teaching methods and assessment.

The newly created position underlines NTU’s intent in setting out the University’s learning and teaching priorities and mapping out the direction of new initiatives and their implementation university-wide.

Professor Boey said, “To prepare our youths for the future, there has to be a fundamental transformation in higher education which includes the integration of technology into university learning and teaching. Prof Lee has a wealth of experience, and his expertise in introducing learning innovations and pedagogies is absolutely invaluable. He will help NTU re-engineer our education strategies and overall direction to ensure that the NTU education experience continues to be distinctive and of high quality.”

Commenting on his new appointment, Prof Lee said, “Today’s landscape is very different where new knowledge and job skills evolve very fast. NTU graduates must not just be equipped with the fundamental professional knowledge and skills, they must also be inculcated with other attributes such as being a self-directed learner, that is, have the ability to learn how to learn to keep pace with knowledge and skills evolution. More importantly, they must also be grounded with the values that would enable them to contribute to society and the development of the community, the nation, and beyond.” 


Transforming tertiary learning for the new generation of students

While there is a large body of existing research in relation to higher education, there is a dearth of such research based on Singapore’s higher education system. At best, the local tertiary sector has been adapting the teaching practices and pedagogies found in other countries, modifying it to suit the needs of the local context.

CRADLE will seek to better understand through research, evaluation and development how to educate students in the 21st century skills and know-how in today’s technologically-rich learning environment. Among CRADLE’s key aims are to help students “learn how to learn”, to develop new skills for effective learning, in addition to developing new ways to assess students, such as computer-assisted assessment or assessment from home.

CRADLE will not be starting from ground zero. NTU has been working with Imperial College London to implement a comprehensive suite of learning innovations at its new medical school, including technology-driven lessons, team-based learning, online e-modules and the latest educational tools such as iPad-supported learning and virtual dissection.

“Already, NTU has invested $20 million in this at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine and we intend to expand these innovations to other NTU schools,” added Prof Boey.

The new research centre aims to kick off with about 10 projects, including research related to students’ understanding of e-learning at the university level. In addition, CRADLE will work with top universities such as Stanford University in the US and the UK Higher Education Academy.

Prof Freddy Boey said, “This new initiative will raise the quality and value of research-informed teaching in higher education, not only at NTU but also at other universities in Singapore and around the world.

“Students today are more digitally savvy and when they enter the university, they have come to expect a technologically-mediated environment that seamlessly blends face-to-face and online learning, and also combines learning at the individual and group levels. This raises certain challenges, such as how to remain student-centred in our pedagogy and train students to be critical and inventive in their thinking, along with other 21st century skills.”

“By evaluating students’ learning experience through its research projects, CRADLE will raise our understanding of such learning pedagogies and how the University’s curriculum can be better delivered, so that they remain fresh and up-to-date. These best practices can then be disseminated through NTU’s Teaching Excellence Academy to the rest of NTU and beyond.”

CRADLE will work closely with the National Institute of Education at NTU which has been at the forefront of studying, developing, and implementing innovations in teaching and learning in Singapore in the last 23 years.

Prof Lee Sing Kong said, “CRADLE will complement the work of NIE by expanding the current research on learning effectiveness at the primary and secondary schools to the higher education level. I foresee CRADLE playing an important role in introducing actual learning and online strategies that will advance university students’ learning and one that’s relevant to the Singapore context. We also want to build a strong pool of local experts who can contribute to the development Singapore’s tertiary sector where not much research has been done on learning at the university level.”

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