A higher education paradigm for 21st century students: needs and opportunities

GM Rayner

Monash University

Undergraduate education in the 21st century is occurring against a backdrop of complex factors and stressors. At the institutional level, these include the allocation of resources between research and teaching, the internationalization of curricula, and enhancing student learning through professional development of academics. These are framed against a backdrop of increasing numbers of university students and the diversity of such students, greater student debt, and student access to and use of relevant technology. From the employer perspective, impacts associated with economic disruption, climate change, disease, biotechnology, biodiversity loss and agriculture, will collectively demand that graduates have relevant discipline knowledge and understanding, together with a set of enhanced and flexible skills, to help address these issues. Traditional educational paradigms have been largely teacher-centered (constructivist), and this model has mostly persisted due to the research-teaching nexus and other macro-institutional issues. However, given the opportunities provided by technology for more dynamic, student-centered (connectivist) pedagogies, there has been a veritable call-to-arms for a contemporary, 21st century learning paradigm. In undergraduate curricula, this paradigm must incorporate work integrated learning and similar programs that demonstrably enhance students' employability and make them more work ready. Curricula must also enable creativity and disruptive thinking, integrate and iterate highly valued skills sets such as problem-solving and critical thinking, and involve students as active contributors to curricula development and revision, through student-led projects and partnerships. This talk will explore these various elements in a higher education context.