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5 ways the classroom has changed

25 August 2017
Ever wondered what it would be like to step into a living cell?

Times really have changed: you might not recognise the classroom now, with online courses, hands-on learning, overseas exchange, collaborative spaces, and even research talks in pubs.

Today, the classroom is flexible, creative, and agile – our students are logging in and learning from all over the globe. The modern tutorial room, lecture theatre and laboratory are still hives of activity, but not in the way you remember it. Here are a handful of ways the classrooms at Sydney have changed since you were strolling the halls.

1. Online learning: from the comfort of home

Gone are the days of having to be in the same place as your teacher to learn. As part of our new undergraduate curriculum, we’re making more than 100 units of study available for students through our Open Learning Environment (OLE) so you don’t even have to leave home to learn.

All students have access to self-contained online learning modules to build their skills and breadth of knowledge, and explore new fields of study in a range of areas, including entrepreneurship, cultural competency, ethics, digital literacy and the ability to ask the ‘big’ questions.

Students will be able to earn credit points in many modules, while zero credit point modules will also be available for free. Staff can also take zero credit point units for free.

With our Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – we’re opening the classroom doors to everyone by combining video and written information about topics from positive psychiatry to chronic disease prevention to astronomy.

2. Study abroad and student exchange: a global perspective

Some of our classrooms aren’t even in Australia – spin any world globe and chances are you’ll end up pointing to an area our students are studying in right now.

We offer more than 270 exchange opportunities in 41 countries – from short-term three-week trips to year-long programs.

In 2015, 21 percent of our students had travelled overseas for the first time during university. By 2020, we’re aiming to have half of our graduating students take up an international exchange during their studies. Many of these global opportunities will be built into our courses. Our new curriculum has extended the classroom experience to include international perspectives, including overseas conferences, short-term winter programs, international projects, and much more.

3. Collaborative spaces: equipping students for the workplace

Gone are the days of classrooms consisting simply of a lectern, a blackboard, and a passive sea of desks. Our new undergraduate curriculum is no longer didactic – it fosters interaction, collaboration, dynamism and real-time problem solving.

We’re pairing our brilliant educators with state-of-the-art infrastructure and innovative technology. In August, the Immersive Learning Laboratory was launched, allowing students to interact with virtual environments through virtual reality. Going into space or into a Syrian refugee camp is literally a step away.

Our classrooms are going global, virtual, and reciprocal alongside community needs. Students are making big gains in the areas of cultural competence, international experiences, and breadth of knowledge.

To match modern challenges and the rapidly shifting landscape, their experiences of ‘going to class’ will be different to yours, arming them as leaders of the future.

4. Creating more opportunities for young entrepreneurs

Got a brilliant business idea? You don’t have to wait until you graduate to put your ideas into action because we've got a number of programs that develop entrepreneurial skills, nurture innovative ideas and are backed by a wealth of expertise.

Established in 2016, the Sydney Innovation Hub provides a facility for undergraduate and postgraduate students from all faculties to co-create and innovate with other students, academics, alumni, industry and community. The Hub provides access to custom-designed space for technology-enabled collaboration, experts in residence, mentoring and seed funding. 

Sydney Genesis is one of our largest cross-faculty start-up programs. Since 2008, Genesis has helped more than 900 entrepreneurs bring their business ideas to life. 

Developed by the University of Sydney Union in partnership with the Unviersity of Sydney, INCUBATE has grown to become a leading startup accelerator program in Australia, launching more than 60 startups at Sydney since it was established in 2012.

Operating out of the School of Information Technologies, the Sydney Accelerator Network provides a platform for students, academics and industry practitioners to collaborate and pursue opportunities for creating new products and services.

We also operate a number of other programs for budding entrepreneurs, including:

5. Raising the Bar: pairing research with beer

Why limit the classroom to a university setting? Each year, we transform a number of Sydney pubs into casual classrooms during Raising the Bar, a series of free talks by our academics.

Our experts cover a wide range of topics, giving everyone a chance to participate. Topics we discussed in 2016 included city ecology, insider trading, the placebo effect, and exercise hacks.

Listen to recordings of last year’s talks on iTunes or Soundcloud, and stay tuned for more on the 2017 Raising the Bar line-up.