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The two developments which are going to shake up higher education

Transversality and the transformation of relations between teacher and student are going to overturn established hierarchies and break down the boundaries in higher education.

Gone will be the days of chapels, the pre-eminence of “hard” sciences over “soft”. Gone the pointless segmentation between academic research and applied research, basic research and experimental research. All these barriers must be broken down.

Teaching programs must be reorganized around complex themes to encourage collaboration and transversality. Global warming, connected objects, new mobilities, the factory of the future, robotics, the ageing population – all these issues are the new themes around which engineers, designers, sociologists, sales teams, and anyone else of goodwill must unite and work together.

Au revoir teachers?

Thanks to the internet, access to knowledge is now instant, manifold and abundant. The choice is endless so why are we complaining? Is the physical presence of the teacher indispensable? The dramatic rise in MOOCs seems to prove that we can teach many disciplines using distance learning, access conferences in the most prestigious universities and listen to the greatest scholars of our time.

We are gradually witnessing the end of an era of lectures in amphitheaters where the platform and desk determined the distance between teacher and apprentice. With so much knowledge accessible in just a few clicks, students are spoilt for choice.

Teachers will have to review their role and transform their top-down teaching approach to a form of coaching. Their aim: to guide students in their learning rather than teaching. Being scholarly and learned will no longer be enough to earn their stripes.

Stimulating creativity without forcing it

There are however certain things that cannot easily be taught without the presence of a teacher, particularly when it comes to know-how. What we can see happening in design schools today is proof of this and foreshadows the transformation of teacher-student relations.

Students are guided and encouraged by their teachers to share, test, experience and reformulate. It is the students who conduct the lessons as it is they who are expected to come up with creative and innovative ideas. Born long after their teachers, they have a better understanding of tomorrow’s world.

The role of teachers is to stimulate creativity without ever forcing it. It is to encourage students, to help them develop new ideas, to correct them, to support them in the moments of doubt that are inherent to all journeys into the unknown, to reassure them when they make mistakes and thus help them start over…

Focusing on the students

It is much simpler to teach science and “what is”. So simple that we can make it into a MOOC and dispense with the teacher. Teaching creativity, freedom and responsibility is far more complex and puts the student at the heart of the academic process. It is not the subject which is at the core of our programs but the student. For it is the student who brings the talent and inspiration.

Could this less directive teacher-student relationship be the forerunner of the participative management models championed by modern theories of organization? Let us overturn hierarchies to give responsibility and fulfillment to all.

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