Today the education sector is going through what most commentators see as an unprecedented period of change. The assumption is that in the wake of COVID-19, many standard modes of teaching and learning have changed forever. While that is undoubtedly true and of fundamental importance, many aspects of what we do remains the same. Our need to publish, bring in research funding, and get positive student assessments have not gone away. The knowledge we need to impart, and the mindsets we seek to loosen or develop, remain as engrained as ever. Similarly, long established research areas are still to be explored. Whether it be the environment, learning psychology, social networks, creative practice or design thinking, what we research remains relevant and pressing.
In addition, despite the ‘strangeness’ of the change around us, some disciplines find themselves in unexpectedly familiar domains. The digital arts, media and communication studies are operating on platforms many see as natural. The proponents of distance learning are employing techniques they had been honing for years. Acolytes of educational technologies are perfecting platforms they have been developing for decades. The effect of the pandemic on our teaching and research then, is far from uniform or wholly negative.
Set in this context, this conference reminds us that, in addition to the pandemic, there are other issues at play for educators and researchers today. Asking us to take a step back from the flux we have been in recently, it invites us to discuss both the radical realignments that have been necessary in recent times, and those aspects of our pedagogy that have continued unaffected by remote teaching. Bringing both sides of this coin together, the intention is to better grasp the tenor of teaching and research in today’s changing, and increasingly hybrid, academy.
Each of the partner universities at this conference will tackle this from their own unique perspective. Ball State University will examine sites, settings, location and context in the teaching and practice of spatial design. The University of Kassel will deal with data and complexity in teaching and practice. Beaconhouse National University are concerned with Interdisciplinary learning, research and practice, and the University of Pretoria looks at socially engaged teaching and learning.