Imperial College London: Festival of Learning and Teaching celebrates Imperial’s education innovation

Imperial has hosted its first ever festival dedicated to exploring how its students and staff best teach and learn.

The three day event in South Kensington brought together keynote speakers and panellists from Imperial, University of Oxford, University of Surrey, and several other institutions.

The festival theme – ‘Identity, Culture and Belonging’ – was selected as universities nationally and internationally acclimatise to returning to campus life and debate the opportunities and challenges of hybrid learning.

Attendees also had their first opportunity to socialise as a large group and to view a poster exhibition of recent education innovations.

Moving forward with the campus experience
Emma McCoy
Professor McCoy
Speaking in front of an eager audience, Professor Emma McCoy, Vice-Provost (Education and Student Experience) said:

“It’s wonderful to see so many students and staff gathered on campus. It’s never been more important for us to foster greater collaboration with our external peers and to provide a space for the student voice to be heard loud and clear.

“Over the course of the past two years people in this room engineered solutions to problems that’d never been encountered in an education setting before. Incredible, creative, award-winning solutions.

“It’s clear that the nature of what Imperial teaches, and how we aim to teach it, has meant our ‘can do’ attitude has led to innovation and a sense of pride in what we’ve achieved as individuals and teams.

“We are now only a few short weeks away from fulfilling our ambition of being back on campus for the whole of our Spring and Summer academic terms. Whether you are a student or an educator, getting back into labs and classrooms, with all of the knowledge we have gained in recent times, has been an uplifting experience. Let’s keep moving forward.”

Shaping future classrooms
Daniel Lo, Deputy-President (Education) at the Imperial College Union said:

“Having students lead panel discussions at such events is a really important indicator of how seriously the Union, the College, and students take the learning experience at Imperial.

“We explored some of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically from the student perspective. Technology has had a significant influence on what’s possible in both a physical and digital classroom or lab. The student body is also keen, however, that we take maximum advantage of our return to campus. There is no substitute for some of the experiences we have resumed over the past few months.”

Imperial students are not only involved in discussions regarding the future ‘shape’ of their learning experience, but have also been significantly consulted on their views toward some of the physical spaces they use on campuses.

From reimagined study areas to revamped social spots, students are at the heart of the College’s plans to further improve life on its campuses.

Feelings of belonging
Professor Kingsbury
Martyn Kingsbury, the College’s first Professor of Higher Education at the Centre for Higher Education Research & Scholarship (CHERS), which delivered the festival.

Professor Kingsbury said: “Student and staff belonging is a fascinating, yet challenging area of research with direct relevance to how we all experience the College. No two institutions will have emerged from the pandemic having had the same experience, but there are some common questions emerging about how we, as a sector, learn from and build on our experiences.

“At Imperial, our labs and classrooms remained relatively accessible throughout the past two years due to the practical, scientific subject matter that we teach. We were also digitally resilient, meaning both students and staff remained in close contact and could continue to explore teaching materials throughout lockdowns.

“Will universities change their culture, or will they revert to what they have known before? There are no simple answers, but we hope that by hosting events such as the festival we are able to focus attention on these important questions.”