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​NTU hosts regional university conference with spotlight on neuroscience in education

Published on: 04-Dec-2014

Neuroscience is the next new frontier in education where promising discoveries can potentially enhance the learning capacity for everyone and create better learning environments for students. Developing a better understanding of how the brain learns may also lead to more effective ways of teaching.

Several exciting new discoveries in the field of educational neuroscience are being presented at the annual conference of the Association of Southeast Asian Institutions of Higher Learning (ASAIHL) this week. The conference is hosted by Nanyang Technological University (NTU), which is at the forefront of this emerging research area, combining its strengths in both neuroscience and education.

The regional conference will see the presentation of new research findings on neuroscience, including brain plasticity, which is the ability of the brain to change and adapt, as well as attention and memory systems. New data is also pointing to fresh perspectives on the ways technology is changing how we learn.

These are some of the developments that have important implications for higher education institutions in the region. Experts agree that universities will need to respond by reviewing and introducing innovations into their undergraduate education curricula and pedagogical assessment. This is to ensure that university graduates are better prepared for an increasingly interdependent and uncertain world.
Singapore Education Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat is the Guest of Honour at the conference’s opening ceremony held at NTU this morning. More than 200 scholars, educators, experts, and government policymakers are attending the event over three days. Conference discussions are centred on three fundamental challenges: curriculum innovation, pedagogical innovation and technology innovation.
Professor Er Meng Hwa, NTU’s Vice President (International Affairs) and chairman of this year’s ASAIHL conference organising committee said, “Today's digital and globalised world demands new ways of learning. As economic structures around the world grow more complex, with new jobs requiring multiple skillsets and interdisciplinary approaches, it is critical that university graduates are equipped with the knowledge and motivation to be lifelong and adaptable learners.

“This conference will enable participants to advance the development of educational technology among our region’s universities, including social media and e-learning in the new paradigm of learning, along with curricular and pedagogical innovation to prepare students for the 21st century workplace.”

To help participants better understand these future trends and challenges, NTU has lined up two eminent scholars at the forefront of educational neuroscience and technology to deliver the keynote addresses at the conference - Dr David Sousa, an educational neuroscience consultant and Dr Allison Rossett, Professor Emeritus of Educational Technology at San Diego State University.

Dr Sousa will present new findings on the topic How the Brain Learns, touching on attention and memory systems, while Professor Rossett will speak on the topic Sleepless in Higher Education: New Roles, New Forms, and New Urgency. Prof Rossett, will show how university executives, professors and students are responding to the new world of online learning and what is on the horizon.

Prof Er said, “The topics selected by the two keynote speakers are most apt and timely and will provide fresh perspectives on how to enhance effective teaching and learning.”

Innovations in higher education at NTU

NTU has already begun innovating the way students learn in a big way. Prof Er said after undertaking a major revamp of its curriculum three years ago, the University is transforming the way it teaches students.

“At NTU, there will be a wider and better use of the online experience to transfer information and knowledge to the student,” said Prof Er.

NTU’s move into the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) platform this year has been met with resounding success, with almost 80,000 students worldwide. It introduced two courses, Beauty, Form, and Function: An Exploration of Symmetry by Prof Timothy White which attracted more than 28,000 students and Introduction to Forensic Science by Assoc Prof Roderick Bates which garnered more than 48,000 students.

NTU is the world’s first university that allows credits or academic units from MOOC courses to be used to fulfil a student’s degree requirements. About 1,000 NTU students also signed up under the more stringent Signature Track which qualifies for credit transfer.

The breadth of NTU MOOCs across science and engineering, arts and humanities, and business is positioning NTU as a leader in the adoption and implementation of these learning tools of the future.

Another major change at NTU is the flipped classroom, where knowledge transfer from teacher to students takes place in advance through various online materials at the students’ own time.

“This means that class time is better utilised as students will be actively engaging their professors and classmates in discussions and debate, rather than as passive recipients of information in the  traditional mode of learning,” said Prof Er.

To support this new pedagogy, NTU has transformed about 90 tutorial rooms into high-tech smart classrooms, fitted with cluster seating and multimedia aids for small group learning. Two learning hubs with more smart classrooms are also being built, with the first ready by next year.

NTU has also been working with Imperial College London to implement a comprehensive suite of learning innovations at its new medical school, including technology-driven lessons, team-based learning, online e-modules and the latest educational tools such as iPad-supported learning and virtual dissection.

“To promote the latest and best teaching practices, the University has established a new teaching academy, and enhanced the way we recognise and reward teaching excellence. Earlier this year, NTU set up a new Centre for Research and Development in Learning (CRADLE@NTU) which will advance innovative approaches in tertiary learning and fill the void in research on best learning practices within the local and Asian context,” Prof Er said.

Other topics on the ASAIHL conference agenda include how internationalisation of the curriculum can help students develop the skills necessary to face future challenges; how classroom learning can be enhanced through game-based learning and Facebook; and how technology can advance assessment and learning in higher education.
Established almost 60 years ago in 1956, the Association of Southeast Asian Institutions of Higher Learning was founded as a non-governmental organisation at a meeting in Bangkok of the heads of eight state universities in Southeast Asia. It has since grown to 197 member institutions spanning across the globe, from Australia and Brunei, to Sweden, Vietnam and the USA.

For more information, visit the ASAIHL 2014 conference website at:

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Media contact:

Feisal Abdul Rahman
Senior Assistant Director (Media Relations)
Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: (65) 6790 6687

About Nanyang Technological University

A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has 33,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, and Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences. It has a new medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up jointly with Imperial College London.

NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).

A fast-growing university with an international outlook, NTU is putting its global stamp on Five Peaks of Excellence: Sustainable Earth, Future Healthcare, New Media, New Silk Road, and Innovation Asia.

Besides the main Yunnan Garden campus, NTU also has a satellite campus in Singapore’s science and tech hub, one-north, and a third campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.

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