Plenary Hall, KLCC, 28 November: Vice-Chancellor and President of RMIT University, Australia, Martin Bean, spoke of how technology is impacting on the present education landscape particularly in the teaching and learning sphere. As the former Vice-Chancellor of Open University (OU), United Kingdom, Mr Bean was instrumental in setting up the learning platform for the university and is well-versed on the challenges faced by institutions in dealing with new technologies, processes and; teaching and learning outcomes to respond to changing market needs.

Delivering his keynote address on Technology and Innovation, Mr Bean reflected on his earlier days with OU prior to the advent of personal computers (PCs) and the Internet. At the time, the university used television as a medium to deliver distance programmes.

He recalled his work with the Gates Foundation under Microsoft which spent millions on finding the “great promise of technology for education”. The answer was simply access. With access, the promise of affordable and high quality education can be realised.

He added that the proliferation of technology impacted every sphere of life including education. When Apple introduced the iPad, it changed the way people communicate, Uber is changing the transport industry while the growing popularity of Airbnb changes the way people travel. Likewise, investment in educational technology is likely to reach USD$2.1 billion and Coursera, an educational technology company, managed to reach out to more than 35 million students last year.

Mr Bean said to know the latest trend in educational technology, just follow the money trail. The way forward is through communication and collaboration as evident in the ubiquitous use of social media as a means of communication and information sharing.

On a different note, Mr Bean stressed that regardless of the emergence of new technologies, the key to an enriching learning experience is by having great teachers.

He quoted Paul Krugman, a distinguished economist – “We could be looking at a society in which all the gains in wealth accrue to whoever who owns the robots,” In short, for universities to survive in this era, they have to adapt to what the world wants and needs.