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A cosmos of interaction

Prof. Dr. Bernadette Dilger
Professor of Business Education
Institute Director, IWP-HSG, University of St.Gallen.
Foto zVg

What competencies will university graduates require in future? And how can a learning and teaching culture be created in the HSG Learning Center which will enable students to develop such competencies? These questions serve as a guiding principle for the configuration of an innovative learning design for the HSG Learning Center. The Center will realise the vision of future learning and teaching at the University of St.Gallen. It will trigger a quantum leap in the further development of an academic learning and teaching culture.

Soft skills are becoming increasingly important

Today’s radical changes in technology and society are resulting in changed working processes and consequently in new demands made on employees in companies. Forecasts indicate that the speed of changes in requirements is on the increase while the usability period of acquired specialist skills is decreasing. Owing to automation, digital systems are taking over a constantly growing proportion of activities at the upper end of the value creation chain. More than ever before, students must therefore be more strongly supported with regard to their skills to tap into new things under their own steam and on the basis of scientific methods. On this foundation, they will be able to continue the development of their own competencies themselves. Finding one’s bearing in the unknown, solving problems and developing innovations will become even more important. On the other hand, acting in complex systems in which digital tools are integrated will gain in importance. For this purpose, students will have to develop the skill not only to understand the logic of data, algorithms and technical systems alone, but they will also require the competencies enabling them to assess the results of digitally processed data, information and processes and to deduce consequences from them. It follows from both tendencies that primordial human competencies will receive more weight as study objectives. Critical thinking, value-oriented action and decision-making, creative problem-solving, intentional design, emotional expressiveness, empathy, meaningful communication and self-reflection will gain in significance in an education that enables students to cope with the future.

«The HSG’s didactic concept focuses on the promotion of competencies such as collaborative and creative problem-solving and value-oriented action. The Learning Center will provide the space for this.»

Interaction – an indispensable requirement for competence-building

The development of these competencies is not a simple study objective, let alone a simple subject to study. Such competencies cannot be communicated or subliminally acquired in a degree course. They emerge through formative personal encounters between teachers, students and representatives of the practical working world. They must be purposefully tested, experienced and reflected on. The creation of a shared experience in which requisite values are clarified and various value alternatives become perceptible, becomes the starting point for processes of personality development. Alternative approaches can be discussed, values become transparent in decisions, and actions become consistent with values.

With methodology to problem-solving

This is an important basis for the development of an ability to think and act in a responsible and entrepreneurial manner. Processes of competence development are launched when relevant problems have to be solved or authentic tasks have to be worked on. Equally, they are triggered by the design of new, convincing products or services. These learning opportunities enable us to design action and experience environments for students. In this way, students can be supervised in their working and development processes. Reflections are triggered. Students experience their own limitations and recognise the necessity to continue their development. This enables them to pursue a methodologically supported search for alternative solutions and designs in order to reflect on them critically and to assess them. This, in turn, enables them to make and implement a decision in a responsible way. The didactic programme in the HSG Learning Center will offer more such learning and development options, which will help to integrate experiences from different contexts (professional world, society, private life) with the approaches from the various disciplines. In this way, students will be more likely to succeed in mastering paradoxes.

«Critical thinking, value-oriented action and decision-making, creative problem-solving, intentional design, emotional expressiveness, empathy, meaningful communication and self-reflection will gain in significance.»

Novel services support development processes

A learning environment emerges which will help us to conduct units that are already part of practical projects, integration seminars, capstone projects, etc., in a way that allows for more effective learning. This will be achieved, for instance, by means of structured interaction with representatives of practice or in cooperation with various working groups. In addition, extracurricular learning options will be created, which will support the above-mentioned competence development processes in an experimental way. Students will also be more strongly encouraged to learn individually. Students are intended to experience impulses that are many-faceted and as extensive as possible.

A place of inspiration and interaction

In the HSG Learning Center, a physical learning space will be created which will enable students to engage in meaningful interaction and experience-based learning. Thanks to its architectural design, it will open different rooms, to which the didactic concept can allocate different learning opportunities. Students will thus be able to avail themselves of learning options which suit their requirements. In the future, learning community managers will analyse students’ needs and develop specific services. At the interface between faculty members, researchers, representatives of a wide variety of practical fields, and students, learning curators will draw on relevant impulses from various contexts and turn them into learning opportunities. The HSG Learning Center will thus become a University-wide cosmos of inspiration, interaction, exploration and experience. This will trigger a change in the entire HSG’s learning and teaching culture – a learning culture that will focus on joint and shared experience and co-creation and find its expression through effective work on current problems and challenges. Our studies are intended to foster personality development – as a basis for responsible societal impact.