When just a degree is not enough

Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace mentors students to explore creative and entrepreneurial ideas.

LET’S face it – 2020 was no walk in the park. With Covid-19 lurking at our doors, international borders closed and a lockdown inflicting repercussions on the economy, many learning institutions and students had to adapt very quickly to find their footing.

Suddenly, everything went into hiatus and for many students, this meant an abrupt interruption to their studies. Coupled with uncertainty over when physical classes would resume, the unprecedented situation gave rise to much anxiety.

Thinking several steps ahead is key in situations such as these, and this was the principle that Taylor’s University applied when it pivoted its open days, teaching and learning to be entirely online even before the movement control order was announced.

Also, while Taylor’s had to put its forward thinking responsiveness to the test during the pandemic, good news abounded as the university was recognised as the top private university in South-East Asia by QS World University Rankings 2021, and one of the top 90 universities in Asia in the QS Asia University Rankings 2021.

Even its online learning capabilities did not go unnoticed as it was awarded the coveted QS 5 Stars – one of the few Asian universities to be awarded.

Taylor's students can learn anytime and anywhere with the university's borderless learning approach.Taylor's students can learn anytime and anywhere with the university's borderless learning approach.

Borderless learning

Despite the university’s virtual learning environment with a range of capabilities for teaching, learning, forums, assessments and even a gamification mechanism, Taylor’s University Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer Prof Dr Pradeep Nair says that the university is moving beyond the usual online learning.

Instead, the university will go further with its borderless learning concept, he says.

“Instead of waiting to see if we can switch back to the old normal of face-to-face classes, we decided to merge online learning and in-person learning, going back to the drawing board to reimagine a model that will bring meaning to learners from a borderless world, ” says Prof Pradeep.

“Moving forward, on-demand learning is crucial, whereby students are empowered to learn anywhere, and anytime.”

This means students would be able to join a class either physically or virtually through live streaming.

Students are assigned project groups and can interact simultaneously through chats on social media channels, and utilise online forum tools.

They will be able to access content and submit assignments on an online portal, and assessments may also be conducted virtually.

The borderless learning approach combines in-person and online learning.The borderless learning approach combines in-person and online learning.

Overall skills

Along with implementing new technologies and digital initiatives to future-proof graduates, Taylor’s University has been carefully curating an ecosystem that will equip students with academic knowledge, practical wisdom and the ability to create and innovate.

Much like a greenhouse that creates an optimal atmosphere and environment for plant growth, the “Taylor’sphere” ecosystem aims to nurture students’ intellectual, mental and emotional growth, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship.

“Looking at the job market now, I believe graduates will realise that a certificate and the ‘hardware’ aspect of knowledge and skills is not enough to get you a job.

“They will need soft skills, creativity, business acumen, networks and an entrepreneurial edge to not only land the career they desire, but to carve a path for themselves and start their own organisations and businesses, if they so choose, ” says Prof Pradeep.

“I also believe these opportunities should not be limited to only business degree students, as entrepreneurial know-how should be the hallmark of every student at Taylor’s.”

The Taylor’sphere focuses on equipping students with life skill modules where they can improve their leadership skills, cross cultural communication, design thinking, public speaking and mindfulness, to name a few.

Working with a group of specialised life skills moderators, students develop skillsets needed to navigate challenges within the corporate and professional world.

Taylor's academics are equipped with the technology and know-how to deliver their classes to both physical and online audiences simultaneously.Taylor's academics are equipped with the technology and know-how to deliver their classes to both physical and online audiences simultaneously.

Me.reka Makerspace

The university’s one-of-a-kind Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace experience drives entrepreneurship and innovation among students to provide solutions to societal problems from the very beginning of their learning journey.

With Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace, every student will take up a social innovation module and have the opportunity to receive guidance with ideation, prototyping, funding and product commercialisation under the mentorship of Me.reka Makerspace, Bizpod and Research & Enterprise – making Taylor’s University the first in the country to incorporate such modules into all degree programmes.

While Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace is a space that is equipped with relevant tools that allow students to explore creative and entrepreneurial ideas, BizPod mentors students to sharpen their business proposals and connects them to investors and venture capitalists, should they want to pitch for funding.

Final-year students also pursue cross-faculty projects, mimicking the collaborative way of working across departments in the industry.

To support these projects, not only would they be able to access Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace, but the entire campus also becomes their “makerspace” where they would be able to utilise any lab, studio or research facility in the university.

For example, an engineering student can access a chemistry lab, an IT student can use the design studios, or a medical student can carry out experiments in a food technology lab to work on ideas and solutions.

These avenues to create, innovate and to birth entrepreneurial ideas fit very well into the Taylor’s Curriculum Framework 2.0 (TCF 2.0) that emphasises broad-based learning experience through a borderless learning culture where students have the flexibility to study modules they otherwise would not get in a traditional degree – therefore a student may graduate as an engineer with some culinary skills, or an IT specialist with marketing and psychological insights.

Taylor’s students get to showcase their products and test the market for commercialisation at the university’s annual Innofest.Taylor’s students get to showcase their products and test the market for commercialisation at the university’s annual Innofest.

Hybrid degrees

The university is aiming to further expand on its offerings across disciplines by introducing hybrid degrees, such as a degree in robotic design that seeks to marry IT and engineering modules, giving its graduates the best of both worlds and expanding their career options.

TCF2.0 also makes room for work-based learning whereby students are exposed to the industry, spending almost a year with industry partners as part of their degree that will help them put a foot in the door with the networks they acquire.

As Taylor’s continues to push the envelope in pedagogy and student-centred learning, Prof Pradeep believes that such initiatives will give its graduates the edge in the industry, while helping them find their place and role in society.

“We believing in providing an education that instils in students a lifelong intellectual curiosity, an awareness of the roles they play in their communities, and a vision to lead responsibly.

“We want to create classrooms that go beyond the limitations of time and space, while encouraging students to pursue a balanced mix of application and academics.

“As such, we remain committed in our pursuit of excellence, while always prioritising student well-being and growth, ” says Prof Pradeep.

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