The third session of the Global Forum of University Presidents 2021 (GFUP 2021) was held online on April 22nd. With the theme of “Rethinking the Future and the New Mission of Online Education,” this event aimed to gather ideas from global leaders and encourage universities to work together to tackle challenges and opportunities, envision the future of online education, and embark on a new journey of higher education to build more open, integrative and resilient universities. More than 80 representatives from 19 universities from 17 countries, including China, the United States, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Italy, Israel, India, South Korea, and Singapore attended this session, with 25 of them exchanging views on online education in the form of keynote speeches.
Chen Xu, Chairperson of the Tsinghua University Council, delivered the welcome remarks for this session. Yang Bin, Vice President and Provost of Tsinghua University, served as the Academic Chair of this session, while Yuan Si, Vice Chairperson of the Tsinghua University Council, served as the moderator of the session.
Chen Xu pointed out that over the last 16 months, the world was faced with an incredible challenge, as COVID-19 threatened the lives of people and disrupted the missions of traditional campus-based universities across the world. Fortunately, through the integration of online technology and post-secondary pedagogy, teachers, students, faculty, and staff have been able to promptly mobilize online resources. Global efforts have been made to continue our core mission by addressing these challenges and embracing innovation.
Chen Xu stated that the profound changes, instabilities, and uncertainties we are facing in the world today remind us that “we are all together” with a shared future. Only by building closer and stronger partnerships can we turn challenges into opportunities, promote confidence, trust and unity among people, and collectively call for humanity to rise to its highest potential.
Chen Xu introduced the positive actions taken by Tsinghua University to use online education to promote teaching reform, promote learning innovation, improve the educational experience and meet the needs of society. Last December, Tsinghua co-launched the Global MOOC Alliance. This community of universities and online education platforms is promoting the online transformation of higher education and achieving more inclusive and high-quality education. It is necessary to comprehensively summarize our past achievements and experience, consolidate thoughtful ideas and leverage wonderful opportunities such as this dialogue to explore and rethink the future and new mission of online education.
We invited representatives from an international organization, university, online platform, and publisher to deliver keynote speeches and help to provide context for later discussion.
The history of Tsinghua from 1911 until now is a journey of excellence, innovation, and contribution to the betterment of society, as Stefania Giannini said in her congratulatory speech. She mentioned that as the only agency with a mandate in higher education, UNESCO is dedicated to promoting intellectual collaboration as well as facilitating academic mobility to advance the Sustainable Development Goals when facing a global crisis.
According to John Hennessy, online education has a long history, and the pandemic has accelerated its development. “This is a constant learning process,” said Hennessy. Our goal is to make educational resources affordable, accessible, and high-quality. For university presidents, he mentioned that the willingness to take risks and to be bold are very important leadership qualities.
WANG Shuaiguo mentioned that XuetangX is committed to using information technology to connect between online and offline, and continues to promote technological innovation. In 2016, XuetangX launched “Rain Classroom,” a smart teaching tool to support hybrid teaching. In the future, XuetangX will devote itself to exploring more possibilities in online education and contributing to the progress of global higher education.
“The pandemic has accelerated the transition to digital learning, creating an opportunity to rethink the future of online education,” Kumsal Bayzait said; “at Elsevier, our commitment is to work in partnership with the communities we serve, support educators in driving excellence in learning outcomes and research, and in making breakthroughs with healthcare professionals in improving the lives of patients.”