After the launch of the Big Conversation I asked my 10 year old daughter to describe in one word what she thought going to university would be like. She thought for a moment and then said “noisy”. I confess I didn’t ask why – I got distracted by the fact that we had arrived at a point in the year where it was acceptable to have chocolate for breakfast. I have, however, since reflected on what she might have meant.
I think that she means buzzing, big, hectic. When my daughter has visited our campus she has been in awe of the size and space compared to her small primary school. She has been fascinated by students coming and going to classes and the conversations that are buzzing in cafes and around our open spaces. Noisy, in this sense, is a good thing in my view. It implies being present and involved. You don’t get noisy MOOCs as far as I am aware. Whilst the increase in use of technology is inevitable (and offers huge potential that we will need to exploit to meet the needs of our future students) I hope that we haven’t moved to a virtual reality university by 2026.
I hope, instead, that we have an even greater sense of the value and importance of personal interaction. We should be embracing and encouraging noisy classrooms and lecture theatres (and yes, I think that there might still be a place for lecture theatres in 2026). The buzz of learning is difficult to replicate in an on-line environment. Technology has the potential to enhance but not, I believe, to replace. So, I hope that Birmingham remains noisy, in the best sense of the word.
CLAD & Learning Spaces