It’s been years since I joined a conference in person. It felt really good to walk on SUTD campus ground and mingle with other participants, presenters in person once again at the ,National Technology Enhanced Learning Conference (NTEL) 2022.

SUTD nicely summarised the key moments at this year’s NTEL 2022 in ,this article, inclusive of a MOU signing. The MOU signing was a clear display of intent among inter-country universities to collaborate so as to further pedagogy in digital learning and promote lifelong learning. SUTD further commemorated the event with a wonderful gift, i.e. an insightful 66 page ,whitepaper on Cyber-physical learning. It’s packed with the most recent findings on how IHLs are adapting to a post-pandemic world and well worth checking out.

,Disclaimer: This blog post may appear discombobulated because as I share my reflections of NTEL 2022, I also weaved in some elements of ONL222 topic 1 & 2 into it. But, it's my own blog, my own reflections, so here we go...  

What does NTEL 2002, MOOCs and PBL04 have in common?

This conference held multiple tracks to allow participants to pick and choose which ones they were interested in and freely move around (no pre-registration required) the different breakout sessions. It struck me that this was somewhat similar to how learners jump across different MOOCs (sub-topic covered in ONL222 topic 2), picking whatever they wanted and choosing to leave anytime if the session was not meeting their needs.

Coincidentally, at a recent weekly meeting the topic was on MOOCs, and my PBL04 coursemate Anja came up with a nice analogy for this phenomenon, calling it the “supermarket of studies” – likening it to students picking only certain components of a course, and repeating this behaviour over different courses. So, below are my top “grocery shopping items” at this year’s NTEL conference.

The Future of Learning

To start off the conference, we had an amazing keynote from Prof Sanjay Sarma (MIT) on the Future of Learning. Using the science of learning, he explained where higher education has gone wrong and gave suggestions as to how changes can be made so that students are more equipped to adapt in the future labour economy. Below are some brief snippets:

  • University’s mission is to create interchangeable people. Over the years, the cost of higher education has remained high. But is the university fees still worth it?
  • We need to get away from lectures! Brain activity is so low during lectures. Lectures are simply not effective. As we increase the length of videos, concentrate falls and the students’ minds start wondering. We are squandering valuable time on lectures. Educators know this but yet we are still forcing lectures down students throats like a hot-dog eating contest!
  • Simple ways we can do better: make all lectures into short bite-sized videos, embed videos with questions to activate recall, introduce content with increasing difficulty (Vygotsky)
  • With a better understanding of how the brain works (Limbic reward system, Dopamine and curiosity), we can adjust our teaching approaches to engage students rather than be exam-smart. But why aren’t more of us doing it?
  • The current higher education is geared to exams, not for Lifelong Learning. We must evolve from outdated approaches like f2f lectures, and build on the learnings from proven research in learning strategies and use technology as an enabler.
  • Future of assessment? Proxy assessment approach is broken. Everything has been distilled to the point where it’s not meaningful. Rather, we should be giving assessment questions that relate to a real world situation. That is way more authentic and significantly better.
For a Prof of Mechanical Engineering, he sure knows a lot about how the brain works!

New Opportunities for Future Education Technology

A panel discussion from faculty and industry partners shared the following:

  • Not a technology issue. Rather, where and how to introduce it in a way that builds trust. This point reminded me of ONL222 topic 1 where we had quite a bit of debate on building trust. Be it online or blended learning, both students and teachers need to feel safe.
  • Educators who implemented flipped classrooms, their classroom time is so precious, any technology (e.g. audience response systems) used must be stable & easy to use.
  • Despite the onslaught of ,new and exciting ed-tech learning tools, a teacher can still keep students engaged using the right learning strategies. Teachers should build upon this foundation, and then use technology as a supplementary tool.
recap on PBL04 team discussion on digital literacies and online participation #trust

Towards a Future Cyber-physical Learning Environment

At one of the plenary sessions, Dr Kwan Wei Lek shared SUTD’s vision of a cyber physical campus as well as SUTD’s “Emergency Response Learning” experience with COVID.

He showcased how the affordances of broadband and Live streaming now allows peer learning among students from Singapore and China. This diversity benefits students from both countries as they pick up new perspectives. Some interesting quirks was how China students who wanted to change their zoom background images went the extra mile to bypass firewalls. Singaporean students were also amazed at how WeChat functioned as a one tool that covers all their needs, from learning, banking, communication, etc. So, we should not assume digital literacies of students in different countries are the same.

On a more sombre note, he added that moving classes online in 2020-21 was successful as it was still a student novelty back then. By the end of 2022, students’ good will would all be exhausted. Some students feedback that they were getting tired of the zoom breakout rooms. Other students are already questioning the need for a physical campus. So, what’s next?

Students from different countries using IOT to collaborate across borders. Remote lab.

Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education: Teaching & Learning

At another discussion with my PBL04 team, we made an assumption that despite the COVID pandemic, there are still more F2F-courses in universities around the world now than digital ones, so we have an uphill task to convince these educators – who are holding tightly to their F2F courses – to change their teaching approaches. However, the global survey results from the SUTD whitepaper reported that COVID-19 pandemic has affected the majority of higher education institutions worldwide (SUTD, 2022). Only a measly 2% where Teaching and Learning (T&L) were not affected.

Blended Learning is here to stay

Post-pandemic, many institutions went towards a blended learning (BL) approach as the pedagogy of choice (SUTD, 2022). SUTD’s white paper studied this phenomenon and shared recent survey findings on how students and working adults perceive BL as compared to fully online learning. Both groups had a stronger preference towards BL. Their main gripe being that they wish more could be done on the social aspect of learning. Having gone through a well designed facilitated-MOOC, I appreciate how the social-presence of the COI framework can ,contribute greatly to learner engagement and satisfaction.

Those of you who are keen on BL, do check out ,this article where Brookings Institution reviewed evidence on ed-tech interventions from multiple studies across many countries. Eventually, summarising it into 4 comparative advantages together with an interesting framework that even involves parents into the picture! They believe that parents could be the missing link that can mediate the relationships between learners, educators and the learning content. As a hands-on parent myself, this approach appeals to me, so I will definitely take a closer look into this.

The instructional core

Reality check

Saving the best of last, one of my favourite segments of NTEL 2022 was seeing our Education Minister, Mr Chan Chun Seng, grace the event and share his insights on what lies ahead and how higher education needs to evolve to stay competitive. Although it was a brief sharing, it was concise, insightful and doubles as a reality check.

As I was writing this post, I realised that his speech was a microcosm of several presentations covered in depth by other panellists, presenters and workshops during this 2-day conference. So, I linked some of those sessions to the relevant points:

  • ,Singapore Student Learning Space (SLS) was launched in 2018. It’s one of MOE’s best kept secrets… SLS literally has everything you need. It is contributed by teachers at a national level. And it’s constantly being upgraded to factor in even more useful functionality and content. It’s technically Open Sharing but restricted to only Singaporean students and teachers.
  • COVID accelerated the adoption of online learning.
  • National ,Personal Learning Device (PLD) scheme rolled out to ensure that every child has a smart device for digital learning. Akin to “,One laptop per child“.
  • Diversity of ,learning pathways is now possible and should soon be available in secondary and tertiary education.
  • Redesign learning to move from Course-centric to Student-centric.
  • Half life of learning is shrinking… Things we learn are getting outdated faster than ever. Hence, Lifelong learning is no longer an option.
  • Right learning attitude is worth much more than grades. Students should look beyond grades and inculcate the right learning habits which will help the students adapt and thrive in their next 50 years of life.
  • Students should learn to use technology to allow Learning anytime, anywhere. With the smart devices getting so powerful and compact, Learning can always be in our pockets – literally.
  • No longer about the teacher to student ratio. Rather, it is about how many quality teachers who can bring out the best in our students. Supported by technology, teachers can scale their teaching so much more, but need to pick up relevant skill sets and new competencies to adjust to this new role of facilitating learning and supporting students in self-directed learning.
  • It’s not how much resources, it’s thinking creatively and speed of action. Singapore’s main capital is its people. So, we must evolve fast to stay competitive.
  • Not about technology, but effective pedagogy. And leveraging technology as an enabler.
Singapore Education Minister giving his speech at NTEL 2022

He placed emphasis that Teachers/ Educators need to have 3 new competencies moving forward. Namely: 1) Teaching, 2) Learning & 3) Ability-to-Connect. He drilled down on each of these competencies which I attempt to summarise below:


  • Educators must adapt their teaching approaches to be able to connect with modern day students. Teachers need to be aware of best practices in E-pedagogy & ,Blended Learning.
  • Data enabled teachers – Educators should use Learning data to ,make learning adaptive & personalised for students. (e.g. Using the heat map feature within SLS, content can be catered to different student profiles, or using “On Task”, a data analytics learning system that can be programmed to send automated and personalised emails and feedback to students)
  • Use technology to do mass customization of learning (e.g. ,SIT’s using AI to manage discussion forums)
  • Educators need to help students sense-make. To help students adapt to the real world, our teachers need to be upskilled. How? Through industrial attachments to companies so as to gain perspectives outside the world of academia.
  • Teachers need to be more than content experts. Teachers now also have to be designers and facilitators to guide students on using TEL effectively.



  • Singapore is a small country, hence dependent on the human talent to advance.
  • Educators need to network and learn together (e.g. ,Singapore Learning Designers Circle (SgLDC)).
  • Educators can learn and achieve so much more by collaborating with others.
    • By leveraging a Global talent network, much more can be done. E.g. multiple teams across different countries and time zones are able to work on different segments of the project. Handover done every 8 hour cycle to the next team means that the project never stops moving. Speed!
    • Virtual school exchange learning (e.g. live stream by off-site teachers to bring learning outside of classroom walls).

One memorable quote he shared was:

“To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together. To go fast AND far? Leverage on the strength of the fraternity (higher ed) and technology as an enabler.”
– Mr Chan Chun Seng (NTEL, 27 Oct 2022)

Avengers Assemble!

True to our minister’s calling, NTEL 2022 would also formally announce the collaboration of these 5 separate entities supporting teaching and learning. Relating to Open sharing and Learning, I likened this collaboration to that of assembling a superhero team like the “Avengers”.

With this core group of 5 “Avengers”, the potential cross-border research is going to be validated by educators from all 5 partners with a test bed of 181,500 students ranging from undergraduates to working adults. Furthermore, with strong ties, students & faculty can benefit from intercultural exchanges to develop best practices which can be shared to the rest of higher education institutions. Win-Win.

Tying back to ,ONL222 topic’s 2 on “Open Sharing and Learning”, over the 2 days, it was heartwarming to see so many educators’ willingness to share their findings, opinions, and work-in-progress experiments were on full display. Ideas and name cards were exchanged. As Dr David Wiley shared (pun intended) in his Ted Talk, education “,…if there is no sharing, there is no education.” (TEDx Talk, 2010). He would have been happy to see so much love going around.

What about Open Education?

Here’s an idea… if we were to plant the OER & OEP seeds into each of these 5 core institutions, and nurture it, cross-pollinate it. Under such fertile conditions, wouldn’t Open Education (OE) just bloom like a flower? Alas, if only it were that simple. Dr David Wiley was the first to highlight the ,reusability paradox. I.e. the more pedagogy we build into these learning objects, the less sharable it becomes. Combine that with the different ed-tech companies vying to be the choice tool for this higher education market, collaboration may not be that straightforward. IAL has curated a ,list of tools for delivering online learning. This curated list alone is already too many!

Do not fret. I am pleased to share that baby steps are already done to support the OE movement.

  • Within ,SLS, teachers are able to reuse/ remix content that has been created by other local teachers.
  • Within Canvas, there is now ,Canvas Commons where educators can reuse, revise, remix & redistribute module templates that have been set up by other educators from different IHLs.
  • Within Miro, there is ,miroverse where any Miro users can contribute and showcase their own templates, many of which are a window into how real companies and industry use Miro for work and learning.

These are just some examples. If you know more, I hope you share them via comments.

OER missing from the party

During those 2 days, there was strangely no mention of OER in any of the presentations I attended, nor any social media action via twitter. In my previous post, I likened the spread of Open Education as a virus. I used the hashtag ,#NTEL on my tweets, hoping to find other educators or participants (523 onsite & 620 online) maybe tweet something and tag it under the same hashtag. Unfortunately, I was alone. Seems like the Open virus hasn’t reached pandemic proportions yet.

Nonetheless, I remembered what David White & Dan Wilton advised about taking the first step… so I continued on… even if I was the only person on the dance floor.

Where’s everybody? #NTEL #OER

To end this week’s blog post, let’s do a ,Where’s Wally activity. Can you spot where am I in the image below? Drop your answer under comments. If correct, I will give you a mystery prize!

Where’s Ben? :)

Benedict Chia

29 Oct 2022


National Technology Enhanced Learning Conference 2022