Find out how borderless learning and technology gives you the opportunity to learn and collaborate with others locally and internationally.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted many, one thing’s for sure — it has certainly highlighted the importance of technology and the need to constantly upskill ourselves.
For Associate Professor Dr. Kandappan Balasubramanian from Taylor’s School of Hospitality, Tourism & Events, technology has always taken centre stage in his classes where he even won the Exemplary Meritorious Academic Staff (EMAS) Award in the year 2015 for his teaching innovation and was also selected as one of the Apple Distinguished Educators (ADE).
His passion for including technology as well as connecting people and communities together pushed him to research and work towards a Borderless - Academia. Industry. (A.I.) integrated learning assessment which granted him the award of 'Taylor’s e-Learning Distinguished Educator (DeE) — Class of 2021'.
Q: What is a borderless academia industry integrated learning assessment and why is it important?
A: I came up with the borderless teaching innovation to build new synergies in the learning space through redesigning the learner’s assessment with integration of Borderless — Academia. Industry. (A.I.).
The idea came about as I wanted to nurture communication and collaboration between students, academicians, and industry experts (both local and international) through different technologies. This acts as a bridge for students to step out of their comfort zone into a global learning zone and provides them with an engaging and collaborative learning environment that helps them develop 21st-century competencies skills and resilience for the future, especially post-pandemic.
This allows learner’s to predict future industry transformation while they interact closely with future recruiters. These learning initiatives are also aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as it improves the quality of education (SDG4) through innovation (SDG9) and borderless collaboration (SDG17) to learn from the global context.
To create an interdisciplinary assessment phase with borderless evaluators and also to showcase the capabilities of our students to those in the industry, I even conducted a hospitality simulation exercise where students presented to a panel of judges.
It truly transformed the learners' environment from a teacher-centric 'One Comfort Zone' towards a 'Global Learning Zone' where they're assessed by global academicians and industry experts with the support of learning platforms. I hope this would build stronger relationships between educators and students globally, create research clusters and learning opportunities between other institutions and industries, and grow the idea of an open life-long learning community.
Q: Can you tell us more about your journey applying borderless learning in your classes?
A: It started when we held the 2012 Asia-Euro conference where we were able to network with other people enthusiastic about technology. I ended up collaborating with one of the participants from India to set up a global learning zone in 2013 or 2014 for the Oenology module (Wine Studies) with the support of Skype and Nearpod.
Thanks to the opportunities given by Taylor’s through the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Dr Pradeep Nair, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences & Leisure Management Professor Dr Neethiahnanthan, the Head of School of Hospitality, Tourism, and Events Dr. Joaquim Dias Soeiro, the e-LA team, and my other colleagues for allowing us to be innovatives in our projects, I was able to embark on my next project — borderless learning. I applied this in the Beverage Management classes where I brought my class to a coffee shop outside of campus and had them view the slides through the Nearpod App.
From there, I moved on to assessment in borderless learning for the Service Quality Management module in 2015. My colleagues Dr. Rupam Konar and I collaborated with Ms. Christina Toh, the General Manager (GM) of Grand Dorsett Hotel, Subang Jaya for 2 consecutive semesters where our students became ‘mystery shoppers’ for their dining experience.
At the end of it, they’d present their assessment and feedback to the hotel’s team in their boardroom. You wouldn’t believe it but my top performing student, who never faced difficulty presenting, was so nervous that he introduced himself wrongly!
That’s how borderless learning works. It removes students from the comfort of campus, contextualises their learning experience, and gives them an experience like no other. The students’ feedback from the borderless learning assessment project pushed me to be more innovative during this challenging time of COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: What are your future plans for borderless learning?
A: Aligned to Taylor’s Teach Less, Learn More goal, I’m looking to allocate more hours into borderless classrooms where I integrate industry learning and bring in international people. I also want to align certain modules with international universities so students can collaborate with others locally and globally. These kinds of projects and opportunities help us to understand the different cultures and break away from preconceptions of what certain things are like.
For long term plans, I’m researching ways for borderless learning to become immersive. I want to unleash technological advancements in the learning space without losing the human touch so I’m researching more on the 5th Industrial Revolution and looking at ways to include AR and VR concepts to immerse students in the hotel environment not just within Taylor’s but to other institutions as well.
But whether it’s short or long term plans, I’m always looking and exploring new ways to create new learning experiences for students and, personally, build my own skills.
Since the pandemic started, my team and I have held various conferences regarding borderless learning and, with each session, we’re able to learn so much from speakers all over the world. In these times, educators are really advancing towards cultivating a culture of care and collaboration whether it’s through sharing of knowledge or connections.
I hope to set a good example in this so my students can also have that same culture. That way, we can all learn together and build more social innovations.
Q: Combining your experience in both the industry and academia, you’ve had an impressive 19 years of hospitality experience. What attracted you to this field?
A: I’ve always wanted to be in the hospitality industry ever since I was young because it’s one of the main fields where we can connect with different groups of people. When I was in school, I distinctly remember noticing how hospitality allows people to share their different cultures through social activities which brought people together.
And I knew that the hospitality industry was for me because I love connecting with people, communities, and creating those experiences. I can’t imagine working in an industry that doesn’t expose me to people.
Q: Why did you move into academia?
A: When I went for my internship and subsequently into the workforce, I realised the skills that we learned doesn’t equip us with enough skills for the industry. There’s actually a big gap between what is taught and what’s practised. I felt that education needed to be the bridge in producing the right graduate for the industry.
Plus, going into academia still allowed me to connect with others and create meaningful experiences especially when collaborating and learning from them for various events. My goal is to give back to my students what I felt had been lacking in equipping them for the future and developing them to be more socially responsible.
Q: With the recent pandemic, what should those in the hospitality industry do to survive?
A: The hospitality and tourism industry was one of the first to be affected by the pandemic and the last to recover. But it’s not a new phenomenon.
Even though the industry has been tremendously affected, we come back stronger. In fact, borderless learning doesn’t just help students. It also exposes industry partners to new ideas and suggestions presented by the students and showcased the importance of technology where we can see more people starting to embrace it. And we can see that, in terms of integration and application of technology, the current generation is well-educated in them.
Even though the industry is not functioning well in terms of operations, when you see the whole innovation, there’s a lot of resilience with them. What we can do is to explore out of our comfort zones and cultivate that culture of care and collaboration so that, even during a pandemic, we can continue growing and learning.
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