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Join UJ’s Cloudebate on June 5. Picture: SUPPLIED/UJ
Join UJ’s Cloudebate on June 5. Picture: SUPPLIED/UJ

Implantable cellphones, reading glasses and clothes connected to the web, robot pharmacists, company board members replaced by artificial intelligence (AI), 3D-printed cars, organs for transplant ... it reads like a list of science-fiction extravagances, but these are just some of the very real developments around us as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) irrevocably changes our lives.

Profound and rapid change is not only certain, but also already evident. Workplaces, service providers and purveyors of goods are all grappling with the implications of the information – both beneficial and intrusive – we now cannot live without. 

If it is to remain relevant, functional and purposeful in contributing meaningfully to our fast-changing world, university education needs to adapt to the way it learns, teaches and conducts research.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) is shouldering its responsibility as an academic and research leader in SA and on the continent by considering, discussing and acting on the best responses to these new demands.

Aside from its own research, programmes and initiatives in the sciences and humanities, UJ is hosting a series of web-based Cloudebate discussion panels that include academics, media, students, alumni and industry experts.

The next Cloudebate will investigate how universities should be teaching, how their students should be learning, what curricula to embrace, and what kinds of technologies, partnerships and revolutionary thinking to employ to maximise a responsible and productive way forward.

This follows the Cloudebate held in April, which investigated the relevance of the academic thesis process in today’s fast-paced world.

What you do is what you get

We are all aware of the critical importance of sustainability in everything we do. Resources, renewable energy, food production, climate change, and the technologies that enable us to meet the demands of an emerging bio-economy need to be studied, taught and developed.

A multicultural and global world, where the Internet of Things turns data into objects, trends into choices and choices into societies, is already upon us. At centres of teaching and learning, intellectual capital is the currency.

Research is the stock in trade. In a world where AI is gathering momentum as a major force, are the accustomed ways of doing and communicating still valid? There are many questions that demand answers from universities, and UJ is asking them. 

What you ask is what you do

How do we better integrate our sciences, our humanities and our approaches in both teaching and research? How do we incorporate social media and identity groups? Who should our partners be? Which technologies do we use? How do we make an impact and involve all socioeconomic levels? How do we restructure our curricula interactively to provide the trained workforce that will help build the society we would like to see for ourselves and for our children? How do we create a culture that can advance our tools and technologies in an ethical and sustainable way? When does university education end, and can it be extended across careers through ongoing research, learning and teaching? 

All of these questions require careful consideration, strategising, planning and implementation, if society wants its university graduates to shape their own lives, and our ways of living, with wisdom and skill.

The upcoming Cloudebate is a discussion that involves everyone. If you’re a teacher, a student, a parent, an employer or anyone with an interest in how we shape our society for the future, you’re invited.

Click here to register for the debate for free and join in on June 5 2019. 


This article was paid for by the University of Johannesburg.

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