Highlight 1 Improving the Quality of Education
In today's fast-changing society, there is a pressing need to educate and foster globally competitive human resources equipped to identify problems and formulate viable solutions in cooperation with others. Much of this responsibility falls on universities. Given their limited resources, universities must respond to this challenge by improving the quality of education and heightening the effectiveness of their educational methods. But what can be done to achieve this? Fuji Xerox is engaged in a company-wide initiative to examine how it can be of assistance to universities. A number of joint creative projects have been launched as we work with various universities to consider their problems and to advance toward the provision of new value.
This section reviews the efforts of Fuji Xerox as we go beyond the scope of our operational improvement support services to pursue the improvement of the quality of education in the true sense.
|Percentage of Japanese universities in the world's top 100 universities |
Source: Computed based on World University Rankings 2014-15.
|Percentage of Japanese universities considering the inclusion of active learning in curriculum |
Source: Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, "Status of the Reform of University Education" (Fiscal 2012).
|Percentage of time spent by university and college faculty members in Japan on educational activities |
Source: National Institute of Science and Technology Policy, "Changes in the Ratio of Time Spent on Work Activities by University & College Faculty Members" (2015).
Japanese University Education at Crossroads
Globalization and intensified international competition are placing new demands on universities. Society is increasingly looking to universities to supply human resources able to identify social problems and formulate solutions as well as those able to generate innovations for society's use. Japanese companies urgently need human resources with these capabilities if they are to effectively respond to the breakneck speed of global technological innovation and the accelerating changes in industrial structure and business cycle. Fuji Xerox is no exception. As a "global change leader" committed to overcoming the daunting challenges of continued growth and change, Fuji Xerox is in constant need of human resources who can think and act on their own.
But do university faculty members in Japan really have the time necessary for the task of fostering the next generation? Intense worldwide competition in research requires faculty to also concentrate their energies on their own research, leaving little time for engaging in the trial-and-error process of mentoring students. The situation is further complicated by the fact that both businesses and students are looking for more practical and exciting classwork, in step with changes in social preferences. While tied down by these and other constraints, universities must endeavor to improve the quality of the education they offer and to hone the effectiveness of their educational methods.
Appreciation for Enthusiasm and Speed
Fuji Xerox entered the field of university education reform with its Classwork Assist Box jointly developed with Hosei University. In 2007, Hosei University introduced a campus-wide learning management system (LMS). By facilitating unified management of all types of information needed for student education, LMS dramatically reduced the burden on the teaching staff. But Professor Yuji Tokiwa of Hosei University Research Center for Computing and Multimedia Studies, who is in charge of incorporating information and communication technologies in education, was keenly aware of the limitations of the system.
"Online tests were given at the end of each course, but the problem was these were all multiple-choice tests. Compared to essay questions, multiple-choice does not stimulate deep thinking. Reducing the burden on teachers was a welcome change; however, students were being robbed of an important opportunity for cognitive development. What I wanted was a system that supported essay questions and a database function that could also store the students' handwritten responses. This I knew would solve a fundamental problem."
It was Fuji Xerox that called out to Professor Tokiwa as he experimented with new teaching methods. Our first meeting took place in 2012 at the Fuji Xerox R&D Square in Yokohama. Professor Tokiwa says he was pleasantly surprised by what happened that day. A corporate project normally involves a couple of staff members. But the meeting room in Yokohama was wall-towall with Fuji Xerox researchers and engineers from various fields, Professor Tokiwa recalls.
"It was very meaningful to engage in an intensive exchange of views with frontline engineers with a great deal of knowledge and experience. You could feel the enthusiasm in the room. No less surprising was the speed of progress. The project was launched in 2012, and a commercial product was ready by 2013. I believe that kind of speed is very rare."
The Classwork Assist Box jointly developed with Hosei University is linked to the university's LMS, making one of its strengths the ease with which documents can be managed, stored, and retrieved from databases as needed. Some unexpected benefits emerged when the system went into operation. Students commented, "You can tell that the instructors are reading our papers with greater care. Papers and reports come back with lots of comments and a number grade, which encourages us to take our work more seriously." The grading of tests and papers opened up an active channel of communication between students and instructors. In this way, the system drew attention to possibilities for motivating students and generating greater enthusiasm in the classroom.
Conventional modes of rote learning may be effective in conveying basic knowledge, but they cannot deliver the desired improvements in quality of education. Two problems stand out in rote learning. One is the difficulty in maintaining the level of student interest and motivation; the other is the tendency of rote knowledge to be transitory and easily forgotten. Our society is becoming increasingly complex. Raising up people equipped with truly competitive capabilities in this environment is impossible unless students are driven to set their own goals and vision of who they want to be and to develop the initiative and abilities needed to tirelessly pursue solutions to problems.
Born of an Ingathering and Clash of Ideas
Professor Masanori Hanawa of the University of Yamanashi had a sense of crisis regarding the current state of university education.
"I felt there was a general lack of enthusiasm among students. Excitement should be contagious, I thought. The teacher's enthus iasm should awaken a cor responding enthus iasm in students. But there wasn't enough interaction for that to happen. My job is not merely to convey information. My lectures should prompt students to think about their future, and the classroom should be a space for students to acquire the learning and skills needed to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. I was always thinking along these lines and trying to figure out what to do." Professor Hanawa's aspirations intersected with those of Fuji Xerox.
Various ideas for active learning and flipped classrooms emerged from the discussion. This involved students studying the contents of a lecture beforehand and leading the classroom discussions and exercises. This effectively reverses the conventional order of teaching where a lecture comes first and is then followed by exercises that are assigned as homework. Professor Hanawa was unfamiliar with such terms as active learning and flipped classrooms before the project got underway. He now laughs that he accidentally discovered all that he had been envisioning in these new teaching methods.
"I visited the Fuji Xerox R&D Square in 2012, my first exposure to what the company calls 'Come and encounter for innovation.' As places for creating and accumulating knowledge, universities subscribe to the same basic concept. Thus started our many discussion sessions. We met at least once a month and repeated the process month after month. It was a process of trial and error and the clash of innumerable ideas that were put forward for discussion. Since this was a business proposition for Fuji Xerox, I am sure they were looking at their budget as they kept track of our progress. But our objective had been clearly defined and there was absolutely no room for compromise if we were to accomplish what we had set out to do. 'Step 1: Students prepare for class using digital textbooks and materials. Step 2: Students discuss their questions among themselves in the classroom. Step 3: Instructor directs and supports additional learning.' The Fuji Xerox staff did an outstanding job responding to the needs of the project."
The project experienced a number of failures along the way but ultimately decided on a system for Internet delivery of lecture contents based on speech-synchronized screen-capture technology. This technology, which Fuji Xerox had and was already using in-house, combined audio with still pictures to create a picture-story presentation, a solution that provided a number of important advantages. No large equipment or data capacity was needed, Internet delivery was fully supported, and instructors merely had to record their lectures in synch with slides. At first, some professors shied away from the system because they thought it would add to their burden. But they were quickly won over when they realized the system's usefulness and ease of operation. Classes adopting this flipped classroom system increased from four classes in the second semester of 2012 to eight in the second semester of 2013. The system has also proven remarkably effective in improving student performance. For a required course on info-communications with 50 registered students in the first semester of 2013, the average score on the midterm exam improved to 80.4 from 63.0 in the previous year. Low-scoring students dropped from 24 students to 8, while highscorers increased from 12 to 33 students.
Active learning and flipped classrooms are being widely recognized as promising new styles in education and are being adopted by universities throughout Japan. In this way, the cooperation between Fuji Xerox and the University of Yamanashi has become a source of strategic reform in education.
Pursuing New Styles in Education
Kyoto University is currently developing a Global Online Resources for International Language Learning Assistance (GORILLA) system for language education aimed at fostering human resources equipped to play an active role in the global arena. The system combines e-learning and e-portfolio functions.
The e-learning program is used to record and replay a series of courses taught in English that all students are required to take and supports independent study using materials based on the courses. Instructors upload their lectures and related materials so that students can complete the course work from anywhere and at anytime.
The e-portfolio function stores student reports and test results. In addition to facilitating unified management of these records, the e-portfolio features a social function that can be used in vocabulary training. A paper-based feedback function is also available. By combining these functions, GORILLA provides robust support in language education for raising a new generation of global human resources.
In developing this framework, Kyoto University wanted to "create a system that makes maximum use of the convenience of both paper-based and digital information." This is where Fuji Xerox stepped in with the earnest hope to make a positive contribution to the project. By adding the Classwork Assist Box to the equation, Fuji Xerox is working to create a system that combines paperbased and digital information management that promises easeof- use for both instructors and students.
As sociate Profes sor Toshiyuki Kanamaru of Kyoto University who joined the GORILLA project in 2014 outlines his expectations for Fuji Xerox in this way.
"Each university has its own unique character and you have to be on-site to gain a real sense of that uniqueness. My hope for Fuji Xerox is that it will be there with us as a partner on the front lines to work with us every step of the way as we design a system that is optimal for our school. The truth is some members of the university faculty are not particularly comfortable with digital systems. But anyone can use paper. Any system that operates exclusively on either paper or digital information cannot support a real improvement in the quality of education. Paper is not going to be totally abandoned anytime soon. So, our idea is to maximize the impact on education by combining paper-based and digital information. We are looking to Fuji Xerox with the expectation that it will develop innovative proposals that only Fuji Xerox can."
Fuji Xerox emphasizes the importance of communicating with customers in its quest for the creation of new value. We are no longer bound by the conventional business model of supplying customers with copy machines and other equipment. Fuji Xerox's commitment to working closely with customers to identify their challenges and to propose creative solutions is being put to the test. Fuji Xerox will continue to pursue the goal of improving the quality of education, not only at universities but also at all levels of education.