Teaching, Learning and Co-creation

Nick Monk: Smiling man with brown hair and tailored blue jacket.
Nick Monk, CTT Director

The Center for Transformative Teaching and the Executive Vice Chancellor’s office are excited to announce Co-creation as the broad theme for this year's fall symposium. Co-creation in higher education may be defined as a collection of practices from leadership and administration, through curriculum design, to classroom activities, that demand the engagement of students in ways that set aside – as far as is possible – the dynamic of teacher-pupil and other established hierarchies.

The CTT looks forward to welcoming Professor Alison Cook-Sather, who has agreed to be our keynote, and who will focus on important aspects of co-creation as it relates to teaching and learning. Co-creation is an element of the University’s N2025 strategy where the CTT believes it can make a significant contribution, and we’re keen to explore how UNL might implement co-creation in interesting and innovative ways. With a view to this becoming a reality, we’ll encourage an undergraduate presence in the planning, administration, and delivery of the symposium.

There are significant benefits for students, faculty, staff, and the institution itself from co-creation activities. Students gain more agency and develop leadership skills. They also develop stronger connections to their departments and the University. For faculty, a significant benefit is that the deeper engagement of students in the design and content of their own education produces levels of commitment that are often reflected in higher grades and more interesting work. The sense of a shared purpose is heightened, and faculty frequently learn something new or encounter a different perspective, when working this way with students. For the institution, there are clear benefits in fostering belonging and retention, and for research institutions, there is an atmosphere created in which the whole campus is engaged in the drive to produce high-quality research, whilst at the same time linking pedagogy with research in a highly efficient way.

For those traditionally underrepresented in and underserved by higher education, co-creation is particularly valuable. Professor Cook-Sather’s recent work addresses how partnerships with students "can contribute to redressing multiple forms of violence and associated harms and promoting greater equity and justice in postsecondary education." This clearly connects UNL’s strategic priority to expand inclusive excellence and diversity and should not be underestimated in its potential to help underrepresented students feel institutionally literate, to believe that they can ‘do’ university and that it really is a place where they can belong.

It is important, though, to recognize that it can be difficult to implement co-creation and its many sub-genres – particularly in high-enrollment courses, and there can be negatives. Faculty may experience skepticism and rejection when first implementing co-creation, students can feel overwhelmed and threatened, and it can expose vulnerabilities for all concerned. I’ll leave the last word, however, to Professor Cook-Sather: "when students have a seat at the table, previously unheard voices are amplified, and diversity and difference introduce essential perspectives that are too often overlooked."

The CTT wishes you all the best for what remains of the summer and looks forward to introducing more new and exciting programming for the fall semester.  

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