SMU plans to add X-factor with building for millennials

SMU-X courses are currently held in Stamford Road. The programme, introduced last year, was a hit with the 600 students who tried it and has been expanded this year to allow 2,000 students to take the courses.
SMU-X courses are currently held in Stamford Road. The programme, introduced last year, was a hit with the 600 students who tried it and has been expanded this year to allow 2,000 students to take the courses.ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Named SMU-X, the proposed building will have rooms intended to encourage active and collaborative learning

Even as Singapore Management University's revamped campus takes shape, it is drawing up plans for another building to optimise degree education for millennials who learn on the go.

The university is in the process of seeking the necessary approvals, but SMU president Arnoud De Meyer said the building, which it hopes to build by 2019, will have classrooms that encourage active and collaborative learning both online and offline.

It will be open 24 hours, seven days a week, and the facilities will include sleeping pods to allow students to work overnight on projects.

Professor De Meyer also gave an update on SMU's revamped campus plan during an interview with The Straits Times, saying that most of the new facilities, including the law school, the 240-seat amphitheatre and three-storey fitness centre, will be ready for use next year.

As for the new building, it will be named SMU-X after a new programme in teaching and learning that the university piloted last year.

Students in the programme take on projects from industries and organisations. A public policy management course, for instance, may get students to work with a social welfare agency to draw up programmes for disadvantaged families.

Students get to solve real-life problems in SMU-X

Prof De Meyer said the SMU-X programme was a hit with the 600 students who had a taste of it last year. This year, it has been expanded to allow up to 2,000 students to take the courses.

This means every SMU undergraduate will be able to take at least one SMU-X course over their four years of study. Some 150 companies have come in as industry partners.

Prof De Meyer said: "Students work on projects brought in by industry partners. So they are immediately applying what they learn in solving real-life problems."

Professors and industry mentors guide students through projects. Students earn credits from the semester-long courses and are graded on their participation and the final outcome.

 

Currently, the SMU-X courses are conducted in a conserved building in Stamford Road which was home to the flagship MPH bookstore until 2003. Prof De Meyer said the facilities in the building were designed to suit the way millennial students learn.

SMU students were involved in the planning and design of the rooms. They held focus group discussions, conducted surveys and went overseas to look at facilities in other university campuses.

The White Room, for example, is a favourite with students for brainstorming sessions. The walls, floors and table can be used for scribbling ideas.

Another room has sofa-beds for power naps, while another is filled with colourful beanbags for small groups to meet.

The university's facilities have already proven to be a draw for full-time national serviceman Darren Lim, 20, who will enter SMU next year to study business. He said he picked the university over another local institution partly because of its "cool city campus".

"Before I decided on SMU, I visited two of my ex-junior college mates who were studying there. I especially liked the SMU-X facilities because that's how I study.

"But, besides the facilities, I like the idea of learning a course through a project. It will make the course more interesting as you can immediately see how it can be applied to solve a problem."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2016, with the headline 'SMU plans to add X-factor with building for millennials'. Print Edition | Subscribe