Prof. Oded Rabinovitch
Senior Vice President
The past academic year was one of challenge and change. In some cases, the challenges led to rethinking and planting the seeds of change that will evolve and bloom in the near future. In others, changes aimed at establishing new concepts, methods, and lines of action have been made. Both are related to the new leadership and new spirit as well as to new directions, concepts and methods needed for their realization.
Leadership and Spirit
The most significant change made in the past year was the new leadership of many Technion-level academic units. This includes the appointment of Prof. Hossam Haick as Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Prof. Doron Shilo as Vice Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Prof. Ayelet Fishman as Dean of Students, Prof. Yehuda Pinchover as Vice Dean of the Graduate School, and Prof. Anath Fischer as Deputy Senior Vice President. The new leadership brings vision, ideas, and a spirit that impacts the academic breadth of Technion and almost every student, faculty, and administrative staff member. Together with the leadership, new methodologies have been formulated: innovative methods of learning and teaching; better financial, social and academic support for students; and improved procedures for supporting and budgeting newly recruited faculty members. The establishment of decision-making procedures that aim at positioning the Faculty Deans as closely as possible to the inner circle of leadership, and the establishment of relationships that are based on continuous communication and true partnership with the students led by the Technion Students Association (TSA) represent examples of fundamental change to the organizational culture of Technion.
The most prominent change is the shift from an institute that is focused on teaching, learning, and research to one that is also focused on a broader education. This multi-faceted challenge has many conceptual and practical aspects including:
>> The establishment of an entrepreneurship and leadership study course which can be added to any undergraduate degree program. This includes a set of courses (10 credit points) offered by the academic units, the Technion entrepreneurship center – the t-hub, and the Department of Humanities and Arts. It provides the students with additional knowledge, experience and relevant skills that enrich and complement the education received in their home faculty. A similar program in leadership, communication skills, and entrepreneurial training is in the pipeline for graduate students. This will be formalized in the new academic year.
>>A task force established this year, led by Prof. Arnon Bentur and the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, has begun to plan how to incorporate leadership, teamwork, decision-making skills, and social and environmental awareness in the undergraduate and graduate curriculums.
>> The development and implementation of a new concept –”Internationality at Home,” called for the restructuring of Technion International. The aim is to integrate international activities in campus life. Instead of creating a campus that has a strong but somewhat isolated international nucleus, we aim at internationalizing every relevant function at Technion. The motivation is that the international students at Technion should interact with Israeli students, enriching their educational and cultural experience. We believe that international interaction is essential for success in the modern STEM world and should be an integral part of the Technion experience.
The restructuring of Technion International and the integration of half the staff into their relevant professional home at Technion is a step in this direction. We believe that this move, along with handing over responsibility to the Technion academic units for international activities, are essential steps towards establishing a truly international Technion campus in Haifa.
>>The development of a new approach to teaching English at Technion is underway. A recent Council for Higher Education (CHE) regulation requires each undergraduate student to take at least two courses in English. For students with weak English skills, special courses will be offered. Each department will offer at least two of its curricular courses in English. We believe this will be instrumental in breaking language barriers and provide our graduates with better communication skills in English.
COVID-19 and the Crown Semester
The spring semester of 2020 (which we call the “crown semester”) was anything but normal. During this unique period, we had to shift to online teaching and learning in less than a week, then revert to a hybrid state, and then shift all exams to an online format. Ultimately, we had to learn how to respond to the changing academic and social realities swiftly and effectively. The pandemic required reinventing almost every aspect of the academic ecosystem. We had to reinvent basic concepts such as a lecture, tutorial class, lab exercise, assessment, and grading. It also made us rethink many of the traditional concepts and, in a sense, paved the way to new and perhaps better ones including:
>> Online classes and course components
>> Online formative and final assessment methods
>> Online social engagement and outreach
>> Interdepartmental and interuniversity sharing of online materials
>> Joint international courses and online joint supervision of graduate students
>> Hybrid lab courses
>> New enrolment tracks not necessarily based on psychometric and/or matriculation exams
>> Online student recruitment events
>> Online student-teacher interaction
Some of these changes, that were implemented during the four months of the “crown semester,” will fade out with the end of the pandemic. Others, which can meaningfully and positively contribute to the educational and research experience at Technion, are here to stay.