Campus - 23.02.2023 - 10:20 

HSG teaching innovation: Martin Eppler on one year of teaching and learning at SQUARE

For the last year, HSG’s regular teaching staff and students have been trying out the teaching and learning of the future in SQUARE. What has happened in the two semesters since then? And where is teaching at HSG heading?

Over the last year at HSG’s new SQUARE building, students have taken dance classes, participated in role-playing games, explored digital spaces in the metaverse, and worked with artists to produce new works. "The SQUARE is designed to allow scope for experimentation in teaching," says Martin Eppler, HSG Vice President of Studies and Teaching. "The special thing about the rooms in the SQUARE is that they inevitably lead to interactions, be it in university courses or at public lectures," says Eppler in an interview, in which he looks back over a year of teaching in the SQUARE – and ahead to how HSG’s teaching will develop in future.
Martin Eppler, how did you find the first year of the SQUARE?

By way of example, I can tell you how enriching the SQUARE was for me personally as a member of the faculty. For a course on management communication, I taught each of the six sessions in a different room at the SQUARE. In the arena students debated, in the tea house they carried out intensive role-plays, and in the innovation room they worked in groups… This way, the course remained varied and I was constantly challenged to rethink my didactic concepts. Parallel to the course, Vitra trend scout Raphael Gielgen was also on site as a "Personality in Residence" and I invited him to an exchange of ideas. This encounter shows the innovative potential of the SQUARE. Its open spaces inevitably lead to interactions between students, faculty and external visitors.

Are there courses or lectures that you found particularly memorable?

What makes SQUARE special is the diversity of what takes place there. Hence, for example, even an accounting course was held in a different room each time. In one course, students were able to try out the optimal design of shop spaces in the metaverse, i.e. in a digital, interactive image of a room. Other courses had students dancing, while some faculty used the terraces or the open foyer for creativity or meditation exercises. Another important element is the partly public series "Artist in Residence", "Personality in Residence" or the series "Elsa & Alice", in which HSG graduates talk about their professional experiences.

What is the HSG doing to promote new forms of teaching in the SQUARE?

The diversity of spaces, teaching materials and technical aids in the SQUARE is indeed huge, which is why we have produced a guide for faculty for orientation purposes. This provides examples of which teaching formats can be applied in the different rooms, and it also encompasses the way we use furniture, flipcharts and screens. These can be used flexibly in the SQUARE, meaning that faculty can rearrange the space each time. All the regular teaching staff who teach in the SQUARE are given the guide before the semester and they can continually expand it based on their experiences. At a kick-off for the semester, they also have a chance to discuss in groups which learning formats have worked for them. The "Teaching Day" in May 2023 will also focus on exchanging experiences. In addition, there are various further training programmes for faculty as well as the Teaching Innovation Lab. This has a fully equipped studio on campus for podcast and video production and can award grants for innovative teaching projects.
Those wanting to teach in the SQUARE have to apply. Why is that?

That’s right, faculty must outline briefly in writing what is innovative about the course they are planning in the SQUARE. HSG has an internal Teaching Working Group consisting of around 50 faculty and academic directors, who evaluate the courses in terms of their didactic innovation. Depending on the evaluation, a course may or may not find its place in the SQUARE. In addition, each of the six HSG schools can offer two courses in the SQUARE. This application process does represent a small hurdle, but I see it primarily as an invitation to faculty to try something new – and that may very well be something idiosyncratic or crazy. At HSG, we have to offer faculty this freedom. The experiences that arise from this will stimulate teaching across all the HSG facilities – not only in the SQUARE.
How will HSG’s teaching develop over the coming years?

The crucial thing is that our students acquire the skills they need for the current world of work and society. This includes, in particular, a deeper understanding of sustainability in all areas – hence climate policy will be a compulsory subject in the first year of study from summer 2025. We also want to teach more sustainable entrepreneurial activity. At the same time, data literacy, creativity, critical thinking and social competences should be at the centre of HSG teaching, but we’re also concerned with the question of how students learn. We see ourselves as an in-person university, at which networks are created through encounters and students’ personalities can develop. Digital teaching should complement these encounters, not replace them. In addition, we at the HSG can certainly become even stronger in the area of knowledge visualisation. Basically, the diversity of teaching forms should grow. The SQUARE can contribute to the emergence of beacons that inspire the entire HSG. 

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