Friday, 8 September 2017

The Value of Unlearning For The Future

Unlearn criminal. Unlearn love. Unlearn truth. Unlearn medicine. Unlearn threat. Unlearn drought. Unlearn classroom. Unlearn career path.

University of Sydney ‘Unlearn’ campaign image (2017)

The University of Sydney’s undergraduate campaign’s message, ‘Unlearn’, is as bold as it is different. In the past, the leading university’s more moderate message was to simply, ‘think outside the square’. This new campaign goes one step further by differentiating USYD as a revolutionary education provider that is not only relevant now, but will continue to be in the future. But what does it mean to unlearn? The Discipline of Marketing Director, Vince Mitchell explains,

"We used to learn based on the theory in textbooks, but now we are asked to unlearn that behaviour and learn in a different way. In marketing, segmentation was taught as a starting point for a marketing plan, but at the University of Sydney, that learned behaviour is also challenged. So we can talk about the learning process which we unlearn as well as marketing myths which we get people to unlearn."

Why unlearn?

The campaign message prompts us to think about how we spend our whole lives learning how to operate within the constructs of the social ‘norm’. But we take for granted the fact that not everyone has learned how to challenge their own assumptions and beliefs. There is value in being able to unlearn things, more specifically those old assumptions about the world which are no longer useful , the best answer or misleading. Or as the University says it, ‘’To be brave enough to question the world, challenge the established, demolish social norms and build new ones in their place.’’

University of Sydney ‘Unlearn’ campaign image (2017)

For a long time now there has been criticism of the modern university system. With some going as far as saying that ‘to save higher education, we need to get radical.’ Now, while I wouldn’t exactly say that the University of Sydney is radical, I believe that it has risen to these criticisms and endeavoured to actively take part in reshaping it, by preparing students for an uncertain and constantly changing future.

"We’ve reimagined the way we teach, so our students can reimagine the world."
Unlearn, University of Sydney (2017)

University of Sydney ‘Unlearn’ campaign image (2017)

Unlearning for the future.

At the University of Sydney’s Business School, our professors give us the tools to question everything we know, to understand the biases that underpin our decisions and underlying beliefs. We essentially learn how to re-write the rulebook to fit into the context of now and the future.

University of Sydney ‘Unlearn’ campaign image (2017)

The World Economic Forum estimates that the job market of the future will be very different from today. Throughout their careers, most current university students will have changed jobs at least seven times in their lives, while almost 5 million current jobs in Australia are expected to become obsolete by 2030.

So if you consider these changes along with the connectedness of the world today, it’s easy to understand how the way students learn and think is changing too. This campaign isn’t just words; the message goes all the way to the core of the university’s values. The teachers live and breathe these values, you can feel it in the curriculum, they lessons they teach, the discussions they facilitate.

In the Master of Marketing, we have come to know this as internal marketing. And I must say that as an advocate for the University of Sydney, I think they have it spot on.

Unlearning education.

Since my undergraduate degree, the classroom has changed quite a bit. Now I’m not exactly old. Circa 2005, we still had the interactive whiteboards, projectors and an online blackboard, but since then the whole learning experience has gotten so much more collaborative and hands-on.

From a marketing perspective, I can see that USYD is leveraging one of its most dynamic capabilities- the classroom. To see what I mean, take a look at this news article from the university website:

"Today, the classroom is flexible, creative, and agile – our students are logging in and learning from all over the globe. The modern tutorial room, lecture theatre and laboratory are still hives of activity."

But it’s not just about unlearning everything you know. It’s also important to point out that even if it’s through trial and error, there is always a benefit for learning new things as we explore and exploit new information.

The new curriculum emphasises the importance of social and ethical considerations, global perspectives, transformational classrooms, open learning environments and collaborative spaces- all of which directly appeal to the target audience’s social needs for connectedness.

So if we think about this undergraduate campaign and what it means in terms of the University of Sydney’s marketing strategy, we can see how they are leveraging their highly trained academic staff, dynamic curriculum, state of the art facilities, innovative technologies, brand equity, strategic partnerships and even their highly trained university graduates- which all lead to a sustainable competitive advantage.

I can say that after the six week intensive training with Margaret Matanda in Innovative Marketing Strategies, it’s hard not to notice these things anymore. I will never look at a poster in the train station the same way again.

For more information about the University of Sydney’s new curriculum, check out the article, 5 Ways The Classroom Has Changed Since You Were At Uni.

Alyce Brierley
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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