Category Archives: work integrated learning

What will the campus of the future look like?

Guest Post: Jo Dane is a designer, educator and researcher with a passion for educational transformation enabled through research-based design practice. Jo works at woodsbagot.com and tweets @WB_JoDane.

Jo_Dane_Twitter_PicI’m a design educator and someone who’s regularly tasked with putting together a vision of physical spaces for students. Ideally, these new spaces are supposed to be ‘future-proof’. So it can be fun to do some crystal-gazing about the future of the university campus.

Here are some observations, speculations and predictions that I’ll commit to the blogosphere in 2014:

1. Students will be empowered with choices of how, when and where to learn.
It will be increasingly possible to get a degree at University X which includes undertaking core subjects at University Y or via accredited MOOCs. If the quality of the learning experience (and facilities and spaces will be part of that equation) doesn’t stack up, students will shift their allegiance to another institution. And the funding will follow the student.

2. Hybrid learning experiences will be the new norm.
On-campus delivery will increasingly incorporate online components such as response software in lectures, multimedia content, group collaboration and teacher consultation. Digital platforms will continue to improve and enable both synchronous and asynchronous learning encounters.

3. Learning will be social and happen with other students IN REAL TIME.
For too long learning has happened in isolation in students’ homes while studying for exams, or preparing essays and assignment work. It has long been recognised that learning is a social experience. A room full of students is also a room full of teachers. Interaction between students broadens each student’s perspective and provides an opportunity to share and reinforce important concepts.

Click to see more pictures of MUSE, a Woods Bagot project completed this year.

MUSE – Macquarie University Spatial Experience, Sydney, 2014

Real time learning will happen in the classroom when a) the teacher facilitates the interactive learning experience and b) the classroom is designed to enable such encounters.

4. The notion of a 24-7, ‘sticky campus’ will endure.
Students (especially undergraduates) will be encouraged to stay on campus for longer periods of time. They will continue to blur boundaries between learning, socialising and working. The campus, therefore, will provide ‘sticky’ spaces where students can undertake both serendipitous and asynchronous activities. These will include media hubs for small groups to collectively engage in online material, or to Skype subject experts/overseas peers.

Click to see more pictures of MUSE, a Woods Bagot project completed this year.

MUSE – Macquarie University Spatial Experience, Sydney, 2014

5. Mobile devices, ‘Bring Your Own Device’ and cloud computing mean that students can access specialist software anywhere, anytime.
Students need no longer be tethered to the dehumanising lab computer, but can choose where and with whom to study, whilst accessing critical digital infrastructure.

6. Say goodbye to lecture theatres and computer labs!
While this might seem to counter to the ‘sticky campus’ idea (but really it should clarify the purpose of bringing students together) students are voting with their feet and where possible opting to tune into lectures online rather than face-to-face. Not only this, the prevalence of high quality (free) content, through YouTube, TED Talks, MOOCs and a plethora of other online repositories means that students are finding expert content from alternative sources rather than from the prescribed teachers. Universities will increasingly share exemplary content rather than rely on academics reinventing content every year.

7. Augmented learning, wearable technologies, 3d printing and gaming experiences are coming.
These are recognised trends on the horizon. We might not know exactly what they will look like, nor the impact they will have on the campus environment. Get used to this feeling. The better you adapt to change, uncertainty and the unforeseeable, the more agile you are. Agility is a key trait needed for the emerging knowledge economy.

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 5.16.10 pm

Media & Communication staff at RMIT discuss learning spaces in the Swanston Academic Building.

8. Academics will work increasingly in teams, sharing and collaborating in teaching and research activities.
The academic workplace will need to provide for a younger generation of academics who are more collaborative and connected than any previous generation. The next generation of academics won’t be hidden away in confined offices. The campus will include ‘third spaces’ — extensions of the workplace where workers can seek alternative environments to promote innovation and problem-solving.

9. Academics will be more accessible to students, but will connect through digital means moreso than face-to-face.
For teachers and lecturers, the skills of delivering remotely and facilitating online discussions will be as crucial as your in-class toolkit. This means your potential reach increases (and so does your profile) but of course that there’s another set of skills that are currently seen as optional.

10. This one’s a fill-in-the-blank, left for you, the reader…
Posts like this can often live on through the comments thread — why not make your own prediction (or disagree with/clarify one of my own) by commenting below.

Share your thoughts and predictions in the comments section!
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RMIT Learning & Teaching Expo 2013

Guest post: Penny Mercer, Project Advisor, Learning and Teaching Unit, RMIT University.

Click to open the RMIT Learning & Teaching Expo 2013 page.

The Learning and Teaching Expo is an opportunity to showcase the excellent work of our dedicated teaching staff. It is a time for all of us to reflect on how we might enhance the student experience, reimagine our teaching and network with colleagues.

This year’s Expo takes the theme of “Inspiring teaching, inspiring learning.” Come along and hear what your colleagues have done to improve student learning outcomes, bring along your own experiences, or questions for discussion time. The Expo eLearning journey will allow all staff to identify a point of interest from which further learning opportunities can be explored.

Come along and hear from our invited keynote speakers about what is happening in the tertiary education sector, hear what your colleagues have done to improve student learning outcomes and bring along your own experiences or questions for discussion time.

Day 1: Tuesday 3 September – 12pm to 4.30pm, with lunch from 1pm to 2pm
Day 2: Wednesday 4 September – 9am to 1pm, with lunch from 1pm to 2pm
Venue: Design Hub, City campus.

Click here (or on the image above) to see the 2013 program and register now to attend (RMIT login required).

We look forward to seeing you there!

Travel broadens the mind

Posted by: Spiros Soulis, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

Road, blue sky, horizonDo you remember your first overseas trip? Perhaps it was an exchange or volunteering program? Perhaps you were just heading off to travel with no set plans. Can you remember that feeling of venturing into the unknown? When you look back, think of what you got out of that experience: you learnt about coping with new situations, people and cultures, your values and beliefs were challenged. And whether you loved it or hated it, or had mixed feelings at the time, it probably had a huge impact on the person you are today.

Over 400 years ago Francis Bacon wrote: ‘Travel in the youngest sort, is part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.Bacon captures here something essential  about the added benefit of travelling when you’re young and impressionable.

Recently I attended a Student Mobility function at RMIT where students spoke about their experiences overseas.  A 3rd year Primary Education student spoke about her experience teaching in the Cook Islands.  It was invigorating to listen to her talk with such enthusiasm and passion about her time away and how she had grown from the experience.

She talked about how after that placement she knew she was ready to enter a classroom with confidence and that she could do the job required.  One could say that the first three years of her undergraduate degree equipped her with the skills and knowledge required to teach but for her it was the experience in a foreign land that was the catalyst in giving her the confidence required.

During the function, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own international experience.  I was 21 and in my final year of Youth Work and as part of my student placement (an early form of WIL — Work Integrated Learning) I travelled to Zambia to visit a number of rural youth projects. In four weeks we travelled more than 5,000 km travelling through cities, towns and villages. By stepping out of my comfort zone I was forced to reflect upon my own sense of self, I was challenged on so many fronts; it was ‘experiential learning’ in the truest sense of the term.

RMIT University is an international university of technology, committed to providing students with the learning, teaching, research and training to excel in an open world economy — a Global Passport. RMIT’s Strategic Plan 2015 has ‘Global’as one of its three goals.  It’s Internationalisation Plan 2011-2015  identifies as a priority the growth of Student Mobility in order to build upon our profile as a global university of technology and design.

In order to excel in ‘an open world economy’ an overseas experience can play a critical role. It is only when we leave the safe confines of our shores and venture forth into the unfamiliar that we can truly begin to step outside of our comfort zone. It is then that learning is not only accelerated but leaves a lasting impact particularly upon young minds.

Studying abroad can help to broaden students’ horizons and it can do this in a number of ways:

  • For me, my trip to Zambia allowed me to come face to face with a number of challenges but also allowed me to experience a foreign language and to communicate across cultures.
  • I had to come to terms with the challenges inherent in a developing country; I had never realised how much I took some things for granted like elections or access to fresh water.
  • It was also a key step in my independence, I was thousands of kilometres from family or friends, my most important networks were within my host country.

In short, like the Education student above, even this brief time was the catalyst for a number of abilities and resources I still draw upon to this day in my work and in my relationships.

If this has got you interested, RMIT has its own dedicated team that encourage, support and foster student mobility within the University. The Education Abroad Office has a number of Student Mobility Advisors who between them have conveniently divided up the globe and are able to give advice to students looking to experience overseas study.

In the new academic year you might think about encouraging your students to consider as an option the prospect of undertaking an overseas experience as part of their study.  The following resources may prove useful:

  • RMIT provides a number of opportunities for students wishing to undertake an International experience.
  • RMIT also provides Student Mobility Grants to assist Melbourne-based students who are undertaking various types of outbound mobility activities as part of their RMIT Program.
  • Staff from the Education Abroad Office offer to come and speak to your students about overseas mobility opportunities. Just email eao@rmit.edu.au with ‘Class Talk’ in the header and they will get in touch with you. 

For those interested in — or still sceptical about — the benefits of an overseas experience there is an upcoming workshop (see below) that examines how international WIL experiences can develop intercultural competencies in students.

Title: Implementing international Work Integrated Learning programs: strategies and outcomes
Date: Thursday, 8 November
Time: 1.30pm-3.30pm
Venue: Building 80, level 7, room 9, City campus
RSVP: catherine.lineham@rmit.edu.au

Share your thoughts about student mobility and exchanges in the comments below!

What does ‘Work readiness’ mean in a creative discipline?

An array of powerplugs and brightly-coloured cabling

Untitled © Kellyann Geurts, 2009

Posted by: Kellyann Geurts, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, Design and Social Context College, RMIT University.

It’s only natural that some of RMIT’s six graduate attributes (Work-readyGlobal in outlook & competenceEnvironmentally aware & responsiveCulturally & socially awareActive & lifelong learnersInnovative) align in different ways to different programs. Educators and policy-makers at RMIT have always acknowledged a ‘complex conception’ of these attributes; in short, that they mean different things in different disciplines. Fine art students, for instance, can be seen as some of the most work-ready of all RMIT graduates, having been through a degree structure which is studio-based and involves the continual feedback and critique of artists (peers, lecturers and visiting industry professionals). Their study years prefigure the life of a working artist.

But I now have another convincing position about employment prospects in fine arts with the recent expansion of the internship program in the School of Art:

VART3510: This is a Work Integrated Learning course designed to facilitate a practical working relationship between you and selected arts and cultural organisations. You will participate in an internship or artist in residence program in an arts or cultural organisation, company, festival, gallery, museum or studio, through dual negotiation with the industry and School. You will be expected to work as negotiated by the host organisation, to address and solve real issues in an arts industry workplace environment.

Open Day always buzzes with energy and eagerness for the RMIT School of Art offerings. It is an opportunity for students to ask questions directly to faculty. One stands out; maybe because answering it with certainty tended to be quietly problematic. The question, framed in all sorts of ways, is essentially: “What employment opportunities exist for me when I complete my fine art degree?”

Foremost on my mind was the employment prospects for graduates referred to in a recent post on ArtsHub: “…only 2%, will make a decent living from it (an art practice), the rest will usually have to supplement their earnings as artists with a second or third income, and even then they will earn less than most people” (Isbel, 2012). 

Investigating further, I found supporting evidence in the report published by Australia Council for the Arts titled: “What’s your other job?”, a census analysis of arts employment in Australia (2010).  This report states that the average annual income for visual artists occupations in 2006 was $31,200.  More recent figures from the Graduate Careers Australia (2011) state the median salary for Bachelor Graduates for visual/performing arts is now around $40,000 (under 25 years of age it reduces to $38,000).

On Open Day, I preferred to follow along these lines:

  • Our highly qualified staff train students to: practice as a professional artist; work in a studio; exhibit locally, nationally, internationally (with Artist-run Initiatives, commercial galleries, public spaces); apply for funding, commissions and residencies opportunities; enter major art awards and contribute to the ever-expanding arts and creative industries.
  • You may go on to further study ie. Honours, Masters or PhD. Often I needed to elaborate why they would wish to do this; according to the Graduate Careers Australia, in 2011 the median salary for artists with further study increased to $50,000
  • Teaching is a real option with good employment prospects.  Here’s a brief overview:
  1. Secondary teaching – you will require a Diploma of Education in addition to your Bachelor degree
  2. TAFE – you require industry experience, an established art practice and a Certificate IV Training and Assessment
  3. HE academic and research positions – you will require industry experience and an established art practice, as well as devoting a substantial period of time to postgraduate studies (MA or PhD).  In addition, all ongoing HE staff now require a Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching and Learning and quality contributions to the body of knowledge in your specialist area.

Regarding ‘industry experience’ – this may encompass the arts industry, the creative industry and cultural industry. This can be confusing and clarification was often requested from the prospective students (and their parents). Regarding an ‘established art practice’ – this requires dedication to practice and generally a significant outlay of money to establish an artist profile so, in the meantime, most will probably need another job…

Brightly coloured wires/threads on a black background

Digital Thinking © Kellyann Geurts, 2010

Introducing the internship opportunities seemed to be well placed at this point. Keeping in mind that most of the aspiring fine art graduates will not make a living from their work but instead need to be realistic about what related professional position is best able to complement their practice, if indeed they wish to practice. Students need some time to consider where are the graduate skills and knowledge best placed in the industry and identify at an early point in their study, what skills and knowledge they need to develop to meet industry needs.

So, back to Open Day, in the last couple of years I have been able to continue with something like this:

  • In your final year, we offer an arts internship program that helps position you in a related field of work (that may serve to complement your practice).  Preparations can begin as early as first year:

VART3510: Learning in this course is primarily ‘on-the-job’, complimented by a series of tutorials and workshops aimed at assisting you in identifying and developing employability skills, develop an awareness of the arts and creative industries and workplace culture, prepare for placement and be able to demonstrate reflective processes in response to the experience.

I was enthusiastically engaged in expanding the internship program for students over the last two years to better prepare a higher number of undergraduate students for industry related employment and professional practice. Enrolment numbers have tripled in this time, the interest continues to grow and real employment outcomes are possible for students. In many cases students who have completed their placement continue relationships with their chosen host.

Informing our prospective students and first year students of the placement opportunities begins the discussion around career planning and identifying employability skills. From first year, students can prepare with industry-related volunteer positions, making contact with RMIT Student Services for Work and Careers resources, leadership (LEAD) and mentorship programs.

My hope is that the course continues to strengthen, providing more opportunities for students to meet RMIT’s graduate attributes. Work-readiness and its allied principle of career development should be seen as a uniting principle in the learning and teaching strategy. There is more work to do in establishing richer relationships with hosts and a clearer picture of how industry would like to work with us.

For the majority of art students who are not able to ‘make it’ as a professional artist, (remembering that this may only be the first phase of life, and of their artistic lives, after their university study) it’s important to have a solid plan in place to build confidence and prepare them well to contribute to the culture that nurtures art practice.

Share your ideas about internships, work readiness or any of RMIT’s graduate attributes in the comments below!

References:

Stuart Cunningham, Peter Higgs, Simon Freebody and Peter Anderson (2010), What’s your other job? A census analysis of arts employment in Australia, The Australia Council for the Arts, Sydney
http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/resources/reports_and_publications/subjects/artists/artist_careers/whats_your_other_job

David Throsby and Virginia Hollister (2003), Don’t give up your day job: an economic study of professional artists in Australia, The Australia Council for the Arts, Sydney
http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/resources/reports_and_publications/subjects/artists/dontgiveupyourdayjob

Paul Isbel (2012), What it takes to become an artist for keeps, artsHub
http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/opinions/arts/what-it-takes-to-become-an-artist-for-keeps-188632

Australia Council of the Arts http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/

Australian Association of Graduate Employers Ltd http://www.aage.com.au

Graduate Careers Australia http://www.graduatecareers.com.au/research/researchreports/

Arts Hub Australia http://www.artshub.com.au/au/

RMIT Graduate Attributes http://www.rmit.edu.au/teaching/graduateattributes

RMIT Strategic Plan 2011-2015 http://www.rmit.edu.au/about/strategy

RMIT Academic Plan http://www.rmit.edu.au/browse/OurOrganisation/AcademicPortfolio/AcademicPlan/

Work and Careers at Student Services http://www.rmit.edu.au/careers

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