The unbundling of higher education: Breaking down the whole.

(cc) Flickr user: Mike Linksvayer

(cc) Flickr user: Mike Linksvayer

Posted by: Erika Beljaars-Harris, Educational Developer, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

There’s another movement unfolding in the background of fee deregulation that we need to be aware of: the unbundling of higher education. As Professor Jim Barber (former Vice Chancellor, University of New England) explains, “The concept of ‘unbundled’ education refers to the emergent practice of allowing students to pay for those services, and only those services, that they actually require.” Similar thoughts are being raised in the UK, as this Times Higher Education article points to a report that recommends government funding follow the student and not the institution.

Think of it as the difference between a set menu (preselected courses served at a fixed time and price) compared to free choice from the menu and dishes from any other restaurant. In the higher education arena, this might mean choosing a course from a university, but not paying for the facilities and services offered. The facilities students may choose to not use include the cafeteria and other academic and support services. What’s being called a ‘pick-and-mix’ approach means that students pay for certain facilities on a fee-for-service basis. Which leads to student choosing which parts they want to use and therefore pay for. Choice has always been seen as something students value in a program of study (look at electives, streams, majors, study-abroad and cross-institutional studies for instance) but this movement might see multi-institution degrees become a path that more students select.

According to Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, the unbundling of higher education is a form of ‘disruptive innovation‘. Christensen explains it as “a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of the market and then relentlessly moves upmarket, eventually displacing established competitors.”  An example of this already exists in the form of consumers (students) having the ability to receive credentials via RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) through previous work experience or a MOOC. For universities, the unbundling of higher education is a form of disruptive innovation. It is enabling the consumer (student) with the ability to choose subjects and courses from a university that can be delivered on campus, online or both, without the added fees for services and facilities that they may not need nor use. As a consumer (student), this unbundling provides the ability to secure services the individual does want, and not pay for what they don’t want. This hopefully translates to cheaper, but just as, or more effective degrees and experiences selected from a wider pool of providers.

The movement towards unbundling has started. Georgia Institute of Technology is admitting students into a low-fee postgraduate degree. Students are taking courses from the University Without Walls, a university fully supported by the University of Massachusetts, that enables students to design their program of study.

The goals of unbundling of higher education are to increase the quality of lectures, enable more individualised instruction, offer an increase in choice to students and most importantly, provide it all at a lower cost. What it might mean for academics and universities is to take stock of what they deliver well online, in blended environments and on-campus: student expectations aren’t going to do anything except rise.

To be honest, I Iike this movement, I like the goals that this movement professes to be aligning towards. I will be watching those universities to see who gets it right (and wrong) in this evolution of higher education.

Share your thoughts on unbundling in the comments…

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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 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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Meeting the AQF deadlines

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

Click here to open a new window to the AQF site.

The Australian Qualifications Framework shines a torch on quality, establishing benchmarks within a flexible assurance framework. As a national framework the recently revised AQF seeks to ensure the “national and international portability of comparable qualifications” and to support “flexible qualifications linkages and pathways” within a framework that guarantees that “qualification outcomes remain relevant and nationally consistent”.

The AQF may be perceived as merely another compliance framework that adds to an already pressured workload, adding yet another bureaucratic layer of paperwork and mapping. In the context of higher education, the AQF undoubtedly heralds in a new era of quality assurance in a sector already weighed down by compliance and performance measurement.

The AQF compels academic learning and teaching leadership, and teaching staff, to engage in discussions about learning and teaching, and to reflect on what they deliver, how they deliver and why they deliver their courseware. As program guides and course guides are reshaped, the opportunity presents, if appropriate, to reimagine, reinvigorate and restructure the curriculum.

Included in its many requirements, the AQF prescribes learning level descriptors appropriate for each type and level of qualification. Within these parameters, the AQF defines knowledge in terms of “depth, breadth, kinds and complexity”. Skills too are described in relation to type and complexity, with the application of knowledge and skill defined in relation to the context in which a graduate applies their knowledge and skills. Regardless of the discipline, the descriptor for each qualification type is intended to underpin consistency in graduate outcomes for each qualification type.

So, in order to support a meaningful engagement with this framework what do tertiary teachers need to support them to both comply with the AQF, but to also truly engage with its intent, and to revisit, redesign or create curriculum that is underpinned by best practice and innovation? How can tertiary teachers be supported to engage with the AQF in ways which support reflective practice and ultimately ensure continuous improvement? What can the university offer to support a meaningful, supportive and seamless process?

Clear guidance and direction from TEQSA, that is distilled and communicated clearly by the institution is an essential starting point. So too is creating opportunities for staff to learn from one another, including within and across the disciplines, and across learning and teaching leadership. Equally important is the recognition of time, including the time it takes to unpack, interpret and contextualise the prescribed learning level descriptors, and translate these into a meaningful and coherent series of program and course learning outcomes. Time is also required to receive and respond to constructive and critical feedback from colleagues and learning and teaching leadership. Ideally, such work would be done collaboratively, supported by academic developers and Senior Advisors in Learning and Teaching, and other relevant specialist staff. Ideally, such work would be inclusive of the immediate teaching and discipline team, building staff capacity. Ideally, university systems and processes would ensure a consistency of approach, with clear and resolute direction top down as to how the many requirements of the AQF have been interpreted by the institution and how they are in turn to be implemented on the ground.

As we recommend for our students, the AQF journey should also entail a formative process, with opportunities for teaching staff to build capacity in a supportive, non-punitive environment. Tertiary teachers and program leaders need to be supported by senior academic management to innovate, to share and reflect on models, and new ways of working, and to seek and gain feedback from their peers.

No doubt for some programs, complying with the AQF involves a relatively straightforward exercise in re-assembling and refining existing program architecture and curriculum. Yet for others, complying with the AQF compels more radical change, or perhaps even acts as a catalyst for a more significant and far-reaching curriculum overhaul. Regardless, herein lies an opportunity to discuss, debate, contest and formulate  a curriculum that ensures high quality education for our students.

As quality debates and rhetoric surrounding educational standards and outputs continue to unfold, the AQF puts quality front and centre in a way that can empower and renew programs for the betterment of all. What needs to be embedded in the change process is appropriate and timely support for staff, and clear guidance from senior academic leadership. As universities grapple with the many challenges of meeting the requirements of the AQF, the 2015 deadline looms large.

Here’s to the next year or so building capacity where it counts, on the ground.

Share your thoughts about the AQF requirements and opportunities in the comments!

Upcoming Professional Development opportunities being offered by the Inclusive Teaching Project:

Mid term break is fast approaching for staff at RMIT and for staff there are a number of professional development opportunities coming up:

The Inclusive Teaching Team will be running an interactive, hands-on session at the Learning and Teaching Expo which is taking place on the 3rd and 4th of September in the award-winning Design Hub.

This session will take you an inclusive journey from principles to practice, and provide you with a ‘take-away’ of practical activities and ideas to use in your own practice.

To register for this session click on the registrations link here and select the Inclusive Teaching Practices Session on the 4th of September at 2pm.

DSC Sessional Staff Symposium, 6th of September

If you didn’t get to the last DSC Learning and Teaching Workshop for sessional staff, a (paid) full day of hand-on activities is planned for Friday 6th of September with sessions that range from teaching with technology, inclusive teaching practices, new generation teaching spaces to feedback – what do you with it.  For more information about this symposium contact Kellyann Geurts, Project Leader.

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The promise of the new

Posted by: Ruth Moeller, Lecturer in Education and Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

Tulip among leaves and dirt

(cc) Flickr User: dugspr

Isn’t it rewarding that when you least expect it, you are given a shake and reminded why you do what you do?

Well for me it happened on Sunday, when I gave up my morning and volunteered at the University’s Open Day, and  I am so glad I did. It reminded me that what I have been taking for granted is of importance and significance to others.

When you are teaching you can get lost in the mire that can be ‘teaching’: marking, PowerPoints, student questions (why don’t they read the notes!), meeting deadlines and technology challenges. In doing so it is easy to forget why we are here and what we are offering to our students. In my three hours at Open Day I saw, met and spoke with potential students and realised that for them coming to university is a significant point. It takes them away from the familiarity, structure, and comfort of secondary school and places them into a whole new environment and onto a path to their future.

Now my role on Open Day was traffic direction. This meant wearing a stylish fluoro orange vest, holding a clipboard and greeting and directing the myriad of people who came through the door where I was standing. Can I say it is amazing the power a clipboard gives the holder: people saw an authority figure, or perhaps it was the fluoro vest. Anyway, people were more than happy to engage and ask questions and take my directions.

I spoke with many, often just to confirm what the signs said: “Yes the presentation is on the third floor”. Or to help them navigate through the maze that is RMIT. It is easy to forget that coming to a university for the first time can be physically daunting: buildings can seem to be arranged randomly, and numbers whimsically. Why else would Building 94 be opposite Building 53? Someone might pipe up here that it is probably the order in which they were built or acquired: the new RMIT Design Hub after all is number 100… and that holds until you get to Brunswick and Bundoora. There are little traps too like forgetting that the Art is often listed as Fine Art and that Art is scattered across a number of levels and buildings across what seems like the entire CBD.

What I had forgotten was that this part of going to uni is often a family affair, potential student were there with one, maybe two parents, often a sibling or two and in a couple of cases, I’m guessing a grandparent. There seemed to be two types of groups, one where the potential student was running the show and the rest were following along behind and the other where a parent, often with notes in hand was trying to find out what was on offer and how it would help their child. It was also interesting to consider the siblings who were tagging along, not always voluntary I’ll bet, but nonetheless seeing what the future may hold for them too.

I met a girl, in Year 10 who had come with her Mother to see what uni is all about, spoke with some parents who wanted to know if university studies could lead to a job and how the courses were linked to ‘the real world’ and others who didn’t know what they wanted but had come to look around.

It is interesting isn’t it, that most of the information could be found online but there is still a need to engage with the visual and physical aspect of the university, to see what it is like and to experience the environment and in doing so to get a felt sense of where their future may be.

In the lulls between greetings, I took time to guess, which area are they interested in. My general observations, were that stylish, well groomed young women were interested in Public Relations, those in grungy t-shirts, the Music Industry and those with novelty bags or water bottles – Communication Design.  Yes, it was stereotyping but it was harmless fun, and I was often right, so it also may mean that they were on the right path.

After my three hours I handed over the Clipboard and Vest of Power. I wandered through the buzzing crowds, to Bluebelle, my trusty bicycle. Pedalling home, I had plenty of time to reflect on the day and the positive energy that surrounded it. Over my journey, I concluded that Open Day is all about potential, options and future. Although ATAR was mentioned, it wasn’t the focus.  There wasn’t a sense of limitation, just possibilities, for potential student, their families and even for the staff present who were there to show the University as a place to develop that potential.

So I have decided “I‘ll be back”, because every now and then you need to be given a dose of optimism, as it helps to keep you out of the mire.

PS: Question of the day: “Where is the lightsaber display?”

Tempted answer: “In a galaxy far, far away.”

Real answer: “Not sure, try ‘Games and Animation’.”

(That is the answer from someone who responsibly wields the Clipboard of Power!)

Share your thoughts about the possibilities of Open Day in the comments!

Wherever you go, there you are

Posted by: Ruth Moeller, Lecturer in Education and Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University.

Every time I pass the billboard for a certain university advertising an overseas student experience involving elephants, I get irritated. I don’t have anything against students, the university or elephants for that matter but really, how many students will actually go overseas as part of their studies? Although I agree that it would be a wonderful learning experience, I have difficulty with the premise that, for a student to be a global citizen, they need to study abroad.

Don’t get me wrong, ‘They’ say that travel broadens the mind and ‘They’ are right. The opportunity to work or study offshore would enhance any student experience and a highlight of a student’s experience at university.

But in my opinion this should be the icing on the cake, not the main focus. ‘I went overseas, now I am global’ — I don’t think so. So to do justice to the idea of global competence, we need to think more broadly.

RMIT has a sophisticated view when it says graduates will be ‘Global in outlook and competence‘. What that commits us to is providing graduates with ‘…opportunities to acquire professional [and] cultural skills that enable them to engage thoughtfully and effectively with the great diversity of people and situations they encounter at work and socially.’

This is saying that there are personal and professional skills and knowledge that need to be developed in all of our students. As educators, we need to ask: ‘How do we do this?’

As a starting point, the question I think we need to ask is: What does an ‘internationalised’ student look like in my discipline? How can we claim our students will be global in outlook and competence if we don’t actually know what this means within our discipline?

I have tried to do this in my discipline, tertiary teaching. Using the Australian Qualifications Framework criteria of knowledge, skills and application of knowledge and skills, I started by imaging what I would expect if someone came to me for a teaching job claiming that they were ‘global’. What would I be looking for? In doing, this I developed a framework of the knowledge and skills that helps students develop their global competence and outlook.

Some of the knowledge I would expect includes an appreciation of educational philosophies and different education systems to get a sense of the expectations of their students and how these philosophies might be enacted in classes. An added benefit of this could be the help it gives them in finding employment opportunities and navigating the various educational systems that operate across the world. Also of importance would be knowledge of the cultural views of education; the role of student/teacher, group/individual in different contexts.

When thinking of skills I would include a proficiency with different teaching strategies and the use of technology to engage diverse learning styles and cultures as well as the ability to research resources in an international context. The skills that help them identify what is available for them in regards to enhancing and internationalising their curriculum are, as educators, the same ones that will help them localise their curriculum should they wish to deliver content offshore or to deliver at a distance to global learners.

In thinking about the application of knowledge and skills, on a practical level I would incorporate how to design assessment for diverse learners and contexts, as well as the strategies that they, as teachers, could use to make their students ‘globally aware’.

In a broader sense, I would expect that person to be able to listen to, appreciate and synthesise other points of view as perhaps the key ability to operate within diverse cultures and environments.

Now the question is, does this just happen? Or do I need to create learning opportunities for this? Miracles do happen, but usually student learning is based on hard work and good design and that is what I am going for.

As my course is being reviewed, I am currently working on ways to integrate the skills and knowledge required to allow my students to have a global outlook. I found an excellent set of resources The GIHE Good Practice Guide to Internationalising the Curriculum at Griffith University to help with the planning involved in internationalising a course. They encourage you to look at programs and courses holistically, integrating an internationalised approach into aspects of curriculum design, assessment, learning resources and extracurricular activities.

Being global in outlook and competence requires far more than boarding a plane. Recently on the blog (here  and here) we’ve showcased student mobility opportunities that focus on the learner and their discipline. Thinking about the knowledge and skills we want to instil in graduates to give them a global education (and how will they apply these in any setting) is crucial to a genuine engagement with the world.


Griffith University: The GIHE Good Practice Guide to Internationalising the Curriculum

Curriculum Review Tools for QAA – Quality Assurance of Assessment, Part 3 – Assessment for internationalisation of the Curriculum.Duncan D. Nulty, Brona Farreley and Michelle Barker

Share your thoughts about a global outlook for students in the comments below!

Global in outlook and competence?

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

Meredith interviewed Dr Jose Roberto (Robbie) Guevara from the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies about his long experience running study tours with students from a range of disciplines and found a positive story about collaboration and deep learning.

RMIT has a commitment to offering students a ‘global passport’ seeking to develop in our students the necessary skills and knowledge to work around the globe. The

Dr Roberto Guevara. Click on the image to navigate to Robbie's staff page at RMIT.

Dr Roberto Guevara. Click to navigate to Robbie’s staff profile page at RMIT.

potential benefits of student study tours in this context might seem self-explanatory: they can broaden student outlook; enhance employment opportunities; and tie in powerfully with the RMIT Graduate Attribute of ‘Global in outlook and competence’. In order to understand a bit more though, I decided to interview a colleague with long experience running study tours. What I found was that overseas tours can also be an opportunity for students to own their own assessment and develop life-long learning skills.


The most recent tour Robbie led was to the Philippines in 2012 that was conducted together with partner institution Miriam College, to research and reflect on the links between women, migrant workers, and intenational justice issues. The 2012 tour was designed to coincide with the 2012 World Social Forum on Migration in Manila. Robbie has been involved in a number of study tours, taking Melbourne RMIT undergraduate and postgraduate students from a range of disciplines (including International Studies, International Development, Criminal Justice Administration, Social Work, and Environment and Urban Planning) to the Philippines. The tours also involve collaboration with staff members from this wide range of disciplines within the School, and in 2009 with the Ngarara Willim Centre. The 2009 tour included homestays with a local indigineous community; effectively ‘immersions’ in local culture and issues linked to community development.

Miriam College and RMIT students during their collaborative Study Tour in 2012.

Miriam College and RMIT students during their collaborative Study Tour in 2012.

Over time Robbie has developed a few key themes or principles in designing tours like this one. Given the financial and workload challenges in setting up a study tour (teaching can’t always neatly fit into 12 credit points) he mitigates this with what you might call a ‘bang for your buck’ approach. He looks for opportunities to collaborate with other disciplines areas working with existing university partner institutions to form staff-student partnerships that can begin well before the students leave for the tour and that can endure or develop after their return.

The underlying principle is that of reciprocity, where both institutions achieve positive long-term outcomes, such as when the collaborations foster benefits beyond the immediate tour. This might manifest as a stronger student exchange program or a cross-discipline research partnership.

However, in Robbie’s experience study tours can be more than just about achieving student learning goals or strengthening institutional partnerships. Given the focus on international community development issues, often there are other benefits that happen spontaneously. Past tours have resulted in direct benefits to overseas community groups. In 2009 students helped to establish a scholarship program to support teacher training development for the local indigenous community. This was the need identified by the students.

Student experience

During the study tour, students are encouraged to reflect on the links between the concepts studied and the lived experiences of the people they meet. The 2012 tour, provided the students with numerous opportunities to critically reflect on the experiences of the Filipino migrant women they met at the Forum and how these micro-experiences helped deepen their understanding of the concepts and drivers of mobility and displacement.  This balanced the more academic process of writing analytically on the subject. Hearing migration stories first hand, being exposed to their personal resilience, added complexity and depth to their thinking and writing. Given the nature of cross-cultural challenges (in personal and academic space), Robbie encourages students to read extensively and think about their preconceptions as part of the preparation before the study tour. Ongoing support is provided, but these real life challenges are better preparing students to develop in that dimension of a ‘global outlook’. Feedback from students highlights a confidence and willingness to work in cross-cultural settings upon completion of their degrees.


Students are actively involved in the assessment design and supported to develop their own personalised learning goals. This takes some courage on the part of both students and staff. Tasks include identifying a learning objective or research question informed by the literature but linked to their personal and/or disciplinary background. For example an undergraduate student in Social Work who is also a recent migrant to Australia would frame her learning objective differently to a postgraduate student in International Development with a background in accounting.  These personalised learning goals (with the students gathered into learning groups that are set up before the study tour) provide fertile opportunities for cross-disciplinary and context-based learning. This makes it necessary for students to keep a regular reflective journal that does not merely describe but critically reflects on their experiences. In 2012, each of the student groups conducted a formal presentation to staff and students of Miriam College, this provided an achievable and tangible outcome at the end of the study tour. The final piece of assessment involved a synthesis report that weaved the literature and the experiences of the student framed by their personal learning focus.

For Robbie, the depth of the assessment pieces submitted is striking because no two submissions are ever alike. In 2012, students prepared a portfolio of all their submissions (the learning focus question based on the literature, their journal entries and their synthesis report) to help them see their peers’ and their own learning journeys. Often students say that their learning focus questions have changed. By asking them to reflect and explain why their questions have changed, students are able to identify for themselves how the experiences have contributed to new ideas and have resulted in more relevant and focused questions. It’s a way for them to identify what new questions have come up by the end of the study tour which they then have to find answers to after a substantial time for reflection and additional research. This whole process is underpinned by ongoing discussions with the students at different stages of the study tour. The process highlights student ownership of the outcomes and over what they have learned.

Study tours may not have a place in every program or course, but for me this is a strong example of the assessment principle championed by David Boud, that ‘students themselves need to develop the capacity to make judgements about both their own work and that of others in order to become effective continuing learners and practitioners’.  It’s clear to me from my conversations with Robbie that it’s in these rich, self-directed scenarios that students really match  and usually exceed  what we as course designers and facilitators have designed for them.
Useful links:
Information on current Tours, Student Exchanges and Study Abroad opportunities at RMIT can be found here:
David Boud’s principles on Assessment Design, Assessment 2020: Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education can be found through the OLT site here. :
Share your thoughts on the value of exchanges, study tours and student-derived learning outcomes in the comments below!


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 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

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