Openness in Dunedin

This week Howard Errey, Educational Developer in the College of Design and Social Context at RMIT University, shares his thoughts on the upcoming Ascilite conference in Dunedin.

 I am looking forward to attending the Ascilite conference (Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education)  for the first time, at the end of November in Dunedin, New Zealand. I will be presenting a sharing practice session on The LMS and the alternatives, mainly telling stories we have collected  through the year-long project and hopefully opening discussions around similar experiences.

Dunedin Railway Station

Dunedin Railway Station – Photo Credit, n0cturbulous @ flickr

Dunedin seems like a small town a long way away from anywhere. Why get excited about a conference there?

For me Dunedin is an important place in the history of online learning and in particular the history of open courseware. It was way back in 2008 that Otago Polytechnic with the involvement of Leigh Blackall signed up to make all their learning content creative commons. From my point of view at the time working in a TAFE in Australia that held a very closed and proprietary view of its content, this seemed like a revolutionary step. It certainly put Otago Polytechnic and therefore for me, Dunedin, on the map.

I am curious about my own organisation, RMIT University’s approach to open resources. While it is on the Ed technology ‘roadmap’ I don’t see a lot of activity in using open source content. For example I am yet to see courses from the National VET Content Repository sitting in one of our courses. I may well be looking in the wrong places. The importing or exporting of learning objects is not part of the formal LMS training here. Certainly good numbers from RMIT have attended the Converge conference where the national repository is heavily promoted.

Part of the issue may be the nature of ‘share alike’ licencing. Once an organisation uses creative commons object there is some obligation to share modified content back into the system with open source licencing. For some staff it is probably ends up coming down to a decision that it is easier not to go there.

One useful work-around I have heard about is an Australian university that encourages adjuncts to place their learning content in Wikiversity where content is open. Content is then visible via a wireframe in Moodle, thus circumventing copyright restrictions of building content in the university LMS. Adjuncts often consider themselves as consultants to the university rather than employees and this is a great way to let them know their knowledge is valued, without it being locked down as university owned copyright.

In the mean time I have raised the possibility of teaching about learning objects and SCORM with our LMS trainer Michael Fedyk. As it happens Michael’s favourite place is Dunedin. He tells me there are lots of good reasons to go there, particularly Speight’s brewery. Michael is also a Flickr enthusiast and tells me that the Dunedin Railway Station is the second most photographed building in the Southern Hemisphere, after the Sydney Opera House. Thanks to Michael for making his photo of the station available with Creative Commons Share Alike licence!

You can read about Otago Polytechnic’s approach to copyright here.


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Linking to the recent Sessional Staff Symposium

Connecting Sessional Staff LogoPosted by: Kellyann Geurts, Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, Design and Social Context College, RMIT University.

The College of Design and Social Context facilitated a Professional Development Symposium for sessional academic and teaching staff on Friday 6 September.

If you missed my last post, the 2013 Connecting Sessional Staff Project aims to:

  • Address individual learning and teaching needs
  • Share, present, discuss and reflect on teaching and learning experiences
  • Support collaboration, peer partnerships and mentoring
  • Connect with other sessional staff and learning networks across the University
  • Link to the online Sessional Modules from the Professional Development for Tertiary Teaching Practice (PDTTP). The Modules are accessible through Blackboard and information is online at:

The symposium workshops were practical and hands-on. They aimed to connect staff with their peers, their curriculum and with their students.

For those who missed the symposium or attended and missed a workshop, here is a brief overview with  the learning outcomes for each.  If you find something  of interest, you can follow the links or even contact the facilitator for more information:

Opening Session

Workshop 1: Technology… you’ve gotta have a Plan B!

Spiros Soulis, Senior Advisor Learning and Teaching, Learning and Teaching Unit

•Design back-up activities to include in lesson plans for when the technology fails
•Know who to call and what to say when you have technical issues in the class
•Identify resources to have on hand to continue to engage your students.

See also:
the teaching tomtom:
Teaching with Technology:

Workshop 2: Assessment

John Benwell, Principle Learning & Teaching Advisor (Architecture and Design)

•Discuss and know how to use assessment as learning activity and a progress monitor
•Create an assignment in blackboard (with e-submission)
•Discuss and understand academic integrity using Turnitin.

See also:
RMIT University Student Assessment
Center for the Study of Higher Education, Melbourne University

Workshop 3: Engaging your students using Inclusive Teaching practices

Andrea Wallace, Educational Developer, DSC

•Identify and discuss challenges in managing a diverse student cohort in your class
•Translate the principles of Inclusive Teaching into your practice
•Design activities that incorporate alternative teaching strategies.

See also:
Inclusive Teaching

Workshop 4: Teaching in Next Generation Learning Spaces

Thembi Mason, Educational Developer and Jon Hurford, Senior Advisor Learning & Teaching (Art)

•Identify the characteristics of a Next Generation Learning space
•Locate relevant resources and discuss approaches to teaching and the use of technology in these spaces

See also:
Next Generation Learning Spaces;ID=xnbgfx4a17h3
Teaching with Technology

Workshop 5: Connecting courses to content

Bernadene Sward, Liaison Librarians and Anne Lennox, University Library

•Make the most of library licensed learning and teaching resources, open access and creative commons content.

See also:
Library Learning Repository
School Liaison Librarians

Workshop 6: Teaching students from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds

Barbara Morgan, Study Learning Center

•Discuss the challenges facing students from diverse learning backgrounds
•Identify and integrate teaching strategies that address linguistic and cultural differences in the classroom.

See also:
Study and Learning Centre Session

Workshop 7: RMIT Peer Partnerships: supported professional development for continuous improvement in teaching

Angela Clarke and Dallas Wingrove, Senior Research Fellows

•Find a focus for the observation of your teaching
•Provide sensitive and constructive feedback for a colleague
•Establish and build networks of professional relationships with DSC sessional teaching staff.

See also:
Peer Partnerships

Workshop 8: Flexible delivery, Blackboard Collaborate & Google Sites

Erika Beljaars-Harris, Howard Errey and Andrea Wallace, Educational Developers, DSC

•Use iPads and other mobile devices for teaching and learning
•Use and manage Blackboard Collaborate
•Setup and manage Google Sites.

See also:
Teaching with Technology

School workshops: Talking about Learning and Teaching

School Senior Advisors of Learning and Teaching with School Liaison Librarians and School representatives

•Identify issues surrounding learning and teaching practice in your School
•Locate key learning and teaching resources at RMIT
•Discuss ways in which you can contribute and feel included in a collegial and supportive environment.

Final Workshop: CES and feedback

Ruth Moeller, Lecturer in Education and Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching, College of Design and Social Context

The final workshop for the day focused on what academic and teaching staff will be encountering now students have returned for remainder of the year.

See also:
FAQs about CES

As you can see from the range of what was covered (and with an hour limit for each workshop) the conversations have only just begun.

We have time to prepare well for our end of year symposium, continue constructive conversations in the Schools and time to develop a firm plan for ongoing learning and teaching support for sessional staff beyond this semester.

A few more useful links for Sessional Staff at RMIT University 

Quick guide for sessional staff

Professional Development Calender

Learning and Teaching Unit

Senior Advisors, Learning and Teaching

If you have any questions please share them in the comments section or contact me (Kellyann Geurts) or your School’s Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching.

Don’t forget you can subscribe to have the tomtom delivered to your email as soon as it’s published and you can follow us on facebook:

Developing Your Teaching

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

logo for Developing Your Teaching DSC opportunitiesThis year, there are three projects that we at the DSC have united under the banner of ‘Developing Your Teaching’. The projects focus on developing teaching practice and providing staff with many opportunities to engage in hands-on, practical professional learning. Schools will also be able to customise sessions to suit their teaching needs. The projects address university strategic directions, namely teaching in new learning spaces, inclusive teaching and particularly support the professional learning of sessional staff in the DSC.

Sessional staff are key players in a productive and engaging learning and teaching environment but many are positioned in uncertainty. This uncertainty is pressured with increased demands on compliance, increased student numbers, changes in accommodation and new educational technologies, shifts in course offerings to accommodate student diversity, student expectations and industry needs. In this demanding environment, accommodating the needs of sessional staff in the teaching and learning space is critical. Connecting with a community of learners to advance practice is a priority to improve both staff and student satisfaction.

1. Connecting Sessional Staff

The Connecting Sessional Staff project will provide paid professional development for sessional academic and teaching staff and is to begin in Semester 2. With staff and School guidance, a symposium and School workshops will be designed to:

  • address individual learning and teaching needs
  • share, present, discuss and reflect on teaching and learning experiences
  • support collaboration, peer partnerships and mentoring
  • connect with learning networks across the University
  • link to the online modules from the Professional Development for Tertiary Teaching Practice (PDTTP) program designed for sessional staff.

2. New Learning Spaces

School-based peer learning networks will be offered in all DSC Schools for all staff teaching in New Learning Spaces in Semester 2 2013. Staff teaching in these spaces will be invited to join a School network that will run regular meetings, facilitated by the Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching. These meetings will include support for staff to trial new ideas and invite expert speakers to talk about their teaching practice. Additionally, staff will have the opportunity to undertake one of four approaches to enhance their professional learning. These include:

  • self-directed study supported by extensive web resourcesProjects3CirclesTEXTSM
  • peer partnership program
  • peer review of teaching
  • a module from the Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Education.

3. Inclusive Teaching and Assessment Practices

This project addresses the needs of a diverse student population through an ‘inclusive approach’ to curriculum design, teaching delivery and assessment. The project team will work collaboratively with academic and teaching staff to:

  • design and trial existing and new inclusive teaching approaches, learning activities and assessment tasks
  • produce hands-on teaching resources and assessment materials which support inclusive teaching practice
  • provide and assist with professional development resources and delivery in inclusive teaching.
  • promote the principles for inclusive teaching practice across the university.

The six principles developed are: Design Intentional Curriculum; Offer Flexible Assessment and Delivery; Build a Community of Learners; Teach Explicitly; Develop a ‘Feedback Rich’ Environment; and Practice Reflectively.

What next?

All three projects are in their planning phases and now is a good opportunity to ‘feed forward’ about what areas of learning and teaching most need developing, enhancing or advancing.

1. Connecting Sessional Staff: A Google survey form will be posted from your School’s L&T committees in the next fortnight to gather your ideas. Results from this survey will launch us into arranging schedules, themes and facilitators. We will keep you posted.

2. New Learning Spaces: L&T Committees will soon be advised and Program Managers and staff timetabled into these spaces will receive email notifications early in Semester 2.

3. Inclusive Teaching and Assessment Practices: This project and its website will launch on 7 June. Andrea Wallace will be providing an update in a future post on the tomtom.

If you have any questions please share them in the comments section or contact me (Kellyann Geurts) or your School’s Senior Advisor, Learning and Teaching.


L&T events coming up in the City and in Bundoora:

If you want to learn more about how to ditch your PowerPoints and teach like a pirate, James Arvanitakis (recipient of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Australian University Teacher of the year) will be sharing his stories and model practices in a series of workshops (11 and 12 June) to coincide with the lunchtime launch of the Inclusive Teaching and Assessment Practices project.

Tuesday 11 June 10.00-11.30, City Campus 080.02.003
Wednesday 12 June 10.00-11.30 and 1:30-3:00, Bundoora Campus – 205.3.10

Register now with DevelopMe.

Improving attendance or reshaping the whole gig?

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

Recently on Twitter I came across an article: Five Techniques for Improving Student Attendance. At first glance I thought, “That’s helpful”, but I very quickly found myself thinking, “Wait, we’re still focusing on this?” Ten years or more ago I can remember reading articles about how to improve attendance in university classes. It seems we haven’t moved very far along the path of addressing this issue.

However, the landscape is radically shifting; it’s been doing so for some time, and in many ways this is a good thing for learning.

So here’s what I think: we need to reframe the question. The question now should be not so much how to improve attendance, with its associated faith that a student present is a student learning; it should be: what can I do to advance these learners within this time limit?

Despite all the technology at hand and all the research that’s been done into how to design learning environments to maximise student engagement and learning, it seems that many of us are still stuck in the rut of scheduling 12 face-to-face weeks of classes each semester (at RMIT University higher education semesters are 12 weeks long; in TAFE they are 16 weeks). For as long as we can remember that is how it has been done and many of us think this is what our universities expect us to do to fulfill our obligations as lecturers/tutors/teachers.

If we imagine a 12 credit point allocation for a course (or ‘subject’ – language depends on your institution) then what we are probably bound by is time – we meet our students on day 1 and we need to have completed delivery (two problematic words) of our course after 12 weeks. What can 12 weeks of tertiary education achieve? What are the intended outcomes for students in the course?

Let’s break it down into some detail. In higher education disciplines with the lecture/tute model, for example, one might consider designing the learning experience to include a whole range of ways to engage students instead of scheduling 12 weeks of 2-hour lectures with a 1-hour tute to follow.

To stay with the model above, if we can imagine that those 36 hours of attendance and participation  are necessary but not sufficient for success in your course, have you made it clear to your students what a successful learner would be doing week-to-week outside of those hours?

Even more radically, rather than expect students to come to classes 12 or more times over a semester, it might be that we ask them to come to 3 or 4 key face-to-face sessions during the 12 weeks where there is a learning task or series of activities that requires them to interact face-to-face. In short, we could stop asking them to attend classes where there is no reason for them to be physically present.

You  may well be asking: how will they learn then?  Well in many, many ways actually. Contemporary students have all the tools at their fingertips and are well-versed in finding out how stuff works, what things mean, and who was involved in doing it outside of class (they do it all the time in their personal lives).

But only if we facilitate a framework for learning for them.

In the modern world of learning that is our key role as experts in our field. We facilitate the learning because in the majority of cases, students can’t do this alone.

So over a 12-week semester students may be required to:

  • attend some face-to-face sessions;
  • complete a series of projects or tasks (this can happen any time, anywhere, depending on what it is they’re learning and what equipment may be required);
  • interact online with you (as the facilitator) and each other about learning tasks or projects (there are many forums in which this can occur);
  • read and analyse course information via the university LMS (learning management system);
  • watch online videos and listen to podcasts as set up by you as the facilitator;
  • participate in field trips or live events;
  • photograph work in progress and share it with you and their peers using online forums.

The above list is not exhaustive and of course there are any number of creative ways that learning can occur that are relevant to your particular disciplinary focus. The key is moving away from the notion that learning only happens when we can physically see students. Learning happens all the time and isn’t bound by the timeslot of a lecture.

If we focus on what an engaging learning experience that achieves the course outcomes might look like, rather than ask how we can improve attendance at a weekly lecture, we ask how we can improve engagement in our subject. We’re no longer putting our energies into getting students to attend classes every week just because it’s always been done like that. Instead, learning is conceptualised in a more varied, dynamic and interactive way, and – most importantly – the student takes centre stage.

Do you have ideas on restructuring the traditional model of attendance and participation at university? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.


Sheridan, R. (2012, June 25). Five techniques for improving student attendance. Retrieved from:

the Tom Tom, learning & making connections

Post by Ruth Moeller & Kylie Budge.

Image by: Ruth Moeller.

The Teaching Tom Tom has been an initiative of the Learning & Teaching Team, College of Design & Social Context, RMIT University.

When the Teaching Tom Tom began 6 months ago, its aim was to create a community of practice amongst learning and teaching staff (or achieve world domination, whichever comes first). We wanted to trial using social media, in our case blogging and twitter, to provide a forum for those interested in teaching and learning at the tertiary level.

Well, we haven’t achieved world domination quite yet (!) but the Tom Tom has had some success in developing a community of practice. As a reader of the Tom Tom from the comfort of your computer screen, you are joining about 600 others world wide who have an interest in learning and teaching. Think about it, how many people were at the last teaching and learning meeting you went to?

Along the way we have learned many things but the main thing being: social media is social; it’s about making connections. And it’s a two-way dialogue. This doesn’t just have to mean online. ‘Shut up and write‘ sessions have provided a chance for writers across RMIT to share a coffee (or herbal tea), have a chat, write for one pomodoro (25 minutes), have another chat, and write for another pomodoro. In doing so, making connections that help in research, teaching, and blogging. Connections are also made in sourcing, encouraging and supporting contributors to the Tom Tom and in discussing and commenting on posts (both face to face and online).

The other aspect of our social media experiment has been connection with the twitterverse, where we have discovered and shared ideas and resources with fellow Twitterers, most of whom we have never, and will never meet but who have become part of the community of practice we have been engaged with. Being part of this community, we have realized that this kind of activity can also be part of professional development, not replacing journal articles, conferences and more formal professional development initiatives, but enhancing them – providing tasters and snapshots that can lead to further exploration.

We would like to acknowledge all those would have supported the Tom Tom, and in particular our fellow RMIT bloggers Inger Mewburn from The Thesis Whisperer, and Tseen Khoo and Jonathan O’Donnell from The Research Whisperer for their advice and encouragement.

We are taking a break for a few weeks until early next year. This will give us an opportunity to review, reflect and refresh our approach.

Have a restful holiday season!

Social media as professional development – can it work for you?

Post by Kylie Budge.

Image created via Wordle.

Inger wrote a great introductory post on how to use Twitter in your teaching. She’ll be writing more on this topic soon. Today’s post takes a slightly different angle and looks at what social media can do in terms of professional development for teachers.

I’ve recently discovered how social media works for me as a form of professional development (PD) and wondered if others might also feel like this. A few weeks ago on Twiiter I read a tweet related to this topic and then just this week, again via twitter, I saw a link to a recent paper on this very topic titled ‘The End of Isolation’.  As someone who has run face-to-face sessions on teaching for higher education and vocational education teachers for many years, it really got me thinking. What I’ve noticed is that since using Twitter and blogs for work I’m a lot more across what’s happening in the sector, trends in education, and educational issues generally than I was before I started using social media in this way. Twitter, in particular, works as a great PD tool for me because it offers super-fast bursts of news, information, ideas, and advice.

So in this post I’ll focus on why social media works as a tool for PD for me and why it might also for you. I like to think of it as virtual PD in a social format.

What I love about social media tools such as Twitter and blogs and what they offer in terms of PD is how they align wonderfully with the principles of self-directed learning. As the user you get to decide when you’re going to access the information and in what format. You get to decide what it is you’re going to use; ie. what the focus of your PD will be. You have control and this is very empowering. The added dimension that social media tools offer as avenues for professional development is that you are not alone. On Twitter, for example, people are always showing you useful information and commenting on what they’re reading or finding or doing in their teaching – this generates a lot of energy and enthusiasm. You have a lot of company on your PD journey when you use social media tools.

Let’s look more specifically at Twitter as a PD tool.

I’m a recent convert to Twitter. I’ll admit that before I started using Twitter I was one of those cynics who could not see the point. Now I get it and I’m hooked. Twitter is a micro-blogging platform which means that small snippets of information (140 characters or less) are fed to you through your Twitter timeline by those you follow 24 hours a day. For more information on Twitter basics read Inger’s recent post. In their tweets people often embed links to blog posts or articles in journals or newspaper reports or any other thing that can be hyperlinked. This makes Twitter a very rich source of information that goes a lot deeper than its 140 characters of space. As a Twitter user you get to determine who to follow and for most people this is aligned to their interests. If you like, you can just follow major newspaper and journals. Or only people who talk about teaching or research. You can go as wide or as narrow as you like in terms of the information you gather via your timeline. There are also channels you can follow that start with a #tag that will take you to a zone in Twitter where people are tweeting about that specific area of interest. You can save those channels in your Twitter account and go there any time you like to see what people are tweeting about. For those interested in teaching channels try:






Further information about #tags teachers are using can be found in this article.

What about blogs? How do they work as a professional development tool?

Like Twitter, blogs are available for people to access whenever they want. In this sense they work as a way of encouraging self-directed PD like Twitter does. Blogs inhabit a more luxurious space on the internet than Twitter can provide. However, they’re shorter and more informal than an academic journal paper but can whet your appetite to read deeper on a topic. And once again, you’re not alone when using blogs for PD. You can read comments by other readers or even leave one yourself. Like Twitter, the social aspects of using blogs as a PD tool means you can network with others interested in the same sorts of topics. Also, blog readers can access specific blog posts of relevance to them at a given time. Another thing I like about blogs is they become a resource that you can dip in and out of. I might skim a blog post about a topic and re-read it more deeply when I need to apply an idea from it at a future date. It’s good to build up a list of blogs you read for PD purposes and subscribe to them so you know when they’ve published a new post. There are many teaching related blogs out there. If you’re looking for some blogs to start with try those listed on the right hand side bar of this blog. At the teaching tom tom we’re slowly building up this list of resources and welcome suggestions for others to include. Bookmark blogs you like and/or subscribe to them. And make sure you subscribe to ours while you’re at it!

The beauty of something like Twitter or blogs when used as a PD tools is that you’re not limited by the resources, knowledge or experiences available in one institution. People feed information in from all over the world. This creates a very rich and diverse range of information you can draw on for professional development purposes. That said, it does take some getting used to. The key is to not feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information available. Be realistic about the amount of time you can spend online for PD and take things at the pace you feel comfortable with. Remember – you have complete control over when, where, how, what and with whom!

I’m keen to know – do social media tools also work for you as a form of professional development?

Diving into the blogging pool – helping your students stay afloat

Guest post by Claire Beale.

Claire Beale teaches in the BA Textile Design program at RMIT, Melbourne. Claire’s not shy in using technology with her design students, so we asked her to write a post for the tomtom about what teachers should consider when trialling technology such as blogs in their teaching.

Thinking about using blogging or e-portfolios with your students? Feeling a bit unsure about taking the technological plunge? Wondering if it’s worth unleashing yet another outpouring of effusiveness onto an unsuspecting online world?

From my relatively recent experience with introducing e-portfolios and blogs into the BA Textile Design curriculum, I have come up with the following ‘words to the wise’ regarding the use of blogging, online learning and engagement with all the lovely things we aspire to in higher education – scaffolding, self directed, lifelong and creative thinking.

Online learning can be both exhilarating and exhausting, this is the stuff they don’t tell you:

It CAN be:
• a secure online environment for students to experiment – a sandpit
• dynamic, exciting, interactive and…. exhausting if you don’t set some guidelines and boundaries

but it ISN’T:
• a replacement for the learning management system or other static web 1.0 style info repositories
• time-saving – working with online environments such as blogging requires regular maintenance and attention

Before you leap in, it’s always good to test the waters. So, ask yourself the following questions:

• is this meaningful? – students must be able to engage with the process and see it as a meaningful activity linked to their professional development
• is it relevant to the practice of the discipline? – what do those in your discipline use blogs etc for? Are they used? Figure out how they may be used to enhance / advance your practice, and model that within your learning environment
• should they be embedded within, rather than bolted on? – like the preceding questions, this is really about ensuring you have thought about the use of online environments in a holistic manner. It’s not about adding a shiny new toy for its own sake (or because someone is ‘making you do it’), it’s about thinking of how and where these things fit within your overall curriculum structure.

OK, once you’ve covered that area, what next? Time to put on your floaties and take to the shallow end of the pool… like every new skill, it takes time to get it right.

It goes something like this:

1. introduce the tool and the thinking behind it to students in a supported, scaffolded manner – this may mean operating in a closed environment to allow for mistakes and other ‘exciting’ developments along the way, or by looking at case studies (e.g. blogs by others) to get a feel for how it is used and for what purpose.

2. encourage creative play – remember to allow space for students to drive discussion, experiment and explore the potential directions of the activity (you may be surprised where it leads to).

3. support the learning both within the traditional classroom and the online environment through a combination of learning activities – self directed and guided.

And if all else fails it’s amazing what you can find on the internet! But seriously, I can’t say that these notes are a failsafe, but they just may help you navigate your way into the bigger pond, and even enjoy the journey. And after all, isn’t that the whole reason why we do it?

Textile Design blogs of note (of course we have to plug our friends!):

Find our blog here.

Copyright © RMIT University. Photographer: Margund Sallowksy, 2006

Clog – Craft Victoria’s blog

Beci Orpin

The Design Files

Cloth Fabric