Building a Student Employability Framework to Aid Student Engagement and Retention

The accessibility of higher education has increased, leading to a larger and more diverse group of students than ever before being enrolled in higher education. With high competition within the sector, the need to deliver enhanced, more personalised experiences is a must in order to attract, engage and retain.

Currently, the 15% of tertiary students who fail to be retained for a second year of study represent a loss of approximately AUS$4.37 billion each year. As such universities are looking to new, innovative methods to help retain students through enhanced tertiary experiences.

Ahead of the Student Retention and Success Summit 2018 we chat to Dr. Dino Willox, Director of Student Employability at the University of Queensland (UQ). In this article Dino shares details of UQ’s Student Employability framework which is shifting learning from the didactic to the experiential and aiding overall engagement and retention.

Developing Frameworks

Exploring UQ’s Student Employability Framework

“At the University of Queensland we’ve come to notice that employers are demanding more from their potential employees, with recent articles published suggesting that some of the big employers aren’t actually looking at GPA at all. A degree is standard now – instead employers want to know what else you can offer – which is why we developed our Student Employability framework.

At UQ we view employability as a broader process that encompasses experiential learning, work integrated learning and career development learning. Within the student employability centre we have a careers team, but we also have a work integrated learning team that works with academics to embed employability in the curriculum.

Some four years ago we developed the framework that aims to make learning and experience, not ‘being employed’ the end goal of all actions. The framework, which can be overlaid in a number of different learning environments, is predicated on four pillars; awareness, experience, learning and transfer.

Pillar 1 – Awareness: recognising that a degree is necessary but not all. With globalisation of higher education now, more people have degrees, and to be able to stand out you need to do more.

Pillar 2 – Experience: getting involved in a whole range of experiences to give you the opportunity to learn from them.

Pillar 3 – Learning: self-reflection and learning from those experiences and understanding how these experiences have transformed you. These experiences aren’t just traditional internships and placements however, but also include learnings gained from extracurricular activities like volunteering and sports.

Pillar 4 – Transfer: transferring your learning into the workplace and making it meaningful for future employers.

The idea behind the framework is that is can be used by anybody – although we’ve designed it for students and the higher education space, the framework easily overlays professional and personal development also.”

Read More

Download the full article with Dino to learn more about:

  • University of Queensland’s student employability framework
  • The importance of shifting focus from the academic to the experiential for modern students
  • Increasing support and engagement to aid student retention and success

Learn More

To learn more about the strategies some of Australia’s leading higher education providers are harnessing to improve student retention and success, join us at the Student Retention and Success Summit 2018.

The event, held in Melbourne on the 27th – 28th of June brings together over 16 student retention and experience experts from the likes of the University of Southern Queensland, Curtin University, RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Technology Sydney and La Trobe.


How Silkwood School is creating personalised online learning courses to drive student and staff engagement

In a world where digital is transforming the way we teach and learn, it can be argued that online, mobile and blended learning are foregone conclusions.

According to the NMC and Educause 2017 Horizon Report, education institutions that do not already have robust strategies in place for these new learning approaches, will simply not survive.

And while many universities and schools across Australia have solid online learning programs and strategies in place, fluency in the digital realm is more than just understanding how to use technology.

Developing online learning resources requires a deep understanding of digital environments and the buy-in of educators to ensure that these new tools and learning platforms can ultimately have a positive influence on student engagement and learning outcomes.

What’s more, creating and rolling-out online learning resources can also be a time consuming task, so educators need to be clever about how they design these resources to ensure their time is used efficiently and effectively.

Ahead of the 3rd Annual Online and eLearning Summit 2018, Sandra Lipinski eLearning manager, at Silkwood School explores the steps she has taken at her school to provide a framework for the effective creation of digital and multi-media resources and the impact this is having on student and teacher engagement.

eLearning at Silkwood School: an overview

“At Silkwood School we are using online learning to support flexible learning plans. Each of our students have a completely personalised learning plan and we are developing an advisory online learning model with small class numbers to ensure tailored and personalised learning.

At the moment our focus is on providing support for this personalised learning approach, but in the coming years we will be branching out this personalised model to distance learning and home schooling as well.

We are using BrightSpace by D2L as our online management platform and we have digital portfolios and learning object resources storage within that as well.”

Creating an efficient approach to developing and designing online courses

“We face the additional challenge that not all our students are doing the same course in detail. For example, it might be that they are all involved in a course on the same general topic, but each student is able to choose their own pathway through that course. Students are actively involved in setting their own learning goals and can design their own assessment pieces as well.

From a young age our students are collecting their own work samples to demonstrate their learning. A lot of online learning models take a mass education approach where a course is created and the students work through that course as a cohort. All students are doing the same assessment pieces, produce the same comparative data and get a certificate at the end.

At Silkwood School, our online programs do not work this way, but a lot of the same principles apply. For example, consistency and flexibility between courses to make it familiar to staff and students is essential.

But when we create a traditional online learning course, our aim is to update each course regularly and add new and exciting themes. Our aim is to design our online courses with flexibility in mind so that staff and students can work together to co-design new approaches to already existing courses.”

Developing online courses for different stages of the learner journey

“The first step to developing personalised learning courses for different stages of the student journey is to train staff to be critically reflective and identify what parts of the course will have the greatest amount of change over time.

We also identify which parts of the course drive the core knowledge that a student will need and we focus on those core elements. For example, it comes down to things like how we name the courses, how we number them and how we tag them so that different elements of various courses can be used in other courses and year levels. It encourages staff to share online learning resources.

It is a two-fold approach. The first part is critically analysing effective change and what we can create that is not likely to change. The second part is describing and labeling those elements in a way that makes it easily usable and shareable for others.

For Silkwood School specifically, we have a large amount of courses and resources that have high amounts of change because of the personalised learning approach we take. In this approach, we train the student to access and search for online components themselves, because there are already a number of resources available of them on the internet or links to other online course repositories. Students are trained to be more responsible for their learning and source some of the online courses themselves.”

Addressing challenges along the way

“The first challenge is always teacher training. The first element of this is the teacher’s ability to use technology themselves. It’s important to understand what technology teachers are familiar with and making sure we fill any gaps in skills.

The other aspect of teacher training is educating them to be critical thinkers as far as choosing the technology that is best for their teaching practice. For example, focusing on learning outcomes, what they want to achieve and choosing technology to support this. It is about not just using technology for the sake of technology.

For example, at Silkwood School we have video cameras and there is always a number ideas from staff about how these cameras can be used. But it’s important to always come back to the question: what is your learning goal? Our aim is to get staff to think about what they are trying to achieve as far as pedagogy goes, not just using the technology because it is there.

When it comes to online learning our aim is to ensure staff are critical thinkers in terms of pedagogy. We want to develop good eLearning practice, as well as training around how to use new technology and how to teach with it.

Another challenge is also the pace of change within our organisation. This is something every organisation is faced with at the moment as innovation is transforming schools and universities alike. We have to keep up with classroom design and what technology is being used globally to continue to drive innovation.

Parents’ perception of online learning is another challenge. Most parents these days did not learn in school about how to use technology and they don’t understand what it can do in terms of boosting learning, and, also what it can do to hinder learning. For example, some parents are scared about things from blue light to screen time. Out aim is to inform parents about our goals and what we want to achieve through online learning so that they can understand.

Over the past couple of years there has also been a bigger government emphasis on STEM and coding which is also driving a shift in the parental understanding. There are so many teaching pedagogies around 21st century learning and and we are finding more recently that parents are also pro-21st century learning.

In our direct neighbourhood, primary school students will have Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) one-to-one devices within the next few years and this will flow through as they enter higher education. Technology is becoming embedded in the learning environment and we have to make sure that teachers keep up with them.”

Linking online learning to pedagogy

“The first part of linking online learning to pedagogy, is to ensure staff have a clear focus of what they are aiming to achieve from an educational perspective when using new technology in the classroom. Not just want hey are trying to achieve with technology, but what they are trying to achieve educationally with the tools that technology provides.

Ensuring staff are focused on this element is a very important thing because we are validating them and their knowledge as teachers first before we provide new technology.

For us a big thing was gaining trust and building relationships with the staff. In the past, poor relationships between educators and IT existed. Our aim was to improve this relationship and help staff to get help as quick as possible. We are being very proactive in how our IT staff can help and work with educators.

For example, our IT staff observe how educators are using technology in the classroom and work with them to try and stop any problems that might arise from using technology before they happen. It’s about ensuring our IT staff are approachable and can make staff lives easier, which has been a big development.

Because we have personalised learning plans for students at Silkwood, we also have a heavy focus on personalised staff development and training. We are using technology so that staff have personalised learning plans and online courses that they use for training. By being a student themselves and using these online resources it’s creating a great dialogue around the benefits of new online technologies that they can then implement in their own classrooms.

For example, if staff are not quite ready for implementing a new technology or tool in the classroom, we build it into the staff courses first. This helps us to test out the new online platform in a staff environment with adults and gives them the ability to see if they can re-use it in their own classroom environment with younger learners.”

Results to date

“Since taking this approach to online learning we have seen a shift in what classroom time is used for. Rather than students copying notes from a blackboard, they now have direct access to those notes online. This frees up class time for students to work on mastering skills for taking their learning deeper, as well as demonstrating the mastery of those skills. There is less wasted time on lower order thinking and more time for in-depth learning on those higher order thinking tasks.”

Interested in learning more?

Join Sandra at the 3rd Annual Online and eLearning Summit 2018 where she will further explore:

  • Design principles that increase the chances of reusing and repurposing those resources
  • Tips that will help teachers and institutions to reduce the waste when resources cannot be used repeatedly, and to reduce the amount of updating required as courses change over time
  • A guide to developing resources that can be used across many courses and age groups

For more information visit or call +61 2 9229 1000 or email



How 3 universities are taking online and eLearning learning to the next level to drive a personalised student experience

Over the past five years online education has exploded across the Australian higher education sector. Technological advancements and changing student expectations have made the online education model an increasingly viable option for learning.

And as the student demand for online learning continues to soar, there is no doubt that the way that we teach and learn is set to transform even more in the coming years.

But does the growth of online learning mean that traditional bricks and mortar learning models will have no place in the future?

According to a recent survey of students by online teaching company Studiosity, 19 per cent of Australian tertiary students think physical campuses will cease to exist with in 20 years time.

Similarly, another study by Australian Science revealed 50 percent of students surveyed liked their online course materials, while just over 30 percent said the same about traditional coursework.

With so much change on the horizon, what steps can universities take to ensure their approach to online learning can transform the student learning experience into something which is fulfilling, rewarding and personalised? What’s more, how can universities go about creating the perfect marriage of educator engagement and student ROI when rollingout new online learning models?

To answer these questions, ahead of the 3rd Annual Online and eLearning Summit 2018, we have compiled three case studies which explore the different approaches three Australian universities are taking to improve student engagement and personalisation of the learning process through innovative online learning strategies.


In the eBook, you can learn more about:

  • Deakin University is developing and implementing FutureLearn – a MOOC which aims to create a real-world learning experience for students\
  • Charles Sturt University is engaging students through new interactive and adaptive online learning experiences
  • Sydney University is using data to help build engaging student-teacher connections to improve online learning engagement

Download the eBook here!


For more information about the 3rd Annual Online and eLearning Summit 2018 download the agenda or visit the website

Improving End-User Engagement to Deliver Research Excellence: Insights into the CSIRO’s ON Program

Researchers are increasingly being challenged to demonstrate the real-world impact of their science and technology. The biggest enabler of this impact is the mindset of researchers themselves – their ability to think, act and communicate about their science in a way that their end user can understand and adopt.

David Burt, co-founder of the CSIRO’s ‘ON Program’ has spent the last three years helping researchers all over Australia discover how to adopt the entrepreneurial mindset necessary to discover their pathway to impact. This method is the core of the ON Program – Australia’s only deep-technology accelerator designed to help researchers take their value from the lab into the world.

Ahead of the 3rd Annual Research Innovation Summit 2018, David explores how the ON Program method is relevant for both researchers as well as people supporting commercialisation and technology transfer.

Background Factors Influencing Change in the Australian Research Sector 

Developing a commercial mindset to ensure the success of research projects has long been a focus for the Australian Higher Education sector.

This was further reinforced in 2015 when the Australian Government launched its National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA). NISA has led to the introduction of an Impact and Engagement Assessment measure that examines how universities are translating their research into economic, social and other benefits and encourage greater collaboration between universities, industries and other end-users of research.

One of the key components of NISA was the Commonwealth Government signalling a desire for publically funded Australian researchers to increase the translation of their research into social, economic and environmental outcomes through greater collaboration with industry.

In 2017, The Australian Research Council (ARC) released the Engagement and Impact Pilot Report, which David says, outlines the areas Universities need to focus on in order to demonstrate their collaboration when it comes to research innovation.

“The results of the ARC’s Pilot report made for interesting reading, it measured engagement between researchers and the end-users of research primarily through the flow of money, like research income and revenue from IP commercialisation. While the first hurdle for Universities is their ability to efficiently and reliably produce the requested data, the bigger challenge is how each University is going to improve their results on these measures. I don’t see enough focus on how they are going to support and reward the change in researcher mindset necessary to improve their performance on these end-user engagement measures,” David says.

So why should research institutions and universities want to perform well on these measures?

According to David, results measuring end-user engagement are going to increasingly determine the block funding grants they receive.

“I believe that the University sector in Australia will increasingly be required to transition from a world in which the untied Government funding they receive is determined solely by their scientific excellence, towards a world where research funding is based on both scientific excellence, as well as objective measures of engagement between researchers and the end user,” he says.

Find out more and read the full article with David here



Join David at the 3rd Annual Research Innovation Summit 2018 where he will be  running a postconference workshop exploring how to:

  • Help researchers adopt an entrepreneurial mindset and more effectively communicate with industry and community stakeholders
  • Analyse how to help researchers get their commercialisation deals across the line with a case study from CSIRO’s ON Program

For more information download the agenda here or visit or call +61 2 9229 1000 or email

5 ways to design and develop a world class research facility

It’s no secret that quality and cutting edge research is a defining characteristic of Australia’s Universities. And while state-of-the-art infrastructure has long been recognised as the engine fuelling research development, the fast pace of innovation is driving increased competition in this area.

As a result, many universities are focusing on how to leverage partnerships and new technology to design, construct, operate and maintain innovative and flexible research facilities.

But what actually makes a research facility ‘innovative? And more importantly, what strategies can universities use to avoid mistakes in planning and development stages to ensure they create a collaborative, flexible and leading facility for the future?

Ahead of the 4th Annual Research Facilities Design and Development Summit, here are 5 strategies Universities can use to design and develop flexible research facilities for the future.

Below, influencers from La Trobe University, Woods Bagot, Southern Cross University, The University of Adelaide and the German Max Planck Institute share the strategies they are each using in their own research facility projects to ensure project success.

1. Set a clear vision

Jussi Helppi, Head of Biomedical Services – Speaker of Facilities & Services, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) (Germany)

“Designing the Institute’s facilities wasn’t much of a struggle. We were lucky to have right architects (Heikkinen & Komonen, together with HENN Architects) for the building, where the directors basically had the luxury of finding who understood what we wanted to do before they even started drawing the schematics.

While the architects focused on the architecture, the interior laboratory planning was mostly done – in close collaboration with the scientists – by another company based here in Germany: Dr Heinekamp Labor und Institutsplanung. The building was finished in early 2001.

As in every planning process, there were challenges to manage. Our building was financed mostly by the Max Planck Society, but as the future users of the building we, the institute, managed at the end to maintain good control of the process. Although the balancing act between us (the users), the central building headquarters of the Society in Munich, and the planners and architects was not always easy, at the end we got the building built according to our ideas and visions.

The main reason for our success in the building process was the clear mandate our founding directors gave the architects – to provide a building on the highest level in technical and practical terms in laboratory design that also promotes synergy, cooperation and community. Thus, the institute’s building has been carefully designed to force scientists to come together, to create the critical mass necessary for new discoveries.

2. Consider future adaptability and expansion

Russell Hoye, Pro Vice Chancellor of Research and Director of La Trobe Sport, at La Trobe University

“Located on 60 hectares in the southwest corner of the La Trobe University campus in Bundoora, the Sports Park will provide a unique environment for play, performance training, teaching and research in sport.

The Sports Park initial designs will include an eight-court indoor multisport stadium for netball and basketball. Other infrastructure planned to be built include a strength and conditioning training facility, teaching and research space, synthetic hockey and football pitches and upgrades to existing ovals and pavilions.All these facilities will be available for community use – for teaching and coaching purposes,” says Russell.

As part of La Trobe University’s Master Plan 2014 the Sports Park has been designed with a flexible base infrastructure that allows for multidisciplinary collaboration and future expansion. With the University Town Neighbourhoods Master Plan in place we’re future-proofing our investment by designing the Sports Park’s physical layout to allow for future expansion and room to include more pitches.

Additionally, we’ve worked with architects and engineers who have identified underlying infrastructure requirements, so as new application and technologies are developed over time, we can simply plug that into our base infrastructure without needing to do additional core work – the sports facility has a very flexible base infrastructure making it suitable for multiple uses and adaptable for future technologies.”

Download the remainder of the article here 


Join industry representatives at the 4th Annual Research Facilities Design and Development Summit to learn more about how to:

  • Address innovation regarding the best designs for research facilities
  • Analyse construction strategies to boost operational efficacy Review the development of facilities to maximise space utilisation
  • Provide you with the best management advices to prevent a loss in ROI

For more information visit or
call +61 2 9229 1000 or email

How Macquarie University is doubling commercial deals on research projects through a focus on engagement and collaboration

It’s no secret that Australian universities are at the forefront of delivering excellence in research and innovation globally. For decades, the Australian Higher Education sector has advanced a research culture and system that has been responsible for world-leading breakthroughs.

And with the spending and investment in research set to rise in the next 12 months, now is the time for Australia to make big advances in research innovation.

According to a recent report by PwC, worldwide research and development spending increased by 3.2 per cent in 2017, totaling to a spend of $702 billion globally. Locally, the Australian Government is investing $10.3 billion in research and experimental development over the next 12 months.

So what does this mean for the research development sector?

While increased investment is sure to bring about benefits, it is also driving increased competition between universities for their share of funding. In turn, increasing business communication and engagement strategies to create meaningful outcomes and real value propositions has never been more important.

But according to Anna Grocholsky, Director, Commercialisation and Innovation at Macquarie University, it’s not all about the money.

“Money talks, but our objective at Macquarie University is to provide research with purpose. ROI is not just financial. It’s about value, engagement and collaboration as well,” she says.

Over the last two years, Macquarie University has doubled their commercialisation deals and has secured partnerships with companies such as the Voice Project and Bayer.

AnnaAhead of the 3rd Annual Research Innovation Summit 2018, Anna shares how her team has rolled-out programs focused on research, engagement, impact and how they are fostering a start-up mind-set to ensure research innovation and success.

A brief overview of Macquarie University’s research framework

“Macquarie University has an organisation-wide framework called Framing Futures which is based on  ensuring that our University is the place that people want to come to. Whether it’s a new student, undergrad or post-doc, a research academic, a professional staff member or industry partner; we want to be renowned as the place that people want to be and connect with.

Under this vision we have developed a research framework and strategy with priorities and themes outlining what our core capabilities are. This framework has been developed to encourage cross-faculty engagement and ensure research is undertaken with a planned purpose.

We also have a research engagement, impact and commercialisation framework. While our strategy is important, at the end of the day, I want to turn ideas into reality. These ideas have to be products/services that people want or need at a price that is affordable. We want to make a difference, inspire creative solutions and achieve maximum impact.”

Research with a purpose:  building engagement and connections with industry

“Our objective is to undertake more research through partnerships and developing an understanding of what is needed in society for industry and end-users.

We’ve just started to recruit a few partnership managers. Their remit is to understand the capabilities of researchers and work closely with Faculty staff and other Macquarie University departments to enhance the  impact of research projects.

At present, the onus tends to be on the researcher to get a funding deal. If they could be introduced to industry partners they might not have spoken to before, they may undertake research with more of a planned purpose.

In saying that, I don’t want researchers to just follow the latest pot of gold. Pure research is also essential.  Solving fundamental problems allowing one to collectively leapfrog to get to that next level. There is fundamental research that needs to be proven. It doesn’t have to have an implication and an impact straightaway, but it needs to be done.”

Moving beyond monetary ROI

“Return on Investment is not just financial, it’s about value, engagement and collaboration as well. IP protection is a big part of our strategy at Macquarie. We need patent protection to get industry to step up and invest money on a long term journey with us. A patent can give industry guidance and security to invest in research and development.

In our contracts, we ask Licensees to come back and do research with us, and that they acknowledge Macquarie University in the work we have done. This is a return on investment that’s not directly monetary.”

Challenges in ensuring commercialisation of research projects

“Academics are experts in their field. The unfortunate fact is, when it comes to collaboration, especially with other universities, we can’t regulate our academics. We are service providers and our role is to be there when they need us.

A lot of my job is educating researchers that I’m here to help. Rather than asking researchers if they are working on something that’s patentable, I ask:  are you working on something that could benefit society or could be of commercial interest? By taking this approach at Macquarie we’re turning things around. We have quadrupled the workload and doubled the number of commercialisation deals over the past two years.

It comes down to effective collaboration and communication. Asking the questions: Is the research commercially viable? If it is, how can we get bridge that gap from bench to reality? Who do we need to partner with? What is the best vehicle to get there?

In parallel, it’s also important to consider: is the research patentable? Should we protect it? Often, a lot of tech transfer offices think that commercialisation is just the end of the journey. It’s not. Research should have a planned purpose or goal to achieve.”

Ensuring communication throughout the entire research lifecycle

“Communication is crucial to research innovation an­d success. We have a lot of information on our website to help people and we always share good news and success stories.

I also do roadshows quite often. I find that if you schedule a meeting and secure a lecture room, it’s often on semester break, so no one turns up. Instead, I invite myself to team meetings. It reminds people that I exist. We supply researchers laboratory notebooks which have a little blurb on the back to say remember to talk to the Office of Commercialisation and Innovation before you publish your ideas. When someone reports an invention to us, we present them with a coffee cup with the Macquarie University logo and ‘I’m an innovator” on it.

It’s also important to be upfront with expectations. Once expectations are set, it’s also helpful to follow up, thank them and provide regular progress reports.”

Interested in learning more?

Join Anna at the 3rd Annual Research Innovation Summit 2018 where she will further explore initiatives of the Office of Commercialisation and Innovation at Macquarie University.



For more information please visit or call +61 2 9229 1000 or email


Designing classrooms for the modern learner: How Silverton Primary School is co-creating flexible learning spaces with students

Over the last couple of decades, Silverton Primary School has constructed new learning spaces to incorporate and accommodate new technologies and pedagogies to reflect student needs.

According to Diane Rickard, Head Teacher at the primary school located in Victoria, the design for these new learning spaces all stemmed from the simple question asked to children: what ways can we better your learning?

Ahead of the 7th Annual New Generation Learning Space Design Summit 2018, Diane shares the strategies her school is using to design personalised and innovative student learning spaces and the steps they have taken to successfully integrate new technology into classroom design to improve student engagement.

Designing learning spaces that reflect modern student needs

 “The Student Voice is a big part of the way we are designing and transforming learning spaces at Silverton Primary School. We have involved the children to help us a lot with the set-up of our learning centres.  In our learning centres, there are four corners and a huge middle space down the middle. We use a lot of flexible spaces.

The furniture is also very moveable. It’s varied inside; it’s varied in colour. There are traditional tables in lecture-style, but we also use a lot of stable-tables because we find the kids like to work on the floor, whether it is lying on their stomachs, sitting down or standing-up. So they can either stand or do their work or they can sit up on a high stool.

We also have beanbags, couches and a café-style booth that children can sit in to do work. They find it easier to listen and communicate with each other in this type of space. Within our learning spaces, we also have different areas for different types of work and learning.

For example, we might have a conference area set-up where children can speak one-on-one or with a smaller group or bigger group. Our learning centre has been designed so that we can fit whole 120 children together if we need to speak to them.  The learning centre also has breakout rooms where children can work individually if they need to.

There are also projectors within the learning space. There are four projectors to walls and there are moveable projectors that are on trolleys. The three–six student area has one-to-one laptops, so they have their own laptop; but then there is a trolley within each learning space where there are more laptops for the children to use. We also have a media centre within our school out of the learning space for the children to use.

In addition, every learning centre has a cooking space with ovens, microwaves, all those sorts of things in there that the kids can use.”

Integrating new technology into design to boost engagement

“Silverton School has a one-to-one notebook program, so the three–six students can either bring their own device or they can buy outright buy a device from us. We use the notebooks in conjunction with programs such as Office 365 and other things like Minecraft to help the children with their learning.  We also have coding programs and animation programs and we show these programs on the interactive whiteboard and students go along with it on their laptops.

We also do a lot of robotics within our school as well. Students can use their laptops and tablets to program robots to do things or move parts. We do digital literacies at Silverton as well, so students can either do a documentary – from the filming to the writing to the editing.”

Experimenting with pedagogy in the digital space

“One of the additional things we have trialled this year at Silverton is online learning. We have a Chinese teacher at our school, but with the five–six students, we decided to change it up and we’re actually doing Chinese language learning online. This means students Skype another teacher from our sister school in China.

We had another program called Over the Back Fence where we Skyped students in New Zealand, so we would run a lesson for them and then they would run a lesson for us with a group of children. We also participate in kids teaching kids every year, where children attend the Water Conference and they do a lot of Skyping; and other activities online like blogs etc.

Staff use OneNote and so we can all our programs and shared resource online to collaborate and share ideas.”

Overcoming challenges along the way

“Introducing the one-to-one notebook program within our school was a big step that we had to take and we knew challenges would arise from the changes associated. The challenges involved the logistics like ensuring that students’ devices were charged or that they had their device at school.  There was always the issue of viruses being connected to the internet at home and school on the same device.

Another challenge is sometimes devices might be broken, so then we had to send them away and the student was left without a device. This was probably the biggest learning curve and the biggest challenge for us.

We also had to collaborate on an agreement around use of devices with students. We created a contract with the children and we went though it step by step explaining what they were allowed to use the device for at school.”

Bringing staff along the journey

“We’ve come up with something called the Silverton Pathway; which contains every program, topic and collaborative teaching skill our teachers might need.

The pathway covers everything needed to be an all-round teacher at Silverton and enables staff to be able to teach the Silverton Way. It’s our way of ensuring that the skills are there for the teachers and the understanding is there as well.

Timetabling is another big part of this. For example, if someone needs to go in the Media Centre effective timetabling allows us to ensure the space is there. We also have tech support and two media teachers’ full time. We have up-skilled a few of our staff to be experts and then that will filter down to the rest of the teaching staff.”

Interested in learning more?

Join Diane at the 7th Annual New Generation Learning Space Design Summit 2018 where she will further explore:

  • Designing spaces to reflect the modern student’s needs, choices, expectations and digital capabilities
  • Creating multimodal learning spaces to enhance collaborative and self-directed learning
  • Experimenting with pedagogy and the digital space to transition courses
  • Investigation into mobile-intensive pedagogies in school: a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) trend
  • Challenges teachers face in the digital education evolution

For more information visit or call +61 2 9229 1000 or email




Attracting Students Through Spaces that Accommodate Lifestyle and Education

Australia is one of the world’s most attractive destinations for international students. In the past few years our universities have experienced record growth in international enrolments, contributing some $15 billion to our nation’s economy per annum.

To remain competitive in the battle to attract the best and brightest talents, both locally and from abroad, universities are investing in student experience; with new student accommodation facilities and campus life playing a key role.

Ahead of the Student Accommodation Summit 2018 we chat to Lisa Howard, Studio Principal at Taylor Cullity Lethlean (TCL). In this article Lisa shares details of Monash University’s Clayton Campus upgrade and delves into the benefits of investing in new student accommodation facilities that optimise students’ university experience.

Meeting modern needs

“While we’re seeing a real shift in university life and culture all over the world, in Australia in particular, where many of our universities, like Monash, La Trobe and RMIT, were set up as institutes in the 1960s and 70s, we’re seeing a period of growth, expansion and infrastructure investment to help meet modern standards and student needs,” explains Lisa.

“In an age of online and off-campus learning, university landscapes are now playing a critical role in both attracting and retaining staff and students and fostering meaningful engagement, conversation and participation.

Most universities had offsite student accommodation when they were initially established, and over the years these facilities tended to be neglected as they weren’t deemed a priority. However, over the past decade or so, with the rise in international student enrolments, many universities are now taking the time to reassess their accommodation offerings and campus facilities in an effort to better appeal to the growing numbers of international students arriving.

Increasingly, and I think this stems predominantly from competition within the tertiary education sector, the offerings, facilities and amenities that universities provide are becoming a key differentiating factor for both the international and domestic markets. Students are now looking at how a university can offer them more than a learning experience – they want the social and community aspects that come with it.

What this means from an architectural perspective is that we’re seeing a trend toward relocating student accommodation from offsite, dislocated areas to the campuses themselves in an effort to create more embedded accommodation precincts. By doing this, universities can provide somewhere for students to not only sleep, but also places where they can occupy their time and socialise on campus. By creating creative, engaging and innovative spaces, both in internal and outdoor areas, we’re seeing improved engagement, experience and overall student happiness.”

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Download the full article with Lisa to learn more about:

  • The benefits of providing new accommodation within close proximity to campus
  • Meeting modern student needs by providing living, learning and social amenities
  • Overcoming the challenges of project delivery with minimal impact on ‘business as usual’

Learn More 

Join Lisa, along with over 20 other student accommodation experts from the likes of the University of St. Andrews (UK), University of Auckland (New Zealand), Deakin Residential Services, Scape, the University of Melbourne, Hayball and Colliers International on the 27th– 28th of March in Melbourne at the Student Accommodation Summit 2018. 

Transforming learning spaces through Virtual Reality implementation at UNSW

Over the last decade, higher education institutions have invested heavily in incorporating new technologies into classroom design, creating innovative learning spaces that provide both formal and informal learning opportunities.

More recently, the emergence of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) is taking this to the next level, with universities beginning to think about how virtual instructions can be combined with physical learning spaces to enhance student exploration, collaboration and discussion.

VR and AR activities can range from sitting in a swivel chair or standing at a table displaying holographic content to navigating a complex virtual space and interacting with digital objects. All of these activities require redesigning and rethinking learning spaces.

While Australian universities are still in the relatively early stages of incorporating VR and AR into learning space design, many have already been experimenting with how this new immersive technology can be harnessed to improve student learning outcomes and engagement.

The University of New South Wales is has been trialing the use of VR in its School of Mining Engineering for some time, with the aim to provide students with a personalised learning experience that goes beyond traditional education methods.

Developed in conjunction with industry partners for training purposes, UNSW’s VR Suite consists of floor-to-ceiling screens, the VR Simulator – also referred to as the Advanced Visualisation and Interaction Environment (AVIE) – and casts 360-degree 3D images against the dark surrounds with cinematic clarity.

“UNSW is constantly trying new things. Specifically in the Mining Engineering space, VR has been implemented as an application for learning. Because a lot of mines are in the middle of nowhere they are difficult for students to visit. VR is providing us with that spatial awareness and on-site experience in the confines of our classroom,” says Alexander Mayer, Student Ambassador at UNSW.

But despite its benefits, like any technology implementation project, rolling-out VR is not without challenges.

“The VR model developed at UNSW was the first in its field and there was no example we could use as a basis for the project. Most of the time it was trial and error, which was a challenge,” says Seher Ata, Associate Professor / Virtual Reality Program Developer at UNSW.

Ahead of the 7th Annual New Generation Learning Space Design Summit 2018 , Seher and Alex share insight into their experience of using VR in learning space design.

Below, Alex shares insight into how VR and the personalisation of spaces has transformed his educational career and Seher explores the steps her faculty has taken to integrate VR into learning space design to improve overall student engagement.

Rolling-out VR in a physical learning space

Seher: Over the past 15 years the UNSW School of Mining has been investigating and implementing new immersive technologies to improve the student learning experience. It began as a project only for graduates, but over the years it has expanded to encompass all students.

The School’s first VR Simulator consisted of a large computer screen, virtual-reality eyewear and a hand-held simulator to guide students through various safety scenarios in a mine environment. In 1999, a flat-screen ‘proof of concept’ was deployed and subsequent funding was provided by industry through the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP).This concept was further refined and successfully installed across the NSW Mines Rescue training facilities.

The VR Simulator, referred to as AVIE, was developed by Professor Jeffrey Shaw’s iCinema team at UNSW’s Interactive Cinema Research Centre. The School of Mining Engineering immediately saw the potential in AVIE, and deployed it for student use and industry training. Industry interest in AVIE soon led to the development of additional modules over the following years, simulating a range of different mining scenarios that could be safely explored within this controlled environment.

The benefit of VR for students

Seher: We actively use VR in our teaching in the School of Mining. Working with both AVIE and the iDome results in a high-impact, immersive learning experience for all who enter the VR Suite. But possibly most exciting for us is the potential for our students to go beyond the textbook and the lecture hall, to safely experience unforgettable lessons first hand – creating a memorable foundation for a rewarding career.

VR is providing our students with an imagination to go beyond what a traditional classroom provides. It is an exciting experience and we have seen the new technology really motivates students as well.

Alex: ViMINE is a tool for mining engineering students to experience various aspects of a mining operation working together, integrating several types of simulation into one environment.

It is an amazing tool and the Mining School has developed a number of different learning modules around it. For example, hazard awareness. Mines can be a dangerous place and research has shown that a lot of accidents in mines occur around inexperienced people.

Hazard awareness is quite easy to look at in a PowerPoint slide or on paper. But if you can actually walk around in VR and identity the hazards yourself without physically putting yourself in that hazardous situation, it is a massive bonus to use students. Eventually, we will be sent out into the field and will have to identify these hazards ourselves on the job.

Another example is we can use VR to do a pre-start check for a truck. Mining equipment is worth millions of dollars, so using VR we are able to walk around, check the truck, jump inside it and drive it around is very beneficial. We get to experience what it like to be there in person and what it feels like to drive a hundred ton truck.

It’s great for the students and also for the university because it promotes a unique learning experience. VR also communicates big data in a way that is easy to understand. In engineering, there is a lot of big data and sometimes it’s quite hard to process on a spreadsheet.

Through VR, students are able to get the spatial awareness and physically see what seismic activity is, how it affects a mine and also how to deal with it. There is big data visualisation and training that comes with that.

When it comes to VR, the limits are endless. If you can dream it you can make it. If you can’t dream it, you can’t make it. This is a great thing to say to mining students because VR is providing them with a way to apply their VR experiences to the learning process.

If you’re interested in reading more, download the full article here


For more information about the 7th Annual New Generation Learning Space Design Summit 2018, download the brochure here or visit

6 strategies Australian Universities are using to design and develop collaborative and flexible learning spaces

Over the last decade learning spaces have evolved from traditional lecture style classrooms to technology-enabled environments that promote collaborative learning.

But no matter what stage you are at, designing and developing learning spaces is an ever evolving journey – and one that never stops.

As new technologies continue to emerge (think Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in more recent times), the way that students learn and engage is going to continue to change.

In order to keep up, universities must constantly look for new and innovative ways of teaching and focus on how to design environments that are flexible enough to accommodate and create a dynamic, flexible, technology-rich and collaborative style of learning.

With this in mind, we take a look at six key strategies universities across Australia are using to design and develop flexible and collaborative learning spaces to enhance the learning experience and improve learning outcomes.

Ahead of the7th Annual Learning Space Design Summit 2018, Macquarie University, Charles Sturt University and the University of Adelaide share insight into the top strategies needed to design and roll-out learning spaces that support 21st century learning.

  1. Involve students in the design process

“One thing that is really important when it comes to learning space design, is to start with a blank sheet. Start by asking your students: what is missing? What could we do to make your learning experience better?

Some of the information we gleaned from this processes was the frustration they had with current things we were providing. Our aim was to keep the slate clean, so students could provide ideas that nobody had ever thought about.

This was important, because we wanted students to feel free to talk to our student ambassadors about their ideas an concerns, which they might not have been comfortable to discuss with management or architects.

During the process, we also had a lot of communication with students via social media. We also ran workshops where we paid students to come and brainstorm ideas. It was a genuine process – not just a form of feedback, but an actual co-creation processes where we started from nothing and together we worked with the student to figure out what would work better.”

Pascale Quester, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Academic), University of Adelaide

2. Promote collaborative engagement

“At Macquarie University we’re moving into agile and responsive spaces that are based on the needs of learners. This creates the opportunity for collaborative engagement not only amongst students, but also for the educators working with them. Encouraging collaboration allows for project-based learning to occur in an authentic space.

For example, instead of having rows of desk and the knowledge standing at the front of a classroom, spaces are being adapted to promote collaborative engagement and in response to the needs of the learner rather than the teacher.

The learning space is changing as we move away from large theatres and lecture rooms to designing  rooms and spaces focused around facilitating collaboration.”

Professor Iain Hay, Director Professional, Learning and Engagement, Macquarie University

To read the remaining tips from Macquarie University, The University of Adelaide and Charles Sturt University download the full eBook here 


For more information about the 7th Annual New Generation Learning Space Design Summit 2018 check out the agenda here or visit