Creating active learning environments through campus masterplanning at the Saïd Business School

Against the backdrop of major changes in pedagogy, universities are re-visiting campus masterplans to assess the effectiveness of physical space and learning environments.

But aligning infrastructure re-designs or new-build projects with student learning outcomes can be a complex undertaking. How can universities work to advance the design of learning environments given campus limitations – be it financial or technological?

And how can learning environments facilitate changes in how educators deliver content and interact with students?

Ahead of Campus Development 2016, we spoke to Mat Davies MCIOB, Oxford Saïd Estate Director, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, who shared exclusive insight into how his team is establishing active learning environments by factoring in the end-to-end learning experience into the campus masterplan.



Mat Davies MCIOB Oxford Saïd Estate Director, Saïd Business School University of Oxford

At the Saïd Business School in Oxford, we face many challenges around campus masterplanning, due to the diverse nature of our program portfolio.

We also have a very diverse international student community, with circa 50 nationalities represented each year. The way in which we support these communities is very intense, managing every detail of their Oxford experience from arrival to departure, and increasingly beyond as they become lifelong members of our alumni community.

I’ve been a Director at the Business School for the last 15 years, and the pace of change has just been extraordinary compared to the ten years preceding that – largely led by the pace of development in the technology sector, and the opportunities which this has presented to us.

This development has enabled us to look far beyond the classroom. In both our new-build projects and our redevelopment projects, we have been concentrating not just on the classroom, but also on how we can harness the technological advances to accommodate the changes in learning behaviours outside the classroom in library, breakout, circulation and social spaces.

Only a few years ago small groups would book cellular study spaces, and order portable display equipment to work in groups of six or maybe eight people.

Now, students expect all areas to be technology enabled, giving them much greater choice about how they study, and when, and with whom. As a result, much of the collaborative activity which was tied to a small number of cellular ‘formal’ spaces, is happening much more naturally in social spaces, and even circulation spaces, sharing an ever increasing number of handheld devices with local screens.

These insights were provided by Mat Davies ahead of the upcoming Campus Development Summit in October. He goes on to explain how his team is establishing active learning environments by factoring in the end-to-end learning experience into the campus masterplan. Keep reading the full case study here.

If you’d like to know more about the Campus Development Summit, please download the brochure or visit to know more. 


How MOOCs are enabling exploration of credentials and assessment at University of Adelaide

For some time now, online learning has long been accepted as a tool for enrichment and exploration in higher education, and the emergence of online resources such as virtual discussion boards, wikis and course management systems has paved the way for MOOCs, ultimately changing the way students interact and engage when learning.

In recent years, universities around the world – including Australia – have been rolling out MOOC portfolios. Across the MOOC market, an estimated 35 million students have now enrolled in more than 4000 courses, with more than 500 university providers.

The growth of MOOC platform edX since 2012 to around 30 per cent market share shows just how much prominence and popularity open online learning has gained globally. With more than 90 international partners, edX is the leading non-profit MOOC platform, with members from all over the world – including Australian counterparts the University of Adelaide, the Australian National University (ANU) and the University of Queensland.

In 2014, Adelaide joined edX to form a flagship open digital learning initiative, AdelaideX, which is now providing learners with free access to the university’s expertise across a range of subjects, from computer coding and project management to music and wine-tasting.

“We’re excited to be making MOOCs, because it’s a way for us to enable huge numbers of learners to engage with the high-quality education that the University of Adelaide provides. And using digital channels combined with edX’s reach out to 8 million learners, we’re able to connect with learners in locations where it’s difficult to offer conventional face-to-face provision,” says Dr Katy McDevitt, who leads the AdelaideX initiative.

“Adelaide is a long way for a learner in Mumbai, Paris or Tokyo to travel and many people can’t afford to do so. Now we can enable learners to study with us from right where they are, with no geographical barrier.”

In its continuing journey to enhance student experience, Adelaide is exploring specific requirements related to assessment and credentials in the open learning space – particularly in the context of enabling open learners to build on their informal learning.

This is increasingly sought-after as MOOC learners seek new ways to demonstrate their work-readiness to employers, and Adelaide, like many universities, is exploring options to support learners who want to transition from informal MOOC study into formal education or the workplace.

How can universities implement credentials and conduct formative assessments that align with student learning outcomes? What steps can they take to build a comprehensive strategy to produce work-ready graduates?

Ahead of Innovation in Assessment & Credentials 2016, Dr McDevitt shares exclusive insight into how AdelaideX is enabling exploration of credentials and formative assessments in the open learning space.



Dr Katy McDevitt, Program Manager, AdelaideX, University of Adelaide

There’s a lot happening in the MOOC space, particularly the development of micro-credentials and credentialling partnerships between MOOC-active institutions.

At University of Adelaide, we’re carefully watching how this conversation unfolds among the edX university partner community – a conversation that has both been gaining momentum and raising some fascinating challenges for us, in the course of the year.

I’m interested in how that conversation is going mainly because it seems likely that future MOOC learners may soon come to consider access to a credit pathway out of their informal open study a ‘must have’.

Up to now, the vast majority of MOOC students have been content with what MOOCs offer as a self-contained (and free to study) learning activity, but my sense is that for a proportion of our open learners, this is changing. We’re exploring how to get ready for that, while also continuing to offer learners low-cost MOOC certificates via edX, as we do now.

Need for partnership in exploring future MOOC-based credentials

The first thing to acknowledge is that many – but by no means not all – MOOC learners are looking for credentials or certification. There is already a low-cost certificate which satisfies many – a verified certificate which students pay for up-front, and which is easy to share online and to employers once you pass.

But beyond this, some learners are looking for a way to transfer their learning into formal education or into career progressions.

On the education side of that, a movement towards credit transfer for MOOCs would – I think – depend on a strong shared understanding with other partners about the consistency, in terms of how much credit is applicable to what size and level of study; and which courses and programs align with which. Early days, but it looks possible.

This article is part of an insights series ahead of the Innovation in Assessment & Credentials Summit. Dr Katy McDevitt goes on to discsuss building partnerships to establish MOOC-based credentials & produce work-ready graduates; and factoring in work experience & attributes of MOOC learners to tailor credentials in line with their needs. You can continue reading the full article here.

If you’d like to know more about the Innovation in Assessment & Credentials Summit, download the brochure or visit 

Dr Katy McDevitt will be joined specialists from universities including Western Sydney University, Curtin University, Monash University, Edith Cowan University, Macquarie University, Swinburne University of Technology and more to discuss strategies on:

  • How to redesign curriculum and assessment to embed employability skills and produce work ready graduates
  • How to select the right method of assessment to align with your desired outcomes
  • How to enable students to build bespoke degress to become more work ready

An inside look at how Monash University’s blended learning transformation is improving student outcomes

In Australia, pedagogy changes have taken centre-stage as universities look to transform the student experience. By focusing on their learning outcomes, there’s an opportunity to ensure students reach their goals and enhance the reputation of their wider institutions as hubs of excellence.

But while advances in technology have enabled educators to blend the delivery channels of content and interactions for students, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach universities can take to ensure faculties maintain an effective and flexible blended learning environment.

Which poses the question: How can universities create a coordinated approach that consistently supports student learning outcomes?

At the last Blended Learning Summit, Professor Darrell Evans, Vice-Provost – Learning and Teaching at Monash University, discussed how a unique initiative was taken to place educational designers across the various faculties and work with educators to tailor blended learning methods in line with students’ needs.

“My job is to sell the story of what we want to achieve. We don’t want a ‘one size fits all’ solution, but a framework that allows for the best learning and teaching experience we can give our students. It’s an objective that bears in mind their needs across different courses,” he said.

Ahead of Blended Learning 2016, we take a look at how Monash University has established a long-term strategy through its Better Teaching, Better Learning Agenda, to help educators embrace a wider perspective on curriculum design, and align it with students’ needs to deliver the best possible learning environment.

This article features insights shared by Professor Darrell Evans, who explores how the Agenda addresses factors such as modes of teaching, resources needed to support student learning outcomes, and enhancing units of study to ensure they move towards a coordinated blended learning approach.


Professor Darrell Evans, Vice-Provost – Learning and Teaching, Monash University

Monash is a research-intensive, internationally focused university with many campuses and approximately 65,000 students. Scale is everything in this context – how can we support more than 6,000 educators to provide a blended learning experience for those students?

Not for a second can we allow staff to think that it’s technology for technology’s sake. Instead, it needs to be about the pedagogy behind the change we want to make and how technology can enable it in different ways.

We’ve created what’s called the Better Teaching, Better Learning Agenda, which is about challenging what we do and why we do it.

The Agenda falls into a series of focus areas, including:

  • Modes of teaching;
  • The educators;
  • The space we teach in;
  • How we assess our students;
  • What resources we put in place;
  • When we actually teach;
  • And what the overall content will be.

Our educators are being encouraged to think about their overall curriculum design and what they want their students to achieve at the end of that process. And once those areas are addressed, we examine what can be put in place to create the best possible learning and teaching environment for our students.

A big part of the Better Teaching, Better Learning Agenda is the pre-class activity space – will it be online or videos? Or will it be getting students together before sessions to drive an active learning approach within the overall in-class session?

And we can’t let it end there once these activities are rolled out. Part of our commitment in this Agenda is to assist them in a post-class sense – helping them practically apply some of the knowledge, skills and attributes they’ve acquired.

Obtaining stakeholder buy-in to roll out the Agenda

We secured senior management team buy-in very early in the process of establishing the Agenda. Then gradually, as we ironed out the various issues, a business case was developed that we presented to both senior management and the University Council.


Pharmacy class in session, courtesy of Prof Darrell Evans

This was important because it demonstrated to everyone on the ground that the senior management – including both the Vice Chancellor and the Provost – were very serious about the Agenda. All ten Deans were bought into it and the message cascaded through to the educators themselves.

This article is part of an insights series ahead of the Blended Learning Summit in October. Professor Darrell Evans goes on to discuss how stakeholder buy-in was obtained to roll out a coordinated blended learning approach and support student learning outcomes; as well as using existing resources efficiently to ensure students have excellent experiences in a blended learning environment. To continue reading his insights, please click here

At the upcoming Blended Learning Summit, Monash University will be joined by other leading institutions including the likes of University of NSW, University of Sydney, University of Queensland and more. They will discuss innovative tools and strategies on: 

  • Implementing innovative blended learning methods to improve student engagement and encourage continued learning
  • Promoting a culture of blended learning within the institute and effecting stakeholder mindset transformation
  • Improving communication between educators and technical staff to use resources more effectively

To know more about the Summit, please download the brochure or visit