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