Designing collaborative learning spaces that support digital at Massey University

There is no doubt learning is changing. New technologies – such as interactive whiteboards, mobile and high quality digital learning resources – are transforming the experiences and ambitions of learners.

In response to the evolving digital environment, the last decade has seen institutions across the New Zealand higher education sector creating and designing innovative spaces that support flexible teaching and learning, in a bid to improve learning outcomes, enhance digital literacy and optimize the student experience.

With the Ministry of Education recently reporting that approximately 90 per cent of New Zealand’s educational institutions are currently exploring the direct correlation between space and technology, it appears many universities are already realizing the benefits new learning styles, supported by good space design, can provide.

For Massey University, the concept of ‘new generation learning’ is not new. The University has for over fifty years been New Zealand’s leading distance provider of higher education and has kept pace with innovation, shifting from traditional learning modes through to a sophisticated digital platform. Since 2008, the University has been actively future-proofing its buildings to better engage students, staff and visitors through the use of innovative space design, along with technologically enabled pedagogies.

And while the journey so far has not been without challenges, the transition to new innovative learning spaces has been very popular among students from all academic disciplines, with an impressive 90 per cent satisfaction rate.

Ahead of New Generation Learning New Zealand 2016, we caught up with Professor Giselle Byrnes, Assistant Vice-Chancellor Research, Academic and Enterprise at Massey University, to find out how the University is creating learning environments that inspire and engage students, the tools they are using to align space with digital technology and the results that have been realized in terms of learning outcomes and student engagement.

Taking a multi-disciplinary approach to revamping learning environments

“Over the past eight years, Massey has rolled-out a number of flexible learning environments, transitioning from large fixed seating to large flat floor collaborative spaces. We have transformed spaces that incorporate traditional learning environments to incorporate new elements of design, like tiered seating, where appropriate, and movable furniture. These kinds of spaces allow for more collaborative learning and more facilitated engagement to occur.”

“We have taken a multi-disciplinary approach to revamping our environment, particularly in the business school and veterinary science teaching spaces. Our focus here has been on the delivery type rather than what a specific discipline needs. We’re trying to be flexible in our approach to cater for different learning types. For example, in the business discipline there is more emphasis on dialogue, analysis and group work than there is typically in veterinary science and other laboratory-based subjects. It’s important to factor these requirements in during the design phase, both in terms of learning space and curriculum planning.

All of our large entry level programs also adopt a collaborative form of teaching, through the use of problem based learning, which as a format lends itself to the need to have co-working, collaborative spaces. We’re trying to accommodate on-campus dialogue amongst groups of students in the teaching space design, as well as providing digital spaces for collaboration to occur among our large cohort of online students.

Because we are a large online provider, we consider it vital to facilitate online collaboration through our learning management system so that every Massey University student – whether studying on campus, online or in a blended mode – has an equivalent learning experience.”

Aligning space with digital technology

“Every one of our refurbishments or new builds in terms incorporates digital learning in the space design.

For example, we have collaborative software tools that have been included in the design, so that any device can log onto the software app that is available in the space and project onto the screens in the room. These screens can be on all walls, not just one wall, which allows for students to bring their own devices and use the resources for self-directed learning.

As a multi-campus institution, we also have a need for our classes to work in conjunction with each other. For example, a cohort of students from one location will need to connect with a cohort of students from another. So we need the software solutions to allow that to happen and Adobe Connect is the main tool we are using to achieve this collaboration.

We also have a video link teaching project we are investing in, at both our Manawatu (Palmerston North) and Auckland (Albany) campuses. The rooms in these two campuses are identical – the students are in a virtual classroom and communicate completely as if they are in the same room. This is innovative and there has been strong support for this kind of teaching, both from the students and the teachers.

Our rich media project is another area where we are continuing to invest. Over the last two years we have invested considerably in installing lecture capture software and hardware across all of our campuses. This has given us the ability to allow students to engage either in real-time out of the classroom or participate in personalised viewing options through Stream (our online learning system or LMS). This has allowed students to connect with the lecture in real-time or post-lecture and has very positive impacts for both distance learners and our on-campus students.”

Transforming the roles between students and staff: moving away from institutional to constructional learning

“The most graphic example of constructional learning is the conversion of old fashioned spaces – such as immovable tables and chairs in a tiered lecture theatre  – to flat floor spaces. These new spaces provide much more flexibility as they allow greater emphasis on dialogue around collaborative and cooperative learning. This also means there is less emphasis on the lecturer as the disseminator of information and more emphasis on the teacher being the facilitator and curator of learning.

Many of our lecturers are also engaging with flipped classroom principles. For example, the lecture or the tutorial (or the ‘lectorial’ as these modes of teaching and engagement blend into one another) is a space where the teacher and students come together to interrogate ideas, primarily on the basis that the students have been, with guidance from their teacher, accessing the content outside of the formal lecture class. Content is still delivered during class, but there is greater emphasis on the analysis, interpretation and critique of the work during the contact class time.

There has also been a shift where the lecturer is no longer the didactic teacher, or ‘sage on the stage’ and has become more of a facilitator and coordinator of learning – more of a ‘guide on the side’. In fact, the best teachers we have at Massey University describe their role as being ‘partners with the students on their learning journey.’

The spaces at Massey University reflect this pedagogical shift and we are also using technology to facilitate this shift. Technology has enabled a much more disruptive structure of a lecture – for example, if you have screens on every wall you can pull up online clips easily and you might have the ability to connect with students in another location. It’s much more interactive and engaging than the traditional 50 minute lecture.”

Ensuring staff are on board with new teaching and learning styles

“It is important to provide staff with sufficient support and development when rolling out new learning technology and designing spaces to support engaged learning. We have done this by having a strong academic development program to ensure staff feel supported. This program is also presented as part of their professional development and engagement.

We very much value teaching at Massey University, given that (along with research) it is one of the core types of work undertaken by our research-active academics. We reflect these values in our promotions policy and the ways in which staff are recognized and rewarded for their teaching quality and innovation, as well as providing supportive academic development.

For example, we run courses from the centre of the university around teaching development and design and are always looking for good ways to push our new ideas around best practice and peer-to-peer. It is important to ensure staff feel that innovative and new ways of teaching are supported by the University.

The new approach to learning can also be potentially a little threatening to the traditional role of the lecturer and the professional identity of the university academic, but the academic still has a very important role in the process: to guide, advise and co-construct the learning experience. In essence, there will always be a role for the teacher, but new learning spaces and technology makes learning more of a mutual discovery process.”

Interested in learning more?

Join Giselle at New Generation Learning New Zealand 2016, where she will further explore Massey’s success and the following:

  • How can we create learning environments that serve to inspire and engage our students and staff? 
  • The move from “instructional” teaching to “constructional” teaching, and how has this changed teacher and student roles 
  • Why do we need to align space design with digital technology? 
  • The innovative design and refresh of programs within an LMS and virtual learning environment 
  • Tailoring spaces and technology to suit teachers and their preferred pedagogies 
  • Providing adequate professional development and realigning pedagogical practice to optimize learning and teaching

For more information download the brochure here

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How ANU is digitising administrative processes to drive efficiency

Over the past two years, The Australian National University (ANU) has introduced a range of improvement initiatives designed enhance administrative services to better support teaching and research outcomes.

In 2014, ANU began their transformation journey with the roll-out of automated and standardised travel processes across the university. From there, digitalisation of processes became a core focus of their transformation project, and in 2015 Intelledox Digital Transformation Centre was established to improve efficiency and service delivery by digitising processes across functions.

“We started with a list of about 170 key end-to-end processes that were identified by our academics and our administrative communities as being high pain-point processes. Over the last 20 months we have digitised over 22 per cent of those processes,” says Lakshmi West, Director, Intelledox Digital Transformation Centre at ANU.

While the journey to date has not been without challenges, ANU is set to realise some big wins over the next couple years as a direct result of standardisation of processes and improved data quality and reporting.

“In July 2016 we had an independent audit done by a third party management audit team over a six month period to find out what the net benefits of digital transformation can be. The result is we achieve over $6.1 million of net benefit over the next seven years for the work we have done to date,” says Lakshmi.

So what strategies are Lakshmi and her team using to ensure successful process improvement throughout the university? And, more importantly, what steps are they taking to engage academics and stakeholders in the journey to ensure ROI?

Ahead of Higher Education Services Transformation 2016, Lakshmi shares how ANU built the business case for transformation, the core tools they are using to roll-out digital process improvements function by function and the key lessons other universities can learn from their journey to date.

Proof of concept: justifying the case for transformation

“ANU’s transformation journey began in 2014 when we were given a donation from two alumni who own a company called Intelledox, which provided us with software and perpetual licensing that allows data integration.

To prove that the technology and transformation would work at the University, in 2014 I project managed a small team of people to digitise, streamline and automate the travel approval process across the University. At the time, we had over 10 independent paper based forms and there was no standardised process.

We used Intelledox to roll-out digital transformation of travel approval and it was a major transformation –  not only  did we streamline and simplify the process, we  also standardised it. We also integrated this process within the Finance system, the HR system, DFAT, Electronic Records Management and the data warehouse.

This initial project changed practices. For example, administrators used to make travel arrangements on behalf of academics. We made the strategic decision that academics were to become responsible for their own travel, so the administrator was removed from the process.

The automated travel process was a proof of concept to demonstrate we could successfully digitally transform a process at the University. The aim was to show the academic community and the ANU at large that by accepting the donation from Intelledox, transformation would actually work in practice and not only in theory.

We have had many failed IT business transformation projects at ANU in the past. Even travel had two failed attempts before we picked it up. It was therefore important we could show digital transformation could work to gain the trust of the university community.

Based on feedback and research from administrative services surveys, travel approval was the most bureaucratic  process and a big pain point for academics. Since the project went in 2014, we have had about 30,000 travel approvals that have been initiated through this new digitally transformed process.

Off the success of that project, we created the Intelledox Digital Transformation Centre in 2015 with the aim to digitalise approximately 170 key end-to-end processes that were identified as pain-points by our academics and administrative community.

It has been a rapid journey starting the Centre. We started with travel, but we have since expanded our scope. Our approach was to transform function by function. For example, transform HR and find out as much as we could in a six to nine month block of transforming their processes and rolling-out those c hanges. The next step was then moving into the student space and making changes in a six to nine month block as well.”

Read the remaining case study here to further learn about how ANU is:

  • Rolling-out digital process improvements function by function
  • Engaging academics and end-users to ensure successful transformation
  • Learning from past mistakes to drive successful organisational-wide transformation

Download Case Study

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If you found this blog post interesting, you might also like to check out the Higher Education Services Transformation Agenda here

For more information visit www.highered-servicestransformation.com.au or call +61 2 9229 1000 or email enquire@iqpc.com.au

9 strategies universities can use to boost international student numbers

Insights from QUT, UWA, Monash, RMIT and TAFE Queensland International

For a long time now, international education has played a fundamental role in the economic viability of universities and TAFEs across Australia. What’s more, the $20 billion industry has also become key to Australia’s economy, society and global competitiveness, as well as its relationship with other countries.

While Australia has been making leaps and bounds in its ability to attract international students, it is facing stiff competition from a growing list of countries interested in boosting international enrolments.

This increased competition, coupled with increased global student mobility and internationalisation, means it has never been more important for higher education institutions across Australia to ensure they stay ahead of the latest marketing and recruitment techniques to remain competitive and relevant in a rapidly changing industry.

Ahead of International Student Recruitment and Marketing 2016, five of Australia’s top Higher Education institutions share insight into the key tools and strategies they are using to develop an effective international student recruitment and marketing strategy to stay ahead of the game.

Below, Queensland University of Technology (QUT),  Queensland TAFE International, University of Western Australia (UWA), Monash University and RMIT Vietnam, share 9 different steps universities and TAFEs can take to ensure they are successfully engaging students, and in turn, boosting international student numbers.

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  1. Establish a unique selling proposition (USP)

Kent Anderson, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Community and Engagement), University of Western Australia (UWA)

“International education is global and competitive; therefore you have to have focus and a USP. It is important to specifically know and understand what you want to sell and what is unique about your product that is different to another one.

Think about your USP country by country. For example, what is going to make a student want to study in Hokkaido Japan, versus Osaka in Japan? If you think about it in an external way and then use that process to apply internally, it will become easier to identify your USP and from there tailor your campaign.”

  1. Understand what drives your students

Martin Lock, Manager – International Sales & Recruitment, TAFE Queensland International

“Capturing student insights is a big focus of our international student recruitment strategy. We are doing this by understanding some of the key things students are interested in when it comes to study.

Some of these include the portability of education, the employment outcomes, connections to different industries and the practicality of their study.

TAFE Queensland is industry and outcome driven and to understand what our students want, we have undertaken case studies with various students, as well as looking at the different environments students are coming from. The influence from family, local industry, country needs and the influence of lifestyle are all included in our approach to how we recruit students. Our aim is to match the needs and demands of students.

We have discovered that a lot of international student needs and expectations are closely aligned with our domestic market. As a result, we are comparing our domestic and international markets and if there is a correlation between the two of them, we are applying our domestic marketing strategy to our international market as well.”

To read the remaining 7 steps universities can use to boost international student numbers, download the full article here

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Read the full article to learn more about how:

  • The University of Western Australia are establishing a unique sales proposition, becoming and remaining data informed, and expanding their market research
  • TAFE Queensland International is building a cohesive Australian brand by linking study to employment opportunities and also understanding what drives their students
  • Queensland University of Technology is leveraging marketing automation as well as mapping out the student life cycle
  • Monash University is engaging students through digital channels
  • RMIT University Vietnam are monitoring their international competition and branching out to new markets to attract new students

For more information visit www.intl-studentrecruitmentandmarketing.com.au or call +61 2 9229 1000