Engaging Students through new interactive and adaptive online learning experiences at Charles Sturt University

In an age where technological change is moving at an exponential pace, online learning has taken front and centre stage in the Higher Education sector as a key way  to improve learner engagement and outcomes.

And as improvements in digital capabilities continue to evolve, universities must move beyond the traditional method of online education purely based for content provision, to a comprehensive engagement-oriented ecosystem for learning.

At Charles Sturt University, this is becoming a reality through the u!magine innovation unit’s Online Learning Model (OLM). The OLM consists of 7 elements and makes use of online technologies to engage all stakeholders holistically to ensure a connected learning experience.

Ahead of the 2nd Annual Online and eLearning Summit 2017, we caught up with Julie Lindsay, Quality Learning and Teaching Leader (Online) at Charles Sturt University, to find out the strategies being used across Charles Sturt to design and develop online learning in order to improve the student experience and maximise learner engagement.

The vision: developing an engaging online learning environment

“Our Online Learning strategy at Charles Sturt University is based around the need to provide an engaging online environment. Our focus is on engagement and interaction and this is at the centre of everything we’re doing.

We’re particularly focused on continuing to make the shift from being a distance education provider to being an online learning provider and a champion in online learning.

Online learning has a number of different learning elements and over the past year we have developed an OLM to increase student engagement, address some of the recent attrition issues we have experienced and provide more enhanced subjects and courses.

Our OLM has seven elements, which include:

  • Learning communities,
  • Interaction between students,
  • Teacher presence,
  • Interaction with professions,
  • Flexible and adaptive learning,
  • Interactive Resources, and;
  • E-assessment

Each of the seven elements of the OLM are designed to increase one or more types of engagement and combined together in varying degrees of intensity within the subjects making up a course. We are working on implementing these seven elements into subjects and courses.”

Creating flexible and adaptive learning through online platforms

 “We are using a number of strategies to facilitate flexible learning online. We’re looking at different subjects and discussing the different elements of each subject with academics. For example, asking what are the learning outcomes? What do the academics want to see happen in their subject? Based on the feedback from these questions we can then build the types of environments and courses to facilitate these needs and outcomes.

One of the main elements we focus on all the time is establishing and fostering learning communities. This involves interactions between students and teachers and looking at how we can help teachers establish an online presence and identity, right through to being a fluent online practioner and understand emerging technologies that support online learning.

Creating flexible learning for students involves a lot of conversations with academics around the appropriateness of different online learning elements for a particular subject. It is not a one-size-fits-all. It is a flexible model which can adapt in terms of the needs of students.”

Keeping learning personalised through multi-media tools

“Our Learning Management System (LMS) Blackboard has certain limitations when it comes to creating a personalised student experience. So we’re working within the LMS, but we’re also going beyond it.

We’re scaling up the look and feel of our Blackboard interface by  improving the design and presentation of our modules and working on a new discussion forum design and management within this tool.

We also have WordPress implementation happening across the University. It is called ThinkSpace and many subjects are now picking this up and using it as a blogging and journaling tool for students. This is also a tool that works in a professional context because students can export and take information away from this platform to their own WordPress website at the end of the course.

We’re also using a number of other Web 2.0 tools to provide interaction, collaboration, sharing and digital scholarships. These involve things like Twitter, Padlet, Ego, Flipgrid and VoiceThread. We are aligning these tools with the need for visibility in online learning. Tools like Flipgrid, VoiceThread and Padlet provide students with opportunities to easily post multi-media and share who they are, what they think and what resources they want to share.

It is also important to note that all these platforms can be password protected. While I tend to encourage students to make things as visible as possible, we still provide students with a choice. Some students prefer not to have work visible, so it is all part of digital censorship and digital fluency.”

Enabling students to shape their own online learning experience

“This is a big conversation in the University at the moment. Some students are telling us they just want to get the content, do the assessments, get the degree and leave when it comes to learning. Whereas other students are telling us they want to be collaborative, interact with peers and co-construct knowledge in an active, vibrant learning community.

We’re currently in a transition period where we are giving students choices to shape the type of learning experience they want. It is also important to provide opportunities for students to work with small groups. Some of our subjects have 500 students in them which can be very alienating. We’re trying to work our how we break down our learning community in smaller groups.

Some areas we are considering are: what is the best learning community size? How do we create communities within a community? How can we foster good interaction between students? This is where the understanding of the teacher presence to manage additional online tools and discussion tools is very important.”

The challenge: educating academics about the value of online learning

“Apart from the traditional student who simply wants to read a book and write an essay, the main challenge we’re facing is academics not understanding the importance of change to accommodate online learning models.

If they have not had the experience of connected and collaborative learning themselves, it is difficult for them to understand the value. The work we’re doing is to trying to affect this shift in academia as much as we can, because it is a big challenge.

To achieve this, we’re providing ongoing support and there is a program that we have to bring subjects into the OLM. We’re running professional learning and we’re scaling up certain courses across the university and taking both a course-wide and subject-wide approach to online learning.”

Interested in learning more?

Join Julie and the 2nd Annual Online and eLearning Summit 2017 where she will further explore:

  • How u!magine is supporting interactive, flexible and adaptive learning for its students
  • Leveraging multimedia tools such as Blogs, Twitter and VoiceThread to build an engaging content learning community
  • Integrating the 7 OLM elements into subjects and across courses to improve the education experience
  • Overcoming pedagogical challenges involved with content development, teacher presence and online learning modes

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

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Creating an agile and responsive service culture for improved student experience at CQUniversity

Significant forces of change are reshaping the higher education sector across Australia. Funding limitations, the rise of digital and evolving student demands has seen student services transformation become a key way for universities to meet these challenges head on.

For Central Queensland University (CQUniversity), the transformation of their student services function has been crucial to not only improving student experience, but also driving efficiency across the organisation.

With 26 delivery sites across five states in Australia, CQUniversity’s end goal is to provide personable, flexible and effective support services for over 35,000 students.

For the past three years the university has also been focusing on how to ensure a centralised provision of services and accessible specialist support located across various campuses.

But the journey has not been without its challenges. With support service models across universities normally weighed down by hierarchy, inefficiency and a culture that resists change; CQUniversity has worked hard to create an environment that supports transformation and rolled out new platforms to engage students.

Ahead of Student Services Transformation 2017, Chris Veraa, Director of Student Experience at CQUniversity, shares insight into the steps his team has taken to establish a streamlined professional services structure that meets varying student demands across multiple campuses and the lessons learned from their transformation journey to date.

The vision: centralising student services to improve the overall student experience

“Our transformation journey began in 2014 when we began re-amalgamating the private arm of our university, merging with a formerly government-run TAFE provider and expanding the number of campuses within our existing footprint and also in other parts of the country.

There was a triple-down growth from a logistical perspective and as part of this journey it was important to ensure that our student services functions were responsive to student needs in the midst of these changes.

As part of bringing these different arms together, we had three very different cultures coming together under one umbrella: the university, the private arm of the university and the TAFE. With these three different cultures came three different approaches to student experience and ways of doing business. So the main goal during the initial stage was to unify the wider team into a streamlined and consistent function on a national basis. Our aim was to take the best out of each of the former cultures and create something new that all staff could really get behind.

During the merger, I had a very strong philosophy that the services provided to each student – whether they were a TAFE student, a university student or a research student – would be the same. To achieve this we had to do a stocktake of what services were offered across our newly amalgamated workforce and plug the gaps to ensure all staff were able to be responsive to all students.”

Rolling-out a multi-channel strategy to provide accessible and flexible services

“As part of our services transformation we employed a multi-channel strategy to ensure we could engage with students everywhere. We have campuses in five states and by the same token, about 50 per cent of our students are studying by distance or online. This means we need to be responsive at a campus level, but we also need to have centralised communication channels that students can access from anywhere around the country.

Our multi-channel strategy includes front-of-house staff at student welcome centres at each of our campuses. Students can utilise these services for enrolment or admission enquiries, or they can use those staff as a triage for other services.

Secondary to that, we also have a contact centre which operates at one of our sites but is basically a phone and email enquiry service for students in all parts of the country and even more globally.

We also have a student communications team which deals with inbound and outbound communication and engagement. This function is tailored strictly to the needs of students and ensures that students are aware of all the information they need. This team also receives enquiries via email and social media and is responsible for our student-facing social media presence as well.

In addition to the mainstream social media channels, we also have a university-specific social media channel called UCROO. We adopted this platform early on and we have found really great traction because it is only available to students and staff, so all the discussion platforms directly related to university. It also means we can replicate the on-campus experience for students who don’t study on-campus. It also provides a platform for on-campus and off-campus students to interact with each other and share useful information.

We’re also trying to continually improve how we manage enquiries and provide student services. We are exploring things like live chat where we can talk to multiple students directly. We also have a strong provision of online video conference platforms to provide student assistance to those that might not be on-campus, which seem to work well in the majority of cases.”

Bringing stakeholders together to ensure effective transformation

“During any transformation, it is important to put yourself into the shoes of your internal stakeholders and understand what is driving them. For example, for me, I am driven by improving services for students and ensuring a great customer experience. But this may not be the same driver for other stakeholders. It is good to take on their perspective and understand what they want to achieve out of a situation so you have some ammunition in terms of how you best can work together.

If you can take on the other stakeholder’s perspective and also try to give them insight into your perspective you can find middle ground and it is easy to understand how you can influence each other’s KPIs.”

Overcoming challenges along the way

“The transition to running a dual-sector university student services department, compared to a strictly higher education-focused department was a challenge. There are clear administrative differences between the TAFE sector and the higher education sector which we have had to overcome. We have also had to rapidly multi-skill staff who may have come from a strictly TAFE background or a university background.

We put all staff in the mix together and they have had to learn each other’s skill-sets quite rapidly in order to carry out the requirements of a diverse student services portfolio.

Another challenge, which is more relevant to the VET sector, is the provision of government subsidies to students. There has been a range of bureaucratic processes imposed upon providers which have made processes in some ways slower and less efficient. While there is not much we can do about these changes, we have found new ways of accommodating it to make other processes more efficient.

An ongoing challenge has also been student perception versus reality. Students come into university with expectations of what it is going to be like, which does involve expectations around customer service. Students do hold universities to the same customer services standards that they would a bank or retail outlet. They don’t necessarily understand what has to happen behind the scenes to enroll students or process ID cards etc.

It is not our job to tell them how hard it is, it is our job to ensure the process is as efficient as possible and ensure they have a relatively seamless experience. Increasingly students also understand they have a lot of choice and options when it comes to universities.  As a result, we have to understand that the way things have always occurred within universities may not be matching the expectations of the millennial consumer. We have to try and meet in the middle to ensure we are providing a level of service that is on par with the service they would receive anywhere else.”

If you’re interested in learning more, you can join Chris at the Student Services Transformation Summit taking place in 2 weeks time at the Bayview Eden in Melbourne. 

For more information Download the Brochure here or call +61 9229 1000 or email enquire@iqpc.com.au

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Online Learning at Monash University

Ahead of the 2nd Annual Online and eLearning Summit 2017, we caught up with Kris Ryan, Academic Director at Monash University to find out about the core elements of Monash’s approach to online learning and how they are designing online learning programs that are engaging and create a personalised student experience.

Watch the video below to learn more about:

  • A brief overview of Monash University’s approach to online learning
  • Tools to monitor student progress and enagement in online learning
  • Using multi-media feedback to create a personalised learning experience for students
  • Challenges associated with using analytics to scale the development of online learning and how to overcome them

The 2nd Annual Online & E-Learning 2017 Summit held 20-21 June 2017, Sydney will explore leading digital learning initiatives employed by both education and corporate sectors in detail, providing practical solutions for Enhancing Learner Experience and Engagement with Digital and Mobile Technologies.

For more information download the brochure here or visit http://onlineandelearning.iqpc.com.au

How the University of Technology Sydney is piloting analytics to equip learners for the future of work

Simon Buckingham Shum is Professor of Learning Informatics at the University of Technology Sydney, where he is the Director of the Connected Intelligence Centre (CIC).

Ahead of Learning Analytics 2017, we caught up with Simon to find out the vision behind UTS’ Connected Intelligence Centre (CIC) and how analytics is being used to equip students for lifelong learning.

Can you give a brief overview of UTS’ approach to learning analytics – what are the core elements?

In terms of learning analytics, the Connected Intelligence Centre (CIC: http://utscic.edu.au) is an innovation centre focusing on tools specifically to advance the UTS teaching and learning strategy. That strategy has created collaborative learning spaces, emphasised teaching Creative Intelligence, and introduced flipped learning. This all needs to come together if we’re to better prepare students for a turbulent society and massive complexity.

All the thinking on the future of work points to the need for graduates to display qualities such as outstanding interpersonal skills, thinking across disciplinary boundaries, innovation capability when presented with a client’s problem, critical reflective thinking, teamwork, ability to handle ambiguity, personal resilience, strong sense of personal agency… this list is pretty familiar to anyone involved in the future of work — and universities for that matter!

So where does analytics come in?

Well, since that’s our university strategy, the analytics question goes something like this: How can data science help equip students for lifelong learning? In particular, how can we provide personalised feedback on such attributes, and at scale? And that’s really the reason that CIC’s quite different from, and complementary to, our Business Intelligence and LMS teams. We’re an innovation centre of academics, PhD students and a professional services team, with our sights trained on UTS challenges. The academics bring a mix of learning science, data science, and tool design.

They can talk pedagogy with the learning designers, assessment with academics, and code and data with our IT Division. I don’t hire anyone without the skills to work across departmental boundaries to forge effective partnerships. This gives us the expertise to develop, pilot, and evaluate novel analytics approaches focused on UTS Graduate Attributes. Browse our website and you’ll find us talking about Collaboration Analytics (for instance, generating heatmaps and timeline visualisations to help nursing teams reflect on their performance when treating simulated patients), Writing Analytics (aiming for 24/7 formative feedback to students on their draft writing), and Dispositional Analytics (a tool that helps students see for the first time how they approach challenge and complexity).

Those examples are at the sharp end of the innovation spectrum. Added to that are technically less complex tools working with more conventional data. So for instance, like many universities, UTS information systems contain data inaccessible to the right people, in the right form, at the right time. Academics have been asking for better insight into who their new students are going to be. We’ve been working in close collaboration with academics and the BI team to create a dashboard that shows educators key aspects of the cohort building up to the new semester. Another example is a tool to filter and visualise student subject pathways dating back 40 years, enabling us to explore it for significant patterns.

Dispositional Analytics: Personalised feedback on your resilience and agency

What types of organisational conditions are needed to enable the creation and operation of the CIC?

It’s fair to say that Learning Analytics is really very well aligned with the university’s strategic priorities. The strong senior leadership backing really creates the right culture for us to innovate. UTS sees data and analytics as central to its future, and that covers teaching and learning, research and administrative operations. CIC launched in 2014, following a strategic consultation across the institution starting in 2011 that prepared the ground. CIC sits in the portfolio of the DVC (Education & Students), and from there we work in partnership with academics in the faculties, the student
support teams, IT and business units. So organisationally, we are well positioned to move with agility, and I can liaise with other directors to ‘get stuff done’.

Interested in learning more? 

Read the remainder of the article with Simon here

Join Simon at Learning Analytics 2017 where he will further explore how UTS is innovating analytics for institutional impact and future pedagogy, including:

  • Organisational conditions enabling CIC’s creation and operation
  • Ethical Design Critique workshops for rapid feedback on analytics dashboards
  • From data dashboards, to analytics for 21st Century Competencies

For more information visit http://learning-analytics.iqpc.com.au or call +61 2 9229 1000 or email enquire@iqpc.com.au

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