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Words by Sally Holt
A radical new approach to learning is a cornerstone in Deakin’s new strategic agenda.
When Deakin opened its doors to students in 1977, one of its primary goals was to pioneer new ways of teaching and learning.
With regional campuses and the delivery of high-quality, off-campus programs, it soon carved out a reputation as a flagship university for distance education and higher education access.
Thirty-five years on, the world of communication and education is a changed – and changing – landscape.
We now work and connect in ways that would not have been imaginable in the 1970s. We even use terminology that didn’t exist a decade ago: online shopping (‘etail‘), online banking, mobile television, radio and video-conferencing, blogging, Facebook and Twitter. It’s a rapidly-evolving, expanding lexicon.
While Deakin has been at the forefront in delivering accessible education for decades, the University’s new strategic plan – with its goal to ‘drive the digital frontier’ – will ensure it continues to play a leading role on the higher education stage.
Professor Beverley Oliver, Deakin’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning Futures), says digital development is rapidly changing many facets of 21st century life.
‘We are seeing changes in retail, media, communication and of course, education. And around the world, higher education is changing very rapidly: we have new technologies and channels, and now some of the most prestigious universities in the world are delivering their course materials online for free in MOOCs (Massively Online Open Courses). That is the digital frontier. So we need to look at how we use the latest technologies to make the learning experience more effective, more engaging and maintain Deakin’s high quality,’ she explains.
While Deakin has always used excellent technology in its teaching and learning, there’s a continual quest for improvement.
‘Deakin is doing very well but we want to push the boundaries. We need to be constantly rethinking how the new technology can help us effect better learning and engage students so they are ready for the professions and for citizenship in our communities,’ says Prof. Oliver.
She says the e-communications revolution means that many of us now seek out learning opportunities that are ‘just in time, just for me and on my sofa’ – and that’s where some of the important aspects of education need to be.
‘Of course not all of a high-quality university education can be done that way, but the “information-giving” part of education – which is very important – often can be,’ she says.
This year, work has begun on preparing Deakin programs for premium cloud and located learning.
Cloud learning signals Deakin’s continued move to a 24/7, media-rich, interactive digital environment where students connect with staff, mentors, peers and potential employers. It also allows the student to create personal achievements and participate in tasks that are professionally-targeted and recognised.
In close alliance with cloud learning is located learning, which is held on campuses, in learning centres and in industry settings. It offers students the opportunity for rich interpersonal engagement and interaction.
‘For our students it means that when they are invited to learn ”on location” it will be for something they can’t do in the cloud. It will be hands-on, up close and personal, and very active and engaging,’ says Prof. Oliver.
Currently, the newly-formed Deakin Learning Futures team is working with all Deakin faculties on course enhancement.
‘Right now we are working on at least 12 high-demand courses … the teaching staff are the professional experts so they’re leading this process, but we’re working with them to make sure their courses are effective, efficient and engaging – and that they’re cloud-ready,’ explains Prof. Oliver.
Enhancing programs for cloud learning will be an evolving, ongoing process she says.
‘We won’t wake up tomorrow and it’s done but we are very clearly making the move to premium-level cloud and located learning. It’s exciting to be working with dedicated and enthusiastic teaching teams in the faculties who are ready to explore, take risks, try new forms of assessment and work with engaging new technologies.’
But it’s the student learning experience that Prof. Oliver has in her sights and she is keen to ensure it prepares students for the jobs and skills of the future – a future we can only begin to imagine.
‘We talk about students being engaged in learning but what we would like them to be, in the most positive sense of the word, is enthralled.’
Find out more about Deakin Learning Futures.
|Professor Beverley Oliver
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning Futures)
‘Deakin is doing very well but we want to push the boundaries. We need to be constantly rethinking how the new technology can help us effect better learning and engage students so they are ready for the professions and for citizenship in our communities.’