'Learning for Life', the 3rd ACU Learning and Teaching Conference, was held at Stamford Plaza Sydney Airport, Mascot, NSW, on 11 July 2014, and attended by 220 participants from ACU and stakeholder partners.
The conference theme was chosen by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (students, learning and teaching) in association with the director, learning and teaching centre, to promote and celebrate teaching, considering in particular ACU’s strong commitment to the teaching roles of our academics, and also highlighting the release of the University’s learning and teaching plan for the next four years (also titled ‘Learning for Life’).
Staff were invited in March 2014 to submit proposals for sessions they would like to present during the second half of the conference. The session proposals, which were peer-reviewed by teaching leaders and LTC academic developers, examined aspects of the conference theme under three streams:
Participants travelled from each of the campuses to meet at the airport hotel on the evening of 10 July and in the morning of 11 July.
The evening before the conference, ACU executives with key responsibilities for teaching and student learning met with the conference keynote speakers and others for a master class in the institutional implications and opportunities for online learning, led by Dr Larry Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of the New Media Consortium. The small group discussed how to use the new ACU learning and teaching plan in leading educational change in their faculties, and examined its provisions in more detail. The masterclass and dinner discussions were captured in graphic notes by Gavin Blake from Fever Picture: Gavin also worked during the full day conference to summarise and scribe the plenary presentations and discussions.
Graphic notetaking: Masterclass
After a welcome to country conducted by the Director of the Centre for Indigenous Education and Research, Ms Jane Ceolin, and the University Prayer, led by Associate Professor Robyn Horner, the sponsor of the conference, Professor Anne Cummins, welcomed the participants.
Professor Cummins, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students, Learning and Teaching), invited us to celebrate education as something for heart, mind and hand, and to consider the responsibility of the University to empower the people who come into our community to create a humane, just and loving world.
Video: Welcome to the Conference
The Learning and Teaching Framework 2014-17, Learning for Life, was then officially launched by the Provost, Professor Pauline Nugent. (The Framework was further examined in a plenary session later in the day, where Dr Larry Johnson and Professor Ashford-Rowe encouraged participants to own and promote the learning and teaching plan, and participants raised issues for clarification and suggestions for implementation.)
Framework page: Learning and Teaching Framework 2014-17
The two keynotes provided strongly contrasting views of the field of education and online learning.
Starting from the viewpoint of the Horizon Project, which his organisation produces, Dr Larry Johnson drew on his personal history to explore and comment on emerging trends and issues in education.
Dr Panos Vlachopoulos, Senior Lecturer in Higher Education Development, Learning and Teaching Centre, Macquarie University, provided the second keynote: ‘Creating learning opportunities beyond spatial and temporal barriers’. In this keynote, he explored how learning outcomes can be translated into learning designs that are fit for purpose, by considering online space and time as “conceived” and “perceived”, and by aiming to change just one thing to improve a unit in each iteration.
Dr Larry Johnson, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, New Media Consortium
Dr Larry Johnson serves as Chief Executive Officer of the New Media Consortium, an international not-for-profit consortium dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and new technologies. Its hundreds of member institutions constitute an elite list of the most highly regarded universities, museums, and research centres in the world. The NMC’s dozen year exploration of technology use in education, the Horizon Project, informs strategic technology planning for educational institutions in more than 175 countries. As the project’s founder, Johnson works with visionaries and thought leaders from across the globe to define new ways of thinking about technology, and explore emerging trends and issues.
Dr Panos Vlachopoulos, Senior Lecturer in Higher Education Development, Learning and Teaching Centre, Macquarie University
Dr Panos Vlachopoulos is Senior Lecturer in Higher Education Development at the Learning and Teaching Centre at Macquarie University. He studied Philosophy and Pedagogy at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Greece, followed by an M.Ed in E-learning from the University of Manchester and a PhD in Education (Online Pedagogy) from the University of Aberdeen. His areas of expertise include online tutoring, the facilitation of student-driven learning, and the development of academic staff capabilities for teaching online. He has international experience of online learning design, teaching and research in technology-enhanced learning from diverse educational contexts such as universities in the UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Greece.
As part of the Learning and Teaching Centre’s service lead in building capacity for the scholarship of teaching, Graduate Certificate in Higher Education (GCHE) graduates and participants showcased their research projects throughout the day.
The workshops and presentations during the afternoon session of the program were a valued part of the conference according to participant evaluations. Staff were encouraged and inspired both by being introduced to new ideas and by having their existing teaching practice affirmed and enhanced.
A number of the sessions focussed on fundamentals: first year engagement, embedding English language proficiency development, course design, and universal design for learning, and these workshops and presentations were appreciated by a wide range of participants.
Others challenged staff to experiment further in enhancing their teaching with online tools, with presenters demonstrating how they drew on a variety of online applications to spark interest, build a learning community, and prepare students for professional practice. Staff reported a strong intention to using some of these ideas in their practice, and developing innovative resources. The presenters were drawn both from academic and professional staff, and the partnerships between these groups were evident in the projects they reported on, and in the presentation of the sessions.
Participants reported that they intended to develop stronger networks across the university, to extend these partners and better support student learning and teaching. Overall, the conference evaluations were positive, with many suggestions for areas to cover in the next conference. To quote one evaluation response, “Keep them coming!”
To conclude the conference, a plenary session was conducted to discuss and develop aspects of the Learning and Teaching Framework that had been launched in the morning. The workshop facilitators were Dr Larry Johnson and Dr Kevin Ashford-Rowe.
Included in this plenary was a preview of the student mobile app.
Video: Launch of mobile student app