Level 5, building 3 is ground zero for a revolution, of sorts. Here, Head of Learning Design Susan Cornish is leading a team that is changing postgraduate by coursework education at UTS. It’s all part of the postgraduate.futures (PG.f) initiative developed by Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) Peter Scott.
“Postgraduate.futures is one more step in our learning.futures journey,” explains Cornish. “The university has spent a lot of time creating a ‘sticky campus’ that facilitates collaboration and face-to-face learning. Now we’re focusing attention on digital technologies to ensure we’re making the best use of online too.
“Postgraduate students, in particular, need a much more flexible learning experience,” she adds. “One that’s digital and can support them when they need to be on campus and even when they’re not.”
Subjects on Canvas will be broken down into modules – logical sequences that are directly linked to the learning outcomes and graduate attributes.
This month, the strategic rollout of PG.f celebrates its first major milestone – the launch of 10 postgraduate subjects in Canvas, an online learning management system (LMS) that has been specially selected for the pilot project.
Senior Systems Analyst, and technical lead on the pilot, Stuart Ryan says, “One of the reasons we’re using Canvas rather than Blackboard, the LMS behind UTSOnline, is because it facilitates a much better fit to the needs of a busy, part-time postgrad. It’s a modern, open source web application that was built, from the ground up, by students for students.”
But, “The real power of this project is having the learning design team,” affirms Ryan. “We're not opting to migrate content, we're doing high-touch re-imagining of the postgraduate student experience and that's letting us really put some amazing things together.”
Cornish says, “Canvas will be hosting a range of engaging, new interactive elements to match the students’ face-to-face learning. Things like live interviews, interactive video, online collaborative spaces, plus we’ve developed a new way of organising subjects.”
Rather than the more traditional weekly lecture/tutorial format, subjects on Canvas will be broken down into modules – logical sequences that are directly linked to the learning outcomes and graduate attributes. It’s a move that will enable more face-to-face interaction when it’s needed and less when it isn’t.
The platform also offers a range of other exciting features including 24/7 technical support, a full-featured mobile app, a calendar that collates and stores the due dates of all assignments and tasks set by lecturers, mobile alerts to remind students of due dates or to let them know when there’s something new to do, and, for academics, real-time data on student usage and engagement.
Moving forward, says Cornish, “We’re creating a public-facing page so potential postgraduate students, or anyone else who’s interested, can see what we offer, have a go and experience what it’s like to study at UTS.”
But don’t fret if you’re not part of the PG.f rollout just yet. Cornish and her team are working with the faculties on a pipeline of postgraduate subjects to be rolled out on Canvas in this year’s Spring and Summer sessions, in 2018 and beyond.
And academics can obtain advice on how to innovate in their (Canvas or Blackboard) subjects at any time through the learning technologists and academic developers in UTS’s Institute for Interactive Media and Learning.
To find out more about PG.f, speak with your faculty’s Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) or visit futures.uts.edu.au/postgraduate