In Support of Excellence

It's all about the students

If you exercise these capabilities … you will be employed!

Prof Geoff Scott from UWSI was suffering from a bad virus and struggling to stay focused at day two of the University Learning & Teaching Festival in Nov 2012, I was not expecting what happened next. Professor Geoff Scott was introduced as a keynote presenter. He is very interesting to listen to and his presentation was engaging. However it was the last slide and how he described it that became my major “Ah Aha!” of the conference. In the days following I kept returning to this slide’s content and it’s implications. I couldn’t resist contacting Geoff who was happy to talk to me over SKYPE and our dialogue became this episode.

Geoff is Executive Director of Sustainability at UWS and I asked him what is meant by Sustainability in Higher Education …. his answer could lead to more than one more episode. He describes Educational Sustainability as having four pillars that of Social, Cultural, Economic and Environmental which interact with the four functions of a university, research, teaching, engagement and operations.

I wanted Geoff to elaborate on his last slide of his keynote titled
Turnaround Leadership for Sustainability in HE – top 15 capabilities in rank order (n = 188)” They were:

  1. Having energy, passion and enthusiasm for EfS
  2. Being willing to give credit to others
  3. Empathising & working productively with diversity
  4. Being transparent and honest in dealings with others
  5. Thinking laterally and creatively
  6. Being true to one’s values and ethics
  7. Listening to different points of view before coming to a decision
  8. Understanding personal strengths & limitations
  9. Time management skills
  10. Persevering
  11. Learning from errors
  12. Learning from experience
  13. Remaining calm when under pressure
  14. Being able to make effective presentations to different groups
  15. Identifying from a mass of information the core issue/opportunity

These were dentified from an International project being run around the world from effective practitioners. Geoff has been doing this research for 20 years. They started with skill olympians in 1992 then looked at many different disciplines then university leaders. He describes how all disciplines have a similar top 15 capabilities. Geoff’s Slide presentation from the Festival is available here for download.

We talk about what is of the heart and what is of the head. Geoff talks about Emotional intelligence or personal and interpersonal capabilities and how they always rate up in the top 15 sometimes they are 10 of the 15. There are cognitive ones in there but not the ones usually mentioned on university websites as graduate attributes. He talks about outcomes and standards.  Geoff then identifies the most important pedagogical approaches for teachers to adopt to address the development of these capabilities in graduates.

1. Real world problem based learning centred around challenges identified by graduates who have gone before and have identified what is most important. This is based on research of 1.2 million students no less

2. Going on practicum, if at all possible, and have someone as supervisor who knows what the top 15 capabilities are for that discipline and the practicum uses these capabilities as criteria for success.

As he talked I was almost stuck for words …. that’s unusual :-) Here research is showing the most wanted graduate capabilities needed by communities and even countries as vital for sustainability … so what are we doing about it? The question that keeps running around my head is how can a university and even closer to home, how can I as a learning designer map these capabilities back into the courses and design activities and assessments to develop these in the graduates? How can we enrich and strengthen problem based learning and widen the scope and possibilities of the practicum real or virtual?

I believe one of the most strategic pedagogical approaches or tools that will gain in importance in the next 5 to 10 years is that of Scenario based Learning or Simulations. The software for these learning objects has come of age and now it is much easier to develop engaging real life based virtual scenarios using branching to allow the students to learn by mistakes – i.e. when things go wrong. This episode with Geoff has confirmed my intent to go to the USA to up-skill in simulation development using powerful simulation software called Simwriter.

Please listen to the podcast episode and join in the conversation. Ask yourself if you are a teacher: “How can I help my students develop these capabilities?” Would simulations help, what else would work?

Podcast Episode:

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Motivation and Retention Online … “Bonknam Style”!

This short podcast episode is the second with Curt Bonk when he was visiting Adelaide in November 2012.  I asked what was the next contribution to online learning and teaching we could expect from him.  Curt describes the new online resource and book he an a colleague in NZ are about to release. It is about how teachers can improve motivation and retention in online courses.

Curt and Elaine Khoo of the university of Waikato in NZ have developed  the “TEC-VARIETY” model or the 10 principles of motivation. This mnemonic stands for:

  • Tone/Climate: Psych Safety, Comfort, Belonging
  • Encouragement: Feedback, Responsive, Supports
  • Curiosity: Surprise, Intrigue, Unknowns
  • Variety: Novelty, Fun, Fantasy
  • Autonomy: Choice, Flexibility, Opportunities
  • Relevance: Meaningful, Authentic, Interesting
  • Interactive: Collaborative, Team-Based, Community
  • Engagement: Effort, Involvement, Investment
  • Tension: Challenge, Dissonance, Controversy
  • Yielding Products: Goal Driven, Success, Ownership

Each of the principles has a chapter with 10 activities in each.  This will be a very practical tool for teachers to develop their online facilitation in these areas.

This “Bonk Book” is almost finished and it will be available free to people online.  We go on to talk about how a teacher can use this resource.  It is not a book of theory but practical ideas for teachers facilitating technology enhanced learning and teaching to use. Please listen to the podcast and see the potential.

Sample Chapters available for download.

Podcast Episode:

The embedded Youtube video below is a synchronous session in his MOOC described in the previous podcast episode. It is a 1 hour session where Curt describes the TEC-VARIETY model in more depth. It is worth a watch.

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There’s good MOOCs and there’s, well … good teaching makes the difference!

Photo of Allan Carrington and Curt Bonk ... the MOOC shotProf Curt Bonk is in high demand around the world as a keynote speaker and someone who can shake up the status quo and engage academics and encourage them to seek excellence in practice.    During November 2012 he was invited to Adelaide to be a keynote speaker at the annual Festival of Learning and Teaching. Curt took time out to do this podcast episode with Allan about MOOCs  In this episode Curt explains why MOOCs suddenly have got the entire Higher Education Sector talking.  He shares from the lessons he has learnt from his first MOOC in May of 2012, His introduction to “Instructional Ideas & Technology Tools for Online Success is the YouTube Video embedded below.  As only Curt can, he has developed 20 teacher and facilitator guidelines that make a good MOOC and in this episode he expands many of these concepts

Teaching and Facilitating Guidelines

1. Plan and prepare 11. Combine sync and async instruction
2. Market the course especially to friends 12. Arrive early for sync session
3. Offer multiple types of contact info 13. Allocate ample Q&A time during sync session
4. Get help/assistance 14 Share resources
5. Designate feedback providers and tasks 15 Personalize where possible
6. Offer ample feedback from week one 16. Use polling questions
7. Use peer, machine, volunteer and self-assessment 17. Check chat window for comments and questions
8. Gather geographic data 18. Reflect after each session (e.g. Top 3 activities in chat window)
9. Use a warm and friendly tone 19, Offer weekly recaps and updates
10. Form groups and social supports 20 Be willing to change midstream


We go on to discuss how can a passionate teacher who wants to do a MOOC to get started, to not only use the university resources to reach even further with open arms (that’s the idea of the arms in the photos) Curt explains the importance of Open Teaching and the benefits of all involved including the teacher/facilitators.

Please spend time listening to the episode and then there are so many more resources on Curt’s websites “” and his Indiana University homepage “Curt Bonk’s e-learning World“. Bookmark these and browse often for a wealth of ideas and resources. As well here are the slide resources from the talks Curt refers to at the University of NSW and Macquarie University about MOOCs.

Podcast Episode:

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Course design … it’s flipping different!

In the previous episode of our podcast, Linda’s final challenge of “How does technology enhance learning?” set off a chain reaction in thinking.  It went something like this:  OK what are we trying to enhance?  We are talking about learning  within the framework of an experience or course. What sort of course? We are calling it a “21st century technology enhanced learning course”.  Now this course could be completely online with remote cohort or completely face-to-face or a mixture of both.  Then the question I (Allan) get asked most over the last 10 years came to mind, “How do I build an online course, how do I use technology in my teaching?”  This led to the development of a new presentation I have called “A Flipping Better Way to Learn”.  The presentation we hope will help answer these questions.

In today’s episode we start with curriculum design and as we unpack the process which we think you will agree …. is flipping different.  Different in that we start at the end and reengineer backwards from the articulated description of the graduate through the process of transformation.  The traditional place to start with a course is the body of knowledge. Sometimes via a textbook and sometimes via the gathered knowledge and experience of the teacher.  In this episode we suggest that is the wrong place to start to design a course.

Allan Carrington and Linda WestphalenWe unpack a five step process beginning with Graduate attributes …. what do we want our graduate to look like, be like, behave like, and think like. Next comes the learning outcomes of the course  what do we want to achieve from this learning experience to help the graduate to look like our exemplar.  Next we must ask ourselves, how do we know they (the graduates of this course) fit this description … so third out of the gate is assessment.  We talk about why it needs to authentic and what does that mean.

Number four on the list is the “doing stuff” … the learning activities.  This is to prepare the student so they are ready for the assessments and so they can get the most out of them. That’s the formative part.  Now this brings us to point number five …. the content.

Some may think this is strange that content is last – but it is all about context.  When the first four pillars are in place content then is fitted in where and when it is needed and the teacher has control of his/her “anupholsteraphobia” To understand that you will have to look at the presentation at 6.04 mins  :-)

“A Flipping Better Way to Learn” is the launch pad for a lot more.  From many of the individual slides you can dig down to workshops or complete seminars.  We will be doing more podcast episodes to help build better Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) courses.  Please use the comments on this blog to join in the conversation.

Allan and Linda

Podcast Episode:

Online Resources of interest:

  • Seminar Handout for “A Flipping Better Way to Learn” a 19 page pdf with note taking space and three slides to view
  • An Online Slideshow of “A Flipping Better Way to Learn” This slide takes longer download but user can advance slides at will. Please note there is no audio narration included, the slideshow is designed to be used during a seminar.
  • Graduate Attributes – Spin or Education? A podcast episode recorded with Simon Walker from the University of Greenwich in the UK. Simon talks about the University of Greenwich Graduate Attributes long term initiative which started in 2009 to develop academic skills and framework and to push this into a pedagogical framework.  A great deal of research and a couple of years later the university believes their graduates are about good scholarship and independent thinking they are about confident and distinctive students always learning and always developing with creativity at it’s core.
  • What Does a Xxxxxx Graduate Look Like?    This episode preceded my trip to the USA looking at transformative education The students should be included in developing graduate attributes.

Slideshow: A Flipping Better Way to Learn


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National Citations for Passion … It doesn’t get much better than that!

Linda and Allan photoOn behalf of the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) I am pleased to advise that your nomination for a 2012 Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning has been successful” that opening line of an email made my week .. actually it made my last 10 years.  I grabbed the mobile and called a good friend and colleague “Did you get it?” …. pause  “Yeees! did you?”  “Yep!” was the best I could reply in the excitement.  I was talking to Linda Westphalen from the School of Education here at the University of Adelaide.  We had just found out both of us had been successful in winning a National Citation or award, that is the top of the Learning and Teaching heap for the Higher Education space in Australia.  Only 152 of these prestigious citations are granted across 38 universities and Adelaide has been granted two and we did it.  Besides the kudos which is big, it comes with a A$10,000 prize for professional development … that is also nice.

Linda’s citation reads: “For vibrant and compassionate approaches to teaching and learning, which inspire students’ enthusiasm and passion for the profession of teaching.” While my citation reads: “For sustained commitment to inspiring, challenging and mentoring academics to teach with activity-centric pedagogies and the latest learning technologies, to enrich the student experience.”

This podcast episode is the first in a series of conversations together to discuss the teachable moments we both have had while reading each others citation applications.  We have links below to download our application documents and I encourage you to read them, as they are roadmaps on our journeys and full of personal “ah ahas”.  We never saw each others application before submission, yet the overlaps were significant. In the podcast Linda refers to them as bookends of the same thing – I agree.  The title hopefully got your attention, for to achieve best practice a teacher must be passionate about their content and their craft.  However as Linda shares in this podcast  a good teacher must also have a passionate care for their students as well.

We introduce the question “Can passion be taught and can we actually build PD resources and training to teach a teacher to be more passionate about their practice?”  The jury is still out on this, so please chime in with your comments below we would love to have your opinions.

Linda introduces in her application, an intriguing concept called “the chain of care” and talks more about it in the podcast.  She explains how Nel Noddings developed the thinking on this and there are some great resources linked below.  Could she be right? The starting point is easy to understand but the end point she claims is “never”. The chain of care continues after the students move on.  Boy that could have radical implications if implemented? Any thoughts? Another proposal is that university leadership should recognise caring in teachers.

We also begin to unpack this great extract from Linda’s application:  “Piaget and Vygotsky argue that people learn by experiencing knowledge at fundamentally emotional and cognitive levels:  they don’t learn because a lecturer prattles.  Enthusiasm, care and passion are essential for all teachers, whether in a university or in a school, since this makes the student experience (in the lecture theatre and in the cranium) enjoyable and satisfying.  Student experience is considered an imperative in universities these days.  Unless university teachers care, this imperative is nothing more that fluffy rhetoric.  More importantly, this pedagogy ensures that students learn actively and retain knowledge.”  The best student experience at a university must include caring teachers, skilled in best practice methods. get it out of balance and it is fluffy logic … hmm!

There is a great deal of information online about Piaget and Vygotsky, but we had to include this YouTube video as a clear explanation of their theories. Also this video is an example of the way creative use of media can in-fact enrich the teaching … “Piaget and Vygotsky in 90 seconds”  is characteristic of how video is being used by today’s students … mixing up information from different sources  and creating mashed up content some with excellent results.

Linda’s final challenge is on how technology might enrich the teaching experience and gives us the lead in question for the next episode. Please listen to the conversation and we value your input.

Let’s continue the conversation

Podcast Episode:

Online Resources of interest:

The final Youtube video is an example of the learning style of the future.  The author says “I couldn’t find anything on youtube to use in my presentation , so decided to try my hand at making my own”   Here is the mashup result …. it’s good.

Nel Noddings on Caring

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