Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2011

Summary of projects

Project title

Learning Segments: a blue print for re-imagining postgraduate coursework masters programs @ RMIT

Project leaders

  • Professor Barbara de la Harpe, Acting Pro Vice Chancellor, DSC
  • A/Professor Kym Fraser, Learning Segments Project Director, DSC College Office
  • Professor Colin Fudge, Pro Vice Chancellor & Vice President, DSC
  • Professor Ian Palmer, Pro Vice Chancellor & Vice President, BUS
  • Professor Peter Coloe, Pro Vice Chancellor & Vice President, SEH
  • Professor Julianne Reid, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor (L&T), SEH
  • Professor Val Clulow replaced Professor Kevin Adams, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor (L&T), BUS

Project team

  • Mr Edmund Horan, Program Director Masters of Sustainable Practice, SEH
  • Dr Ruwini Edirisinghe, Research Assistant for the Masters of Sustainable Practice, SEH
  • Mr Vass Karpathiou, Program Director Masters of Business (IT), BUS
  • Associate Professor Joan Richardson, Deputy Head (L&T), BUS
  • Ms Marilyn Chee, Research Assistant for the Masters of Business (IT)
  • Mr Vince Raso, Program Director Masters of Property, DSC
  • Mr Wejenra Reddy, Research Assistant for the Masters of Property, DSC
  • Ms Dallas Wingrove, Senior Advisor L&T, DSC
  • Dr Pat. Kelly, Educational Designer
  • Dr Alex Radloff, Higher Education External Advisor and Evaluator
  • Dr Regine Wagner, Work Based Learning External Expert
  • Dr Merilyn Childs, Work Based Learning External Expert

Project summary

The LTIF “Learning Segments Project” facilitated a review of the structure and curriculum design of selected masters coursework programs. The project was tasked with developing an innovative structure for RMIT masters coursework programs in order to widen access and participation for learners who are also working professionals.

The project used a participatory action learning methodology combining the strengths of collaborative learning in local contexts with strategic leadership. The project worked with three masters coursework programs, one from each College; M. of Business (IT) (Business), M. of Property (DSC), and M. of Sustainable Practice (SEH). The project team reviewed relevant literature including the AQF, interviewed students and employers of our graduates, reviewed innovations in Australian and overseas masters coursework programs, and reviewed Australian and overseas programs in discipline areas that were the same as or similar to the three programs in the project.

From this work, two models were developed and further refined through an extensive consultation process with senior managers, central groups, program directors, and deputy heads (T&L). Model 1 can be implemented under current RMIT policies, processes and systems and Model 2 requires policy, process and system change. The two models are designed to:

  • improve student engagement with their discipline;
  • connect programs to their industry and professional organisations;
  • develop global perspectives and experiences ;
  • enhance program use of the urban environment; and
  • comply with AQF, TEQSA and RMIT requirements.

Each of the models has been mapped against RMIT masters coursework programs as proof of concept of the models. A discussion paper has been developed for Policy and Programs Committee recommending adoption of the Blueprint in the RMIT Program Development and Approvals Process.

Outcomes of the project include: a Blueprint, designed to be used by program teams to develop contemporary masters coursework programs that are distinctive and more attractive to working professionals; proof of concept examples for each of the two models; engagement with industry partners; enhanced staff knowledge of and experience in responding to and adapting curriculum for masters by coursework programs; improved knowledge of the learning and financial requirements of different learning and teaching models for masters by coursework programs; deeper knowledge of local and disciplinary specific enablers and barriers to the two models; and an online site that showcases the resources produced throughout the project. Four papers are under development and will be submitted to peer review journals for publication.

As a result of the project, a partnership of RMIT University, the Australian Catholic University and Open Universities Australia has been forged, culminating in the submission of an Office of Learning and Teaching grant application in August 2012.

Below is a list of the resources developed through the project.

Models

Literature

Masters programs

Other resources

Outcomes

In line with the outcomes originally proposed, the project successfully delivered the following outcomes:

  1. A Blueprint for the adaptation of RMIT coursework masters programs for working professionals. The Blueprint details two model options aimed at widening access and participation for learners who wish to undertake a masters program and are currently in the workforce (see Appendix H). A discussion paper has been developed for Policy and Programs Committee recommending adoption of the Blueprint in the RMIT Program Development and Approvals Process. The paper was informed by feedback from over 20 consultation meetings across the University about the proposed Blueprint and its adoption across Schools (see section 4).
  2. Proof of concepts for the adaptation of three masters coursework programs (one from each College) in line with the model(s) detailed in the Blueprint were developed. Proof of concept for Model 1 SEH Masters of Sustainable Practice is included in Appendix A2. Proof of concept for Model 2 SEH Masters of Sustainable Practice, DSC Masters of Property and Business Masters of Business (IT) are included in Appendices B1, B2 and B3. In addition to this outcome, a fourth program, the new DSC Masters of Urban Design, has been developed and mapped against Model 1, see Appendix A1. This program will be approved though Policy and Programs Committee for implementation in 2013.
  3. Deeper engagement and collaboration with, as well as feedback from, industry partners through interviews with 8 employers and 2 professional/industry bodies as follows: six employers and one professional body from the Masters of Business (IT) program, one employer and one professional body from the Masters of Property program, and one employer from the Masters of Sustainable Practice program. In addition to this outcome, the project also interviewed 34 enrolled students and graduates about their experiences, expectations and ideas for future looking curriculum designs (see Appendix C for themes arising from the interviews).
  4. Enhanced staff knowledge of and experience in responding to and adapting curriculum for masters by coursework programs aimed at working professionals through the ongoing involvement over the year-long project of 3 programs (one from each College). In addition, significant cross institutional and cross disciplinary learning regarding the design and development of contemporary curricula was facilitated through conversations at the more than 35 project dissemination and model consultation meetings conducted throughout the project. In addition to this outcome, the project also developed:
    • Principles for the design of contemporary RMIT coursework masters programs (see Appendix D);
    • Principles for student learning (see Appendix E);
    • Guidelines for staff and students for the development of learning contracts;
    • Descriptors of integrative assessments for staff to use to assist students to integrate and apply knowledge and skills learned across the program.
    • Summaries from the literature on Australian coursework masters programs, work based learning, bite sized learning, graduate capabilities development in Australian university programs, and employer perspectives on graduate capabilities;
    • Summaries from Business (IT), Property, and Sustainable Practice about masters coursework research;
    • Summary of themes derived from interviews with RMIT students and employers;
    • Summary of ‘innovative’ practices in Business (IT), Property, Sustainable Practice coursework programs in Australia and overseas programs; and
    • Summary of innovative practices in Australian and Overseas coursework Masters Programs.
  1. Improved knowledge of the learning and financial requirements of a different learning and teaching models for masters by course work programs, including pedagogy and space considerations. The project distilled program design and student learning principles that underpinned the design of the Models detailed in the Blueprint (see Appendix A). The financial implications for developing masters coursework programs based on the models include providing expert support for program teams and costs associated with enrolling students into more and short credit bearing courses. Potential savings of the models included the use of online delivery of courses and the use of online AQF skill courses across all coursework masters programs.
  2. Deeper knowledge of local and disciplinary specific enablers and barriers was gained and implications for the implementation of future learning and teaching models at RMIT were identified. The most significant enablers and barriers to curriculum change are detailed in section 3.1 and a guide to implementing organisational change is detailed in Appendix F.
  3. An online site that showcases the project and documents the resources developed is available at DSC Learning and Teaching – program development and amendment.
  4. Four scholarship of learning and teaching (SOTL) papers are underway for submission to peer reviewed journals. In addition to this outcome, an Office of Learning and Teaching grant application was submitted to the 2012 August round. The application proposes to develop 10 online student modules that address the AQF level 9 skill requirements for masters coursework programs. Organisations included as collaborators in the application are the Australian Qualifications Framework Council, the Business Higher Education Round Table, the Council of Australian Directors of Academic Development, the Victorian Employment Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Universities of: Adelaide, Curtin; Flinders; Griffith; Southern Cross; South Australia and Tasmania.

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