Will universities rise or fall with reform?

Underneath the surface, we’re seeing a radical shift central to the strategic direction of a university.

Sure, we know the government is going to pay less and the students will pay more, but has the full scale of change been grasped yet? I think not.

I recently caught up with one person in the thick of it; Stephen Weller, Chief Operating Officer & Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Corporate) at the Australian Catholic University. He explained:

“Universities are not yet ready for the whole issue of price competition. If the market is deregulated on price, it’s going to fundamentally change how we work, and I don’t know if we have that expertise yet.

“As a result of a competitive market, universities are much clearer about value proposition, marketing, experience, the use of technology etc, but there’s a lot of work around monetising which we’re yet to do.”

Preparing for the unknown

The change is driven from government paying less, which will be a deficit made up by the student; an area Stephen warns is not currently front of mind:

“From a university perspective, we’ll get the same amount of money, because we’ll pass the cost on. Many students aren’t asking what it’s going to look like in 2016. There’s more concern around HECS.

“We know the price for 2015, because the government’s only changing from 2016, but if you’re a student commencing next year and the government’s changes come through, you’ve only got certainty for year one of a three-year degree.

“When people start to pay more, they will expect more. There’s clearly an issue of expectation management. It’s an area where the sector has significantly improved over the last four years, because it’s moved into a competitive environment. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Increasing expectations

Students have previously based their decisions around questions like: ‘What brand am I getting?’ More recently, they’ve asked: ‘What experience am I getting?’

Change will see the concept of: ‘What price am I paying?’ If the demand-driven system is also extended to private providers, it’s really going to put the emphasis on value.

Another value factor to battle is recruitment ratings. University was effectively a guarantee to get the right job. Declining graduate employment rates (despite many coming from additional macro factors) will put the spotlight on guarantees on return.

“The student experience has come in line with the way learning is delivered, but there’s still a strong desire for the university experience. The focus will be on the end result, looking at how many students got placed in a job after leaving each university. Students will be able to benchmark campus for campus and be much savvier in that regard.

“There’s huge potential for a positive change from all this, making ourselves more nimble and responsive in the same way other industries do. We can really thrive,” Stephen explains.

Becoming a more commercial entity

Terms like commercial entity, ROI and managerialism haven’t been top of the list in terms or describing a university, but Stephen confirmed its language that’ll start to be widely used:

“Universities are either incredibly bureaucratic or incredibly resilient. My view is they’re both. They can be slow to move; they’re traditional institutions. But they don’t have to be. We responded to amalgamations and demand, and as a result our university has grown from 12,000 to 30,000 students.

“The key is going to be to understand cost. What does a Bachelor of Business cost? At the moment we don’t have to work out what it costs, because the price is fixed.

“That whole notion of how you bundle price and meet expectation; that’s new to the sector in Higher Ed. It’s also new to the consumer. The key message I would say is: you have to be student-centric. You can’t just say it. Put the student at the centre of your business and ask yourself: what is the student’s return on investment? What are they going to get that makes us a better proposition than another university?”

Published ahead of Higher Education Revenue Models 2014

Universities missing a trick for generating revenue

Universities have always had a complex mission around the mix of what they do; from teaching through to research and community engagement. We’re now seeing a new type of demand – that of economic development.

For the Group of Eight and other Universities there’s going to be a growing focus on strengthening collaboration with business and contributing to productivity in the economy. International links also look set to contribute more significantly.

To gain a little more insight on where the potential lies both now and in the future, ahead of his presentation at Higher Education Funding,  I caught up with Robert Chalmers, Managing Director at Adelaide Research and Innovation Pty Ltd, Chair of Knowledge Commercialisation Australasia Inc and Commercial Directors Convenor, Group of Eight.

What do you anticipate to be new funding streams on the horizon?

There is an increasing focus on accessing philanthropic funding streams within universities and we’ve seen a number of major fund raising campaigns launch recently. A number of others are now going through that same process.

Philanthropic funding will be more significant in the future. If you compare Australia to the US, we’re well behind the level of contribution of philanthropy to the funding mix that you might see in the US – I’ve no doubt that will be a big focus.

In response to reductions in funding from government, particularly from a Federal level, there is definitely a lift in interest accessing alternative funding from the private sector. Either from business, industry or venture, or from high net worth individuals.

On the outer edge of new funding streams, something that may not provide a major contribution initially, but will be part of the mix as we go forward, is crowd sourced funding.

Crowd sourcing has an impact beyond just the funding model in validating the promoted concept and improving engagement, but you certainly see the potential of that with things like Kickstarter, the use of Pozible by Deakin and so on. It’s still early days, small start, but into the future, it will be part of a hybrid of different funding streams universities will be juggling.

Do you see any common opportunities missed that could be generating revenue?

When we look at the broader issue of connection and value creation – rather than immediate revenue – the alumni connections are crying out for better engagement. I speak to a lot of people about these issues; all of us recognise that’s an area where universities are not harnessing the connections they build with their students, adequately, after their time with the institution – especially in the context of their commercial interactions.

What obstacles need to be overcome to release the potential for generating commercial interest?

I’d highlight three: awareness of existing successful stories of engagement and impact, awareness of the pathways to engagement, and the focus on areas of need.

Often, universities focus their marketing efforts around the teaching and learning part of the agenda; the students. We’re not so good at marketing the benefits of our research engagement, for our partners, our clients, and the broader community. We’ll talk to research quality and our research eminence, but we’re not systematically focused on talking to the end output or impact of that research and the impact of innovation on productivity.

As a result, people are not aware of what’s out there right now, and what’s making a difference; so they have less appetite to engage. We’re now working to target stories of impact in a digestible format to the person in the street.

We need to concentrate on identifying needs in the community, and bring those back into Universities, so that we can see how we can hook research capacity up to that need and produce a result.

What’s the current focus at Adelaide? Where are you targeting your efforts?

The promotional effort is a very important one for us as a sector, to engage better.

At Adelaide, we’re also looking at our international partnerships, especially the more promising ones, in areas like the US and China. International connections are one of the fastest growing areas of engagement and income. However, we still suffer from tyranny of distance, and there may be some cultural competencies that people need to develop a bit better to engage in the region.

We’ve also done a lot more joint networking sessions with industry associations – to try to bring researchers together with those needs in the industry. The aim is to reach out and understand what the needs are, and then connect capability to them.

11 ways the University of Melbourne is blazing a trail for Campus Development

There is a lot to be excited about with the University of Melbourne’s new building known as the Melbourne School of Design.

On the surface alone, the building boasts a 6 Star Green Star Education Design rating. It’s the first building to ever be awarded all 10 innovation points under Green Star, including the recently added credits for life cycle assessment.

The 6 Star Rating represents ‘World Leadership’ in environmentally sustainable building practices. Only 12 buildings in Australia have received a 6 Star Green Star Education Design – v1 rating – the ABP building is the largest to achieve this.

I wanted to take a look under the bonnet of this impressive building, and recently caught up with Project Director Anne Thompson, who explored the key features paving the way for future global campus development:

Built Pedagogy:

  • The building provided an opportunity to express a commitment to built pedagogy, both in terms of design as well as through the construction process. The University has embraced the opportunity to engage with the students during the construction process. Project consultants John Wardle Architects have given lecture series to share the design process; Brookfield Multiplex builders have also delivered a regular construction lecture series.
  • Every fortnight we provided site tours for students and staff and a viewing platform was installed during the demolition phase for the Faculty to hold tutorials overlooking the site.
  • Three time lapse cameras positioned around the site have provided an amazing tool for lecturing, the project team and to capture this one off opportunity. This has been supplemented by actual construction drawings for students.
  • Focusing on sharing how we’re designing and building the new MSD Building has been an extremely rewarding endeavor, which means our students and staff are familiar with the building before they even move in. There is a general buzz of excitement in the Faculty hallways discussing the latest concrete pour and progress.

Campus Integration and Stakeholder relationships:

  • The team at FABP made a substantial commitment to market intelligence. Anne, the builders and even the Dean have frequently contributed to a public blog. It’s updated every few weeks and keeps people informed of progress.
  • The building program is four months ahead of schedule; quite a feat considering development took 18 months in total. The extra time is planned to be spent on specialist heritage reconstruction of the Japanese Room into a specially designed envelope, as well as commissioning and relocation of University staff. Classes start in earnest next year.
  • To match the flexible spaces in the building, the outdoor spaces have full Wi-Fi accessibility allowing tutorials to be delivered outside. This engagement with the campus is planned and driving mobility and collaboration across campus.
  • Beyond teaching, the Faculty is very active within the architecture community and the City of Melbourne; it will be a great space for exhibitions, displays and events, with spaces designed to be changed and tailored as needed.

World Leadership rating with 6 star Green Star achievements:

  • As part of the development, a few trees needed to be removed. The trees were salvaged, dried out and will be used as part of the planned Woodwork studios run by the Faculty, where students will use the timber for the new building. These memories and reuse of the old building materials are gentle reminders of the history of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning.
  • The building has a host of other features that helped achieve the 6 star rating including; mixed mode heating and cooling, double-glazing, glare reduction, rainwater collection, water recycling, low-energy light fittings, low-water sanitary fittings, levels of natural light, fresh air, bike storage facilities and showers.
  • ‘Innovation’ points were awarded for a pre-occupancy study of the building occupants, eliminating all car parking on the project site and preserving and integrating the National Trust-listed Joseph Reed façade.

Join Anne for a site tour of the new ABP building during Campus Development 2014. For more information, or to book your spot visitwww.campusdevelopment.com.au or call 02 9229 1000.

Free Blended Learning Webinar: It’s question time.

Watching one of those television debates recently, an idea popped into my head. The thought of having  industry experts answering the hot questions from their peers struck a bit of an intrigue chord.

Shortly after, I started working on our Blended Learning event. I’ve always been a big fan of our eduction portfolio – the pace of change is rapid and it’s pretty inspiring to see the fundamentals of teaching and learning transform.

So that’s how the Blended Learning 2014 Webinar was born. It’s pretty straight forward, it’s free to watch and get involved, and we’ll do the hard work by providing an awesome expert panel.

And here it is… Be sure to register and get involved, we’ve had over 300 registrants so far and we’re getting pretty excited:

Ahead of the 3rd Annual Blended Learning Summit we’ve gathered a few of our speakers, leading experts on blended learning practices, to discuss some of the most pertinent topics when it comes to implementing, transitioning and executing a flexible learning program.

We’ll also be taking your questions to be answered during the webinar so if you have a burning question be sure to let us know.

The webinar will be held on 16 July 2014 from 12-1PM (Eastern Standard Time)

What topics will be discussed in the webinar? (15 min each)

  • Implementing flexible learning
  • Managing the change
  • Putting it into practice
  • Q&A

Register for the free Blended Learning Webinar
You will be able to submit your questions upon registering

Our expert webinar panel:

Associate Professor Angela Carbone
Director, Distinguished National Senior Teaching Fellow, Education Excellence
Monash University
Gilly Salmon
Pro Vice-Chancellor, Learning Transformations
Swinburne University of Technology
Cathy Gunn
‎Deputy Director and Head of the eLearning Group, CLeaR
The University of Auckland

New Generation Learning Spaces: The essentials

Thinking back to my classroom experience, our weekly highlight was re-vamping the small notice board in the corner. The rest of the room (and most of the other classrooms for that matter) housed square desks and chairs facing the teacher at the front.

Those days are gone. We’re going through a huge transformation; classrooms are being reinvented as studios to suit the new ways in which we both learn and teach.

The future is technology and collaborative based and our educational facilities are adapting accordingly.

Architects are having a field day (excuse the pun) with designs, encompassing innovative buildings, bright colours and new technologies to create truly inspirational and educational experiences. I’ve collected insights, tips and tricks from around the web and spoken to our New Generation Learning Spaces panel to share the best with you:

Immerse yourself

One of the key drivers behind re-imagining the learning space is collaboration. When you think of immersing yourself, you might be thinking it’s something you already do; reading up on the latest teaching methods and so on; but are you physically immersing yourself in the classroom?

There’s no need for the teacher to stand at the front of the room to teach anymore, don’t be afraid to move your desk around, surround yourself with students and have a 360 view of the classroom.

This was a key feature of a recent Third Teacher+ transformation, check out the video of the journey as well as some key highlights from the project here:


Utilise natural light

Insight from Sean Coleman, Lead – Learning Spaces, Better Learning and Teaching Team, Office of the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Learning and Teaching) at Monash University:

“Natural light is hugely important to learning spaces; we’re seeing it more and more in tertiary educational spaces. We’re doing a huge refurbishment at one of our lecture theatres currently and the designs feature some huge windows that started to get smaller and smaller during the PCG. You have to push back and keep them as big as possible.

“If there’s too much light, you can always retrofit blinds or window treatments, but let’s just get as much light as we can and provide students with a connection to the outside world.

“It aids in the connection and engagement of the teaching staff and the students, especially if you can see the changes in the season – letting light into what would normally be a dark room.”

Don’t get tripped up by technology

Insights from Barbara White, Senior Lecturer in Information Technology, Charles Darwin University:

“Technology plays a central role when considering the design for a new learning space and this can bring new challenges and opportunities for education providers. I can see in lots of places that teaching students how to use communication technologies as a knowledge practice, as opposed to an entertainment or communication practice, is where some of the issues still are. Learning spaces are certainly providing an opportunity for those things to happen.”

Hon Steve Maharey, Vice-Chancellor, Massey University (New Zealand):

“You need to invest heavily in future-proofing our buildings because the demand for technology is going to rise exponentially. Our new building is set to evolve along with the demand by students and staff for more digital capacity.”

Peter Lippman, Associate Director from EIW Architects:

“There have been a lot of lessons learned about technology and spaces, but we have to understand very clearly that technology is a tool. We have to start with how people learn and think about how we’re going to support that. 

“We have to think about what is good and what is appropriate for the kinds of spaces we’re creating. For example, if you’re just going to do PowerPoint presentations, then all you need is a lap top and a connection to mount it into a projector so you can do your presentation. How different is that from just a blackboard or building in a projector and putting a movie on the screen?

“We need involve all people from all around the university and pull IT engineers out of their caves, because there are many people who have wonderful ideas and should become part of the stakeholder conversation.”

Break down the classroom wall

Insight from Mark Freeman, on his experience designing the Kangan Institute Automotive Centre of Excellence (Stage 2).

“This unique inner city campus was envisaged as a catalyst to assist in transforming all aspects of automotive skills training and research, and automotive component and vehicle testing.

“Previously, all of the different automotive skills units were, to some extent, delivered in isolation, in individual buildings on an older campus. Now, for the first time, all of the skill units are brought together in the one building, and not just in the one building, but also in the same workshop space.

“There’s a lot more collaboration between the workshop skills managers. There’s a lot more day to day negotiation of space and the utilisation of equipment that’s there.

“One of the key benefits is that the students are exposed to a lot more things. Previously they might have existed in the one building for half the day, and then in the other building in another, and effectively those were, to some extent, closed spaces.

“In this particular building the students are exposed to everything that’s happening on a daily basis. There is industry coming in and doing workshops (they’re running seminars, running vehicle and product launches), so the students come into contact with industry. There is industry participation in terms of sponsorship and maintenance of aspects of the facility as well.

 “It’s a lot more of a collaborative environment. It’s a lot more of a transparent environment, and the building as a whole, is a good place to be in. It’s not dark, it’s not damp, and it’s not dirty. It’s light, it’s bright, and it’s a healthy environment.

“It has really lifted everyone’s spirits in terms of the students who are in the building, and also visitors to the building. It has transformed their attitude towards coming to campus.”

A few practical tips:

When you do have walls, write on them.

First came the transition from chalkboards to whiteboards, but why limit the space? Walls are often filled with clutter, or just left as wasted space. Why not integrate whiteboards across your entire wall space. Not only will this utilise the space in your classroom, but by opening up the room you’ll be helping to encourage spontaneous collaboration.

Finally, get yourself some quick (and fun) wins.

We couldn’t finish without talking about all those neat little storage tricks out there. Storage is one of the key ways that space can be created, from something as simple as adding cushions to your stable cabinets to use as chairs, through to rebuilding your entire cabinet range to fit smartly within the confines of your walls.

Check out this list of ’35 Money-Saving  DIY tricks for teachers on a budget’:


Classroom architect is a great resource that allows you to virtually redesign your exact room:


Finally, for some inspiration, these two Pintrest boards have some great examples of before and after classroom transformations:



Find out more by visiting www.designforlearning.com.au

Designing learning spaces for your meerkat

I remember when I first heard that Sean Coleman was running a workshop at New Generation Learning Spaces 2014, I was a little confused. Sean works for Monash University, nothing strange there… but he’s talking about applying design principles from a zoo!? I needed to know more.

Prior to starting his new role at Monash University, Sean worked for Melbourne Zoo as the Head of Education: “the easiest way to explain it was that I was looking after a team of ten educators, and as a group we were responsible for the 100,000 students that came through the gates every year and the educational content that was delivered to them” he explained.

Sean’s focus right from the start was clear: use spaces to build the connections between educators and students. As a result, the zoo reviewed all their facilities and ultimately upgraded, refurbished and built new learning spaces.

So how exactly do you build that connection? And perhaps more importantly – is it an area where we’re currently missing a trick?

There’s a huge focus on the physical things we put into our spaces at the moment; what technology, what chairs, should we even have chairs? But perhaps one of the most important elements is the natural environment you’re in.

We’re lucky here in Australia that we’re surrounded by beautiful views and fantastic weather (mostly) to show them off. Sean believes it’s this connection to the outside that can really create a strong learning platform:

“Providing that connection to the students is vital. It’s important that they feel connected with the world around them

Some would argue that’s the job of the academic or the educator, but we have to able to support and enable that connection, not detract from it when looking at learning strategies.”

There has been a lot of research around working outdoors; a recent study demonstrated

72% of outdoor learners scored higher on tests than students in traditional classrooms.

But of course, this isn’t always practical. Fear not, Sean shared a few key areas that he’ll be utilising for his next challenge: developing a framework around learning spaces in his new role, going from seven learning spaces at the zoo to 700 at Monash:

The framework

“In the zoo I kept a list of key considerations and qualities that had to be brought into the design of any refurbishment or new build. One of those qualities was to have key views to an ambassador animal.We were trying to have a learning space in each of the precincts around the zoo, and the ambassador animal was one that was used in a conservation campaign.

As an example, in the gorilla rainforest area we used our western lowland gorillas as ambassadors for  They’re Calling on You campaign, which is about recycling mobile phones. Our learning space there (named the Jungle Hut) was built so that it had big bi-fold opening windows and big double opening doors to a deck overlooking the gorilla enclosure, creating that connection.  With the newest learning space in the Growing Wild area, we actually put a glass wall in and had one of the meerkat enclosures abutting the learning space. We created a little indoor-outdoor den for the meerkats to come in and be as close as possible to the students.

Of course, you don’t generally see meerkats or gorillas in education facilities, the principle of using your outdoor social areas or focus viewpoints to engage your audience remains key.”

Natural light

“Natural light is hugely important to learning spaces; we’re seeing it more and more in tertiary educational spaces. We’re doing a huge refurbishment at one of our lecture theatres currently and the designs feature some huge windows that started to get smaller and smaller during the PCG. You have to push back and keep them as big as possible. If there’s too much light, you can always retrofit blinds or window treatments, but let’s just get as much light as we can and provide students with a connection to the outside world.

It aids in the connection and engagement of the teaching staff and the students, especially if you can see the changes in the season – letting light into what would normally be a dark room.”

Revitalise your teaching

“If students are turning around and getting engaged by what’s happening outside, go over and talk to them about what’s happening. If we go back to the meerkats, it’s a great opportunity to talk about their adaptations and individual personalities, have a chat about what they would be doing in the wild and why they’re behaving a certain way.

If you’re trying to draw their attention back to you as an educator, then you’re just teaching from an egotistical point of view and not from an educational point of view.”

Focus on your intent

“You can’t be innovative if you’re sitting in a darkened room lost in your own head; you need to be constantly engaging, talking with people, picking their brains, learning from them. That means speaking with a range of stakeholders, because light bulb moments don’t happen in a darkened room when you’re sitting there thinking by yourself.

One thing that you need to do when looking at any learning space is to be able to articulate the intent of that space.

For example, if the intent of a space is to be entirely flexible so that multiple faculties can share that particular space, then regardless of how far down you get in the planning process you always need to refer back to that intent. That’s often the bit that gets lost and watered down, the further you go down the process.  By the time you’re in construction phase, it’s too late.

Our spaces have to be flexible to support our more integrated learning experience. We’re seeing a lot of support for less lecture theatres and more collaborative learning spaces, and spaces that are flexible enough to be able to include collaboration in small groups, large groups, and roundtable discussions.  Blended learning is constantly pushing this envelope, asking questions such as ‘how can we make this more flexible without moving away from the intent that it’s still a learning space, not just a place where you’re shuffling furniture every five minutes’.”

Hear more from Sean during New Generation Learning Spaces 2014, you can see the full line up here: www.designforlearning.com.au  

Also, do get in touch if you have any other learning space principles you’re applying to the classroom…


eBook or is it?

I’ve seen, with interest a vast array of eBooks being published recently, they vary from 6 pages to 600.

Our conferences lend themselves perfectly to eBooks, they’re well researched by producers and they cover anything up to 24 different angles.

I finished my 4th eBook recently The ultimate guide to excelling as an EA/PA in some way it was my own personal mission.

When you decide to call something; The ultimate guide – i figure it has to be pretty content heavy. The EAPA Summit has been around for over a decade. Speakers cover topics from time management, dealing with your boss, right through to dressing to impress. It’s a fun event, i’ve always enjoyed the chance to have a little fun with the writing. We’ve built up some solid content over the years (An interview with Nelson Mandela’s EA to name one of my faves..) , but in the theme of repurposing, re-imagining or whatever we are calling it these days, i figure we can surely make this something pretty special.

The result, the eBook – 15 pages of jam packed content – in my eyes warrants being an eBook, surely? Ultimately, in content marketing it’s a fine line between branding and valuable content, but i reckon we may have just cracked it with this one.

You can find more information on the Summit here: www.eapa.com.au

P.S If you’re interested in seeing my first 2 adventures into the world of eBooks, take a read and decide for yourself if they warrant the ‘eBook’ title…

Blended Learning: The new normal – A look into some of the biggest trends impacting the way educate and are educated..

Business Transformation Trends 2013 : Big data, change communication, flexible operating structure.. it’s all shaping business for the future. Here’s my first dip into the eBook scene (featuring one of my favourite interviews with Google’s Financial Controller)

Top tips for Employee Engagement : More numbers driven than any of my other eBooks, i had mixed opinions about calling this one an eBook, i think because it doesn’t have clear chapters. Either way i like the design and think the stats work well.