The University of Canberra’s Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Education
By Leah Holroyd
Educational Designer| Teaching & Learning | University of Canberra
One of the greatest challenges faced by schools and universities today is preparing students for an unknown future. Our graduates will likely have multiple careers, work in new and emerging industries, grapple with technologies we can’t even imagine yet. And so we’re asking our staff to equip students with the skills they need to thrive in a potentially very different world to the one we live in now.
A decade ago, when I was at university, I don’t remember anyone talking about ‘graduate attributes’. Today there’s a much greater emphasis on transferable skills, rather than just subject knowledge. Working as an Educational Designer at the University of Canberra (UC), I have the opportunity to engage in initiatives around authentic assessment, scenario-based learning, students as partners/generators, work-integrated learning… These will help us to support our students in developing the skills that they need, not just to secure a job in the short term, but to enjoy a fulfilling and varied career in the longer term. Earlier this year, students taking a course in Artificial Intelligence at Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that Jill Watson, one of their Teaching Assistants, was an AI creation. ‘Watson’ was able to participate in online forum discussions, answering students’ routine questions, posting reminders about deadlines, and introducing mid-week conversation topics to encourage students to share their thoughts. It’s exciting to think of the potential benefits of this kind of technology, but it also leads us to question the role of the (human!) educator and for some the concept of technology-enhanced learning can seem threatening, encroaching on their professional identity as a teacher.
So how can we support our staff in this time of uncertainty and disruption in the sector?
On 5th July 2016, the University of Canberra’s Teaching and Learning team launched a new Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Education. In one of the first activities in the course, we invite participants to engage with the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association’s Australian Higher Education Workforce of the Future Report, released earlier this year. The report examines the changes universities will need to make in order to thrive in an increasingly globalised and competitive space and highlighted the need for an “agile workforce” which would be “sufficiently flexible, specialised and self-renewing to be properly responsive for changing stakeholder expectations”. We invite our staff to engage with this report, to take stock of their experience, identify development needs, and articulate their future trajectory.
In other words, we want our staff to reflect on where they are now, where they see themselves in 10 or 15 years’ time, and how they’re going to get there.
Moving away from the traditional model of face-to-face workshops and discrete units of study, this new GCTE is designed to be:
- Flexible – The course is delivered online with some optional on-campus activities such as workshops with visiting speakers from other institutions.
- Self-organised – Participants begin by undertaking a self-audit of existing skills and experiences, before deciding, in consultation with the Course Convener, what kinds of activities they will undertake to generate evidence to meet the learning outcomes and over what time period.
- Work-integrated – All activities relate to the participants’ own teaching practices and activities across five focus areas: student engagement; assessment; flexible learning environments; curriculum design; leadership, management and supervision.
Participants can use evidence from recent experience, as well as undertaking new activities, and may find that one particular undertaking generates evidence across multiple focus areas. So, for example, someone who led a team of colleagues in designing a new online degree course last year would probably find that they already had evidence to meet most of the learning outcomes. The final assessment task is a reflective Account of Professional Practice which can be used as the basis for a separate application to the Higher Education Academy for Fellowship.
The GCTE course site contains a range of resources and suggested activities which encourage participants to reflect on their current practice, design, implement and evaluate new approaches, and document the results. Resources include the Epigeum programmes University and College Teaching and Blended Learning, as well as TED Talks and YouTube videos, academic papers and news articles, and freely available Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from around the world. We envisage that the site will evolve over time with participants as co-creators, encouraged to give feedback on existing resources and suggest changes or additions. One way in which participants can contribute to this process is by sharing resources on the Padlet walls embedded in the site.
Open to both academic and professional staff, the GCTE is as also about empowering people to recognise the potential they have to transform practices and influence others. In particular, the resources and activities in the ‘Leadership, management and supervision’ focus area are designed to help staff who may not be in formal positions of leadership to identify ways in which they can lead initiatives, drive change, establish communities of practice, and promote new ideas.
We need our staff to be lifelong learners, to reflect on their practice, collaborate with colleagues, students and the broader community, experiment with new tools and technologies, act as advocates and promote best practice. We hope that the new GCTE will help them to do this, as well as providing formal recognition of the amazing work our staff do at UC.