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TRANSCRIPT: Tales of Teaching Online Ep. 49 DeakinDesign Principles and Practices (feat Chie Adachi and Darci Taylor)

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Intro: Digital, student-centred, creative, innovation, imagination, initiative, stories that matter. 

Chie Adachi: I’m Chie Adachi and this is Tales of Teaching Online brought to you by Deakin Learning Futures. Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of Tales of Teaching Online. And today I’m sitting with Associate Professor Darci Taylor, Director Learning Design at Deakin University. And she’s recently led a university-wide learning and teaching project called Integrated Learning, which has just completed. And so I’m very excited to be able to talk to her about this hot topic today.

Chie: Welcome Darci.

Darci: Thanks for having me today.

Chie: Fabulous. So to start with, could we start by talking a little bit about who you are as a scholar, as a person, as a Project Lead for this big projects. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Darci: Yeah, thanks. So my role like Deakin is the Director of Learning Design. And really that role is to provide that strategic direction around learning design across the whole of Deakin, but also providing that operational and practical advice to staff and colleagues to really support that and promote that curriculum innovation across the whole of the university. I’ve been in higher ed for about 20 years, I guess, in a number of different roles, professional roles, academic roles. So I very much see myself as being able to cross those boundaries between those traditional roles and really valuing the expertise and the experience that all staff in the university bring to support teaching and learning. I’ve been a tutor, been a research assistant, an academic manager I’ve been a language and learning skills adviser, a curriculum designer and a lecturer. My original discipline area was in psychology. I started off teaching in that area, but as I was teaching, I was realising that I didn’t feel in myself that I had the pedagogical kind of understanding and skills to really support my students learning. So I went on to do a Gard Cert in Higher Ed and a Diploma in Secondary Education, which I really think grounded me in that evidence-based practice and gave me the confidence to teach, I guess so I got more and more interested in the education side of things. And really that’s where I found myself over the last couple of years and really enjoying doing that. I think part of that experience led also into an interest in how students fit within that curriculum and how we enable students to have agency within the learning experiences that we create. And that’s really led to my research, interest in students personal goals that’s part of my, my PhD. So I’ve been looking at exploring barriers and enablers to students personal goals and also the emotional overlay of those, of those goals and how it has student’s emotions can really push them to do certain things, not do things within higher ed. So using that social realist framework to understand what those barriers and enable those are in and to really explore as well that I guess the, the, the emotional embodied aspect of those goals. So that’s the things that kept me busy at the moment. I guess the other thing that I’m interested in, in terms of my research area is the capability building of our staff. So we do lots of capability building activities and create resources and really asking people and bringing people along and that you need to change their practice. And I’m really interested in how the lived experience of that ease for our staff so we can understand and find ways that support staff and bring them along on the journey and make sure that they feel that they’ve got ownership over their own teaching, identity and direction that they’re moving in. So that’s really another area of interest for me in my scholarly activities. But when I’m not working, I love going to the beach and camping, and cooking and running if I don’t have any injuries. So yeah, that probably wraps up myself.

Chie: Beautiful. This is just wonderful to hear that I say in a nutshell as well, and I worked with you as a privilege, I think, for the last seven years. But you have done a lot of excellent work around curriculum design and capacity building and for the university. And so really fantastic to have you on this podcast talking about the project in particular. So let’s shift our focus to talking about this project in particular, the integrated learning. Could you tell us a little bit about the background to what this project was, about, its aim, and why this project was so important for Deakin.

Darci: That’s right. The integrated learning project took up most of my time last year. And it actually was part of a larger piece of work that we called the DeakinDesign program of work and the integrated learning project was one part of that. And then re-imagining exams project was another part of it led by Kellie Nicola-Richmond. The brief I guess all the aim or what we were trying to do with the whole DeakinDesign program of work was building on our existing expertise in teaching and learning and particularly in digital education. We wanted to leverage our experiences from that COVID disruptor and see where that would lead us in the next phase of our teaching and learning journey. So we wanted to harness that COVID disruptor here about what people’s experiences were, staff and students experiences during that time. And see how we could use that to create new opportunities for us to extend and move us forward in the way that we thought about teaching and learning. So we wanted to, I guess here about innovations that people, staff where were doing during during the COVID disruptor. We wanted to hear about challenges. We wanted to hear about successes, things that we’re working well, but staff didn’t think would work well. Themes that stuff we’re trialling that didn’t work so well and they wanted to stop doing that. And we also wanted to hear about what was the student experience like during that time. We really saw this as an opportunity to continue the evolution of teaching and learning at Deakin. So building on our, our past experience, but leveraging the COVID disruptor as an opportunity to re-imagine what our teaching and learning would look like in this post-COVID world. So we wanted to create some guidelines and principles and practices that would underpin the design of our learning experiences so that we could ensure that we prepare our students to thrive in a post-COVID, rapidly changing digital world. And really to help us to continue to achieve, strive towards our ambition to be Australia’s most progressive university. It was a continuum where it was kinda like we are always innovating and moving forward in teaching and learning at Deakin and this was like a unique opportunity for us to use that COVID disruptor in the way that people were re-thinking were forced to rethink teaching and learning and pull those experiences together to build our new model moving forward. The principles and practices really underpin our approach to learning design. The integrated learning project itself had a, I guess, a specific slant on it, where it wanted to push us to think a little bit beyond traditional notions of what blended learning was. So thinking about just on-campus and off-campus in a traditional kind of a blended model, we wanted to push ourselves further and think, well, what else, what, what could that look like if we thought maybe more sophisticated thinking around that. Just some, some other ways that we might want to think about that, that blend. And we started really asking the questions about, well, how are we integrating things around physical dimensions, digital dimensions, but also those human connections. And this has really come out, I guess in the, the principles and practices that we’ve, that we’ve developed. I should say the other really important part of this work was the way that we approached the process, the way that we did it. It was very much underpinned by wanting to have a ground-up partnership approach to the piece of work. So as I said, we wanted to hear about what people’s experiences, where students and staff experiences were over the last little while but also draw on their expertise that that happened or that they already had previous, previously. So we created a suite of lots and lots of different types of engagement activities for our staff and students could be involved in. It was all done online, but we’ve created live interactive sessions where people could share their experiences. They could do it on-demand at a time that suited them via different online platforms and things that we’d created. So it very much was listening to what people were saying, listening to what they wanted for the way that they saw the future of teaching and learning at Deakin. So we combined all of the thoughts and the ideas from staff and students with horizon scanning activities. So we were beavering away in the background as well as a project team attending conferences really looking what were those emerging trends across the sector and we will also then drawing on the scholarly literature to triangulate the things we were hearing from staff and students, the things that we were seeing in the horizon scanning activities and then going back to the literature to make sure that we had an evidence base for the themes that were kinda coming up, that we would move them forward into the principles and the practices. So we ended up with a draft of these and then we took that back to the Deakin community to get feedback. So it was a really iterative process over the whole year, really to end where we have the principles and practices. So we think that we’ve ended up with this community driven, evidence-informed practice-led series of principles and practices.

Chie: And that’s been a very unique aspect of this project that hasn’t it, Darci that Deakin not only engaged with their horizons scan, literature review, but really involve the community and progress this work. So it’s kind of both reflexive and reflective in a way that this design principles were emerging out of all this engagement and so that’s really kudos to you and then the project team to lead this project in such a way that was so iterative and collaborative. And you beautifully covered all the aspects of the questions that I was going to ask you. So I’m kind of honing into this notion of post-digital context and post COVID. And I tend to hesitate and using that term and post COVID, as it’s not yet over and in other crisis may come. But in terms of looking at what other universities are doing also in this post digital contexts, what does that blended or hybrid or HyFlex or integrated learning in our term as well, might look like and drawing on those learning design principles and practices that you have drawn and created with the university. What’s your sense in terms of where we’re going? And you started talking about breaking the boundaries of physicals and digitals, but also going into the human connection elements. What does that look like? Would you like to share a little bit more view around that?

Darci: Yeah. It is a nervousness around using that word post-COVID. And I remember in, in in the consultations with staff who said someone said ‘Is post-COVID, is that gonna be a thing?’ And I was like, Oh my gosh, I hope it is, but I think. And then just coming back to your, your, your point about post digital. The way, that we’re using that post digital lens here is really thinking about a more critical approach to the way that we use digital. So it’s not thinking about post digital in terms of a timeline. It’s thinking about how we use digital, a critical, reflexive way. So one of our principles is around digital, and we are calling that out as a key design element for, for us. But we want to make sure that we are reflecting on the way that we are using digital tools to ensure that it actually enables and support students success. So it’s no point having all of these digital tools, if students actually can’t use them to collaborate with others and to achieve the, I guess, allow that digital to actually support their learning rather than it being a barrier. Post digital to us is more of that, more of taking that critical approach of it within the context of these new principles. In terms of the integrated learning, we’ve, we’ve used that actually as, as another one of our design principles. And we’re really thinking about the sequencing of the way that we design these learning experiences. I’m still thinking about where those activities might happen, whether they’re in an online environment or an on-campus environment or in the workplace, wherever it might be. But thinking a little bit harder about the places that, that learning might happen in. And really taking that idea of the complimentary nature of the different types of affordances and how we design, we design that into our learning activities and learning experiences. So there is lots of talk on the horizon about HyFlex and hybrid and there are lots of terms and people are using them interchangeably, which actually causes quite a bit of confusion because we don’t know what each other is talking about. In terms of I guess yeah, I guess we’ve ended up calling it ‘Integrated’ and we’re trying to create a shared language within Deakin at least about what that integrated what actual integration means. And part of that does include dose things like dual delivery or hybrid whatever people are calling it about having students both on campus and in the room and also online. But I think we want to be really smart in the way that we designed for those experiences. And really make sure that we’ve got capability building and support for staff who are going to be teaching in those environments to make sure that students excel no matter what mode they’re in.

Chie: And I really like how you started to use the languages like times, spaces, that cross boundary nature of the affordances that we want to think about the barriers also, because time and place are relative to how we conceptualise and how students have petitioned to interact with these kind of concepts and constructs as well, so it’s really interesting going into that sort of space. The other interesting aspect, the unique aspect of this learning design principles is that they’re framed around learning experiences of the students. Why does she want to say something about that? And how unique it is?

Darci: Yeah. So we did choose that language specifically, purposefully, I should say, and it probably does reflect the blurring of those boundaries. So when we think about learning activities that we create, we think maybe about more of that formal learning and that formalised curriculum. But we know that there is that leading towards the informal type of learning and we wanted to use the word learning experience to kind of encompass the whole holistic student experience. So it’s the way that students experience feedback, it’s the way that they experience assessment, it’s the way that they experienced those informal learning opportunities that might be on campus or in our online spaces. So we wanted learning experiences to be more broader and more all encompassing and aligns to that holistic view of the student and the student learning experience. Yeah, we specifically chose that language to have more of an expansive and holistic approach to the way that we think about learning.

Chie: Fabulous. You can just tell that you’ve been in this head space for a long while now and we learned a lot just by talking to you that I see, I know this has been more than a year project. And to talk about that in a ten, 15 min span is really hard, but we learned a lot so far. So thank you so much for that. And what’s the next step then, after this project that’s been concluded? What’s the future plan? Where to from here?

Darci: At the moment, the new principles and practices of just being incorporated into our policy. So I think one of the exciting things about this is that ground-up approach has fed into to the policy development and also our teaching and learning strategy. So I’m really proud, I guess we’ve ended up at this point or here at this particular point in time. We’re currently raising awareness of the final versions of the principles. We’re talking to staff and students about, about those and we’re really inviting people to think about what the principles mean to them. We’re really keen to get staff to think about, um, how they look in their particular discipline area, in their particular teaching contexts. And to have that sense of agency and ownership over, over how they enact those principles. We’ve also just launched our Seeding Grant Scheme to encourage staff to apply those new principles in innovative ways. And we’re really looking to create a community of practice from the recipients of the seeding grant and sharing their practice to inspire others and sharing those stories over the coming months across Deakin and also externally. We’ve also got this suite of kind of capacity building resources and materials that surround these principles and support our staff to transition their teaching practice towards these, but also thinking about how we embed these principles in our normal business as usual, course design processes and also quality assurance processes so that we can enable that, ensure that we’ve taken that sustainable approach to embedding the principles. Yes. So that’s a few things that are kind of on the radar on the horizon. Chie: You can just tell that this is not the end of the project. It was just the launching of the principles and practices that you have come to but the real work starts now in terms of really enacting.

Darci: And it’s really about bringing the principles and practices back to people. I mean, they came from our Deakin community. So now it’s bringing them back and providing those supports to enable them to enact them and start using them in conversations and to guide their teaching practice. So, yeah, it’s a bit of a feedback loop in a sense now, kind of bringing them back over the next little while.

Chie: And we’re looking forward to hearing more about how that’s going with people, experimenting and implementing those design principles into their practice. Thanks very much Darci. That’s at the end of all my questions that I had so far. Any other final thoughts that you’d like to share with the community?

Darci: I guess really just that I’m proud of where we’ve landed with these and really feel privileged to be involved in these particular project and then involved in driving this at Deakin. So I’m really excited to see how it plays out over the next couple of years and continuing that conversation with our Deakin staff and student community and the broader community and see where they take us.

Chie: And congratulations once again Darci, it’s been a massive project that you led so beautifully with the community. And I do look forward to hearing more about it. It’s been wonderful. Thanks, Darci.

Darci: Thanks so much.

1 December 2022

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