June 18 2010
Going live with learning
In education theory there are myriad models of learning, but as educators in
21st century Australia, one thing we can be quite clear about is that
employers want their graduate recruits to have more than theoretical
knowledge and understanding - they need employees with the capacity to
deliver results in the workplace.
The dilemma for many universities ascribing to the value of experiential or practice based learning – beyond just a notion of work experience – is to develop or source the kind of environments that will deliver the best learning outcomes for students.
Developing meaningful relationships with industries is one way to inject real world opportunities for students but investment in the infrastructure to deliver in-depth experiential learning opportunities across the full length of a degree study program is invaluable.
As head of UniSA’s School of Communications, International Studies and Languages I can say making the ideal a reality for students is no simple task – but we have done it.
The development of three new “labs” at our Magill campus is set to revolutionise the way our students gain professional experience.
An Internet radio station, a fully equipped television studio and a high-tech language learning facility that allows students to practise their language skills with students around the world in real time will transform our students’ learning experience.
A new Internet radio station, UniCast, is not only a learning facility for journalism and media students -- it will maximise the learning potential for students across the University.
The radio station will be a platform for technical and practical skills development for journalism and communications students and, by developing programs to narrowcast specialist content, it becomes a networking and communications channel for students from many other disciplines – enhancing vital workplace skills – communication, planning, presentation, information development.
In the new language lab we will be opening the world to our students. For example our Italian language students will be able to talk to students in Italy via Skype video at anytime.
The lab will also offer a kind of connected mobility for our students – students doing in-country courses in, say, France or Japan can have virtual meetings with their lecturers back at Magill via the multimedia language facility. The applications are potentially endless.
And our new broadcast studios mean we’ll be able to create content for community television and radio stations and expose our students to real-world deadline pressures and the critical gaze not only of industry but also – just as importantly – the judgment of a public audience.
This is a $1 million investment in new facilities, but more importantly it is a huge commitment to experiential learning and its power to deliver work-ready graduates.
We want to give our students as many opportunities as possible to embed experiential learning into their studies.
Experiential learning theorises that students learn best when they have meaningful input into their own learning (student-centred learning).
The combination of practice-based learning, service learning, and the teaching-research nexus reinforces the learning experience to produce attributes within graduates vital to their growth and valuable to their communities.
The School is providing students with some of the latest technology available because studies show students who participate in active learning tasks perform better, enjoy their studies more and rate their overall satisfaction more highly.
Some of the technology includes high definition cameras, a large chroma-key green screen which enables virtual sets and an extensive range of fluorescent and selecon lighting as part of the television studio.
The radio studio will allow students to produce and stream many of their shows via the internet.
Practice-based learning can take a number of forms, including supporting student experience in the workplace, actively embedding industry input into programs, supporting students to develop career management skills, supporting staff experience in the workplace, and supporting students to develop skills to work professionally with their discipline's knowledge as part of the curriculum.
In addition to these new high-tech facilities, we encourage all of our students to work on projects in the community to further support experiential learning.
Recently, journalism students were involved in providing news media coverage of the Special Olympics and broadcasting via community television’s Channel 31.
The decision to use the Special Olympics as an occasion for experiential learning was based on previous success with similar projects. In 2007, UniSA journalism students combined with film and documentary students provided news coverage of the World Police and Fire Games (WPFG) – an international sporting event attracting 10,000 competitors from around the world to Adelaide.
The following year, UniSA sent a team to Liverpool in the UK to provide a similar coverage, in conjunction with John Moores University, Liverpool, for the World Firefighters Games (WFG) and on 2009 journalism students from UniSA combined with community television station Channel 31 to broadcast daily coverage of the World Beach Volleyball Titles from Adelaide.
This combination of working with the community and working with state of the art production and learning facilities ensures that students who enrol in our programs will have not only the best theoretical education they can get here in SA but also the right skills and confidence to ensure their success in the working world.
By Professor Kerry Green, Head of School: Communication, International Studies and Languages.
An edited version of this article was published in the Independent Weekly newspaper on June 18th, 2010