How our students learn
While the UTS Model of Learning guides what our students learn, the learning.futures strategy is all about how our students learn and what our teachers can do to support that learning.
Combining future-focused curriculum with informed technology use, and championing an approach to learning design that places students at the centre of the creative learning experience, learning.futures' ultimate aim is to produce graduates who are ready for the future of work.
The learning.futures approach to supporting student learning is evidence-based, involving active and collaborative learning with an effective blend of online, face-to-face and externally engaged learning experiences and authentic assessment.
How do we create engaging student learning experiences?
learning.futures is represented in a cycle of learning, where the focus is on what the student does as part of an active process of sense-making. This means no matter the setting – be it in large classes such as lectures or smaller classes such as tutorials – we aim to teach in ways that engage students in their learning, offering opportunities to apply what they are learning, try ideas out, get feedback – which may be from other students, the teacher or their own observations – and deepen their understanding.
The below video from 2019 shows how the UTS model of learning combines with learning.futures and explains how our students might learn across the phases from the perspective of the student.
Video: learning.futures for UTS students.
UTS learning.futures: how our students learn video transcript
The UTS Model of Learning and our graduate attributes framework tell us what our students will be learning. Our learning strategy talks about how students will be learning. This diagram shows that in the future, students at UTS will experience the seamless integration of the best of online and face-to-face learning.
They'll still come onto campus. But they'll also be using a whole range of technologies to support their learning. Let's look now at learning from the perspective of the student. Students have particular learning goals. And they need to be able to access ideas and content.
But before coming onto campus, they should be accessing the enormous volume of resources that are available as open education resources that might watch a video from a mooc. They'll use their laptops and mobile devices to access other e-learning resources.
Perhaps they'll watch content-rich videos from iTunes U, YouTube, TED-Ed, the Khan Academy. They'll also read books and journal articles. And they'll access our library database to find peer-reviewed information. And then they'll come onto campus where they'll go into one of our new collaborative classrooms.
And in there, they'll engage in high quality interactive learning experiences that make use of the content that they have already engaged with. The next part of our learning strategy looks at the ways in which students will make sense of the information they've engaged with to test out their ideas.
And they should be undertaking some form of activity that helps them bring together that loose collection of ideas to create meaning. They might do a laboratory experiment. Or they might make a model in architecture. They might design something-- some kind of activity that helps them link the theory and practice.
They might do a group work project. They might talk with a learning mentor. They might talk with their tutors. They might go out to industry and undertake a work-based learning project or an internship or a cadetship. And hopefully, they'll also have an opportunity to travel, because that's a very important part of our UTS Model of Learning that we prepare our students to work in a global environment.
The next part of this learning journey is for the students to get feedback on their actions. Performing an action without feedback is a bit of a waste of time. So they might get feedback via UTSOnline just from talking to their tutor. Or they might get feedback from Twitter, Facebook, or Skype.
Hopefully, they'll also have access to a personal learning network that might be face to face, or it might be online. The final part of their learning journey is to reflect on what it is they understood. What they did to try out those ideas. What the feedback was. And, therefore, how they might change their current understanding.
Hopefully, they'll sit and think. But they also might write a blog. Or they might write a reflective essay, and thus, complete the learning cycle.
Reimagining learning at UTS: from learning.futures to learning.futures 2.0
learning.futures was introduced to UTS in 2012 with the initial focus on bringing pedagogical changes that complement the creation of new collaborative learning spaces. This has led to a reimagined physical campus with a suite of billion-dollar buildings to support an expanding future-focused university. The result of this work was the introduction of technology-enabled collaborative spaces, group work pods, informal study hang-outs, and the aptly named 'Super Lab'.
Video: UTS New Learning Environments
UTS is in the centre of Sydney, in the heart of its cultural and creative hub.
You’ll be studying at a campus that’s been designed to help you develop the skills you’ll need for your future career.
UTS has been re-created to provide you with a "campus of the future” designed to enhance your experience at University and help shape the way you'll be learning.
Our physical and virtual University environment has been designed to create an intellectually and socially vibrant educational experience with the objective of providing you with creative and inspired learning focusing on developing the knowledge, skills, capabilities and attributes you’ll need in your future career.
At UTS, we focus on preparing you for professional practice, this means that, as well as learning the knowledge and skills needed in your field of study, you’ll also be acquiring other attributes important for you to succeed professionally.
You may find that learning at UTS happens in ways that are different from what you’ve previously experienced.
You'll be coming to class to collaborate with other students. You might be investigating issues or solving real world problems and, to make the most of your class time. You’ll often be asked to prepare before you come. You'll have some lectures and you'll also participate in many other forms of learning such as debates, simulations and groupwork projects.
Some of these will be face-to-face, and others, online.
You'll discover new spaces in our campus which have been designed to enable this new kind of learning like collaborative theatres, groupwork spaces, interactive high-tech pods, and learning commons where you can study alone or with others. You'll find that at university learning isn’t just about collecting facts. More and more it’s about being able to respond to tasks and challenges and finding solutions as well as learning to think critically.
It's about working with others, as well as working with technology. And about learning how to seek out the best quality and most up-to-date information from a huge range of sources.
You'll learn how to navigate the evolving digital world.
You'll find that at UTS it's not all exams and essays there are different ways that you’ll be assessed.
You'll discover that success is also about making personal and professional networks at UTS that will last you a lifetime.
The more you get involved in what UTS has to offer the more you'll benefit.
And there's a lot to get involved in.
You'll need to be working right from the start towards getting that great job, so it's worth knowing a little bit more about what your future employer is looking for.
The grades you achieve over the course of your degree rank only 4th on the list of what employers are looking for.
The number one thing employers look for are strong interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate.
They want to see that you can speak and write well and relate to others.
Second most important is your drive, passion and commitment to the industry that you’ll be joining.
That's partly what you know, but it's mostly about your attitude.
Third on the list are your technical, analytical and problem-solving skills. The way you think and reason.
So while grades are definitely important, they're not the only thing that will get you a job or advance your career in the long term.
Helen Bobbitt: I would say the academic and the GPA is a small part of a candidate’s application. So we’re looking to see that candidates are involved in things outside of their academic studies to show that they’ve built other skills.
Daniel Lacey: In terms of skills that we look for we look for team work, that’s a huge one in consultancy. You need to be able to work with others across all different levels.
Andrew Smith: Flexibility and adaptability is an important attribute also.
Natasha Reddrop: People’s interpersonal skills are very important. We are looking at people’s ability to work in a team environment.
Rebecca Jenkins: We focus on students that knows technology, are really passionate about what they do. We focus on working really closely with internships with UTS.
You'll be utilizing the skills and professionalism that you develop at UTS.
And all of those skills and attributes will be just as important to those graduates who’ll be the entrepreneurs of the future, who'll create their own jobs or businesses.
At UTS we're here to support you to create the future that you want...
It starts with you. You at UTS!
In 2020 the global pandemic dramatically changed the ways we teach and how our students learn. While key elements of the original learning.futures strategy remain relevant and robust, lessons learned from staff and students in the shift to emergency remote teaching and learning have informed an evolution to learning.futures 2.0.
The changes draw from what we have learned from the rapid shift in our teaching, particularly how we take advantage of technological advances to enhance the digital learning space and ensure a positive blended learning experience for our students. These changes have led to a new model of priorities in the UTS student experience, including:
- Orientation: Enhancing transition into UTS through building a sense of belonging and beginning conversations about employability and employment.
- Blended Learning: Extending opportunities for active engagement in the online space by breaking up the dense ‘delivery’ of content and enabling clear explanations, drawing from multimedia resources (videos, animations, podcasts) publishers, Open Educational Resources (OERs) or created here at UTS repository to enable sharing and reuse, creating engaging learning activities for students to collaborate face-to-face and online, and enhancing work-integrated learning within subjects and across courses.
- Enhanced Feedback: Extending feedback from automated systems, academics, peers and industry.
- Reflection: Developing feedback literacy and capacity to judge quality of work, enabled by a professional portfolio within subjects and across courses.
Technologies for learning: how our digital environment is enabling learning.futures
At UTS, our digital learning environment supports and enables our learning.futures approach to blended learning. This state-of-the-art digital ecosystem is constantly evolving to complement our wonderful on-campus learning environments.
Canvas is the heart of our digital learning environment. Through the multi-year LX Transformation program, UTS learning designers and academics worked together to create a consistent, engaging student experience across sites and courses. Canvas is seamlessly integrated with other interactive learning technologies such as: H5P, which allows academics to create interactive online modules and lessons to improve the student learning experience; and Kaltura, which allows students to access rich multimedia content.
Academics at UTS use a range of tools to create opportunities for students to collaborate and work in teams together online, including Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Our polling tool Mentimeter helps make classes interactive. We are continuing to evolve the digital learning ecosystem with innovative technologies – an example of this is Acawriter, helping students become better writers through feedback on their academic and reflective writing.
In 2021 we embarked on a new journey with Portfolium, an online portfolio platform with social networking features where students can curate their profile with achievements, projects and competencies and use this to showcase their skills to their peers and potential employers.
You can read about technologies available for use in learning and teaching at UTS on the LX site.
Video: Welcome to the UTS Library
Discover the Library at the centre of campus and online. Quiet and silent study areas, 24 hour access to over a million resources, online chat, email, and in-person advice.
The results and international recognition
UTS's learning.futures strategy won the Hybrid Learning Innovation category of the 2015 Wharton-QS Stars Reimagine Education Awards in Philadelphia. Dubbed the 'Oscars' of higher education awards, the competition comprised of over 500 entries from 40 countries competing for just 10 awards. What's more, US-based higher education think tank Ithaka believes that there is much to learn from learning.futures at UTS.
Read the Case Study.
Student Experience Survey
The outcomes of the learning.futures strategy are evidenced in the results of the national Student Experience Survey (SES), a survey where UTS students evaluate their university experience. Since introducing learning.futures, the focus area of learner engagement has statistically ranked significantly higher than the Australian average.
Here's what some students said were the best aspects of their UTS courses in the 2020 SES:
The best aspects of my course would involve the flexibility in learning subjects to my areas of liking and interest. The learning objectives met for each subject and the ease of pressure in learning at one's own pace. Other aspects would include the freedom in approaching our professors, tutors, or any administrative staff, access to advanced computer systems/devices, and lastly, the enormous access to study spaces.
Master of Information Technology
The resources available like the studios, library and study spaces. The teachers are super knowledgeable and approachable and are very easy to engage with, from small questions and issues to highly complex ideas and theories. All the content provided is fantastic, the courses are really well curated with interesting and relevant content. The teachers and staff have all really made an effort to work with such difficult circumstances and I think they should be congratulated on their efforts.
Bachelor of Music and Sound Design
Applicable real-world learning experiences. UTS teaches in a way that makes students understand their industry and provides practical experience.
Bachelor of Business
Mostly the idea that it is learning in an environment reminiscent to an actual workspace as well as producing something that can then be used in a showreel for the future.
Master of Animation and Visualisation
The best aspects of my course this year were learning spaces and the opportunities in which I was allowed to pursue my passions with support from my teachers.
Bachelor of Design in Fashion and Textiles
learning.futures table: then and now
So how exactly is learning.futures practices different? The below table outlines the ways that learning has shifted at UTS as a result of learning.futures.
|EARLIER WAYS (pre-2014)||> LEARNING.FUTURES PRACTICES (2014-2021)||+ LEARNING.FUTURES 2.0 (2020>)|
|LEARNING AT UTS||Practice-oriented learning.||UTS Model of Learning: practice-oriented, global and research-inspired...||
...with an emphasis on educating for professional practice and for social good – making a difference to the professions, society and planet.
|WHAT IS IMPORTANT||What students know.||What students can do with what they know and how they do it...||...and how they can clearly articulate and demonstrate their knowledge and know-how in making informed judgements.|
|SUBJECT DESIGN||Dot point list of content.||Linking 'what students can do with what they know' to objectives, learning activities and assessment..||...throughout the subject and making connections to other subjects across the course|
|GRADUATE ATTRIBUTES||Largely not identified or included.||Faculty or course-specific attributes identified, embedded and assessed...||
...across the course with students’ clear understanding and appreciation of the value of them and ability to articulate how they have developed them, supported by evidence – plus a focus on strengthening the Indigenous Graduate Attribute.
|LEARNING ACTIVITIES||Primarily lectures, with tutorials, labs or studios with Canvas.||Best of online learning combined with best of face-to-face collaborative learning with Canvas engagement...||...delivered via a clear, coherent rationale and approach to subjects accessible in the subject site (LMS); incorporating clear explanations and active and collaborative learning opportunities using technologies online complemented with active and collaborative experiences on-campus.|
|LEARNING RESOURCES||Notes from class, readings from Library and textbooks.||Podcasts, screencasts, YouTube, Open Education Resources, online learning resources, readings and digital resources from Library, social media and text books...||
..as integrated collaborative learning activities; to encourage creating, sharing and reusing content.
|ON-CAMPUS LEARNING EXPERIENCE||Primarily lectures and tutorials, strucured labs, individual studios.||Primarily collaborative learning activities; some lectures/guest presentations, inquiry-based and research labs and studios...||...tailored to learning that is optimal when undertaken in-person and supports student belonging, network building and critical discipline, technical and professional skills (typically developed in labs, studio, using specialised equipment etc.).|
|OFF-CAMPUS LEARNING EXPERIENCE||Assignments, studying for exams, Canvas engagement.||Engaging in "real life" experiences including work placements, community projects, competitions...||...as well as active and collaborative learning experience facilitated through educational technologies.|
|ASSESSMENT||"What can you remember?"||"What can you do with what you have learned?"...||...but also "How can you demonstrate what you have learned and explain the value and relevance of it?", with reference to practice (in industry/employment or the discipline).|
|FEEDBACK||Lecturer and tutor feedback on completed work.||Diagnostic feedback. "Benchmarking" and discussion of criteria. Feedback on draft work. Lecturer, tutor and peer feedback. Self-assessment and reflection....||
...to ensure continuous feedback in various forms (from peers, academics, industry, informally, in relation to assessment and automated) to support students making sense of ideas and deepening learning and development of self-efficacy and professional judgement. Technology enhanced through AI, automated.
|TRANSITION TO UNIVERSITY||Orientation before week 1, peer support.||Orientation. Transition activities in faculties prior to the session and in subjects in week 1, and support during the session; numerous 'First Year Experience' project outcomes, peer support...||...leading to fully integrated transition into courses, through and graduating out into employment/society.|