By Mathew Jacobson, Founder and CEO Dūcere
Recently, debates concerning teaching have centred on two key questions – what and how. While these fundamental questions have been prominent throughout educational discussion for decades, the fast-paced growth of technology has widened debates beyond what we teach, to how we teach.
Expanding opportunities for technology to aid learning run parallel to a growing concern that students are not acquiring the Work Integrated Learning, necessary to equip them for their future careers. The 2012 Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE) showed that 76% of Australian graduates felt their studies have not contributed very much to their ability to solve complex, real-world problems. Many believe that gaining skill-based experience is a vital piece of the academic puzzle, a piece that has gradually been denied proper attention from the majority of present-day curriculums.
Education is more than just purchasing information in order to achieve short-term goals. Emphasis must be placed on equipping young people with understanding, skills, values and personal development as well as purely academic qualities.
The 2014 UES National Report showed that across all courses only 57% of students were satisfied with the level of ‘Learner Engagement’ they received. The category of ‘Learner Engagement’ focuses on the degree of attention, curiosity and interest created while studying; therefore we can assume the lack of ‘Learner Engagement’ directly affects student motivation.
Moreover, the report placed ‘expectations not met’ in the top five reasons for a student leaving higher education. With this in mind, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, Glyn Davis, has noted: “clearly there is a demand for a more diverse range of courses and institutions in higher education.”
‘Traditionalists’ often ask ‘what skills will real-world experiences provide our students with?’ Put simply, integrating real-world scenarios into education is a pragmatic approach to learning the skills needed to see the world critically; providing the confidence to thrive within their future chosen work environment.
For example, as opposed to lecturing students about the effects of tourism on the environment, students are taken to a relevant site and asked to conduct a field research on the issues and solutions they have spent so many hours memorising. For education to be meaningful it must significantly enhance students learning and achievement. By placing students in realistic environments they learn the value of the knowledge that they have and will gain. While learning outside the classroom is not an end in itself, it can provide one of the best vehicles to develop the capacity and drive to learn.
On the other hand, some argue that it’s only through a structured curriculum that we can create a sense of order and the specialised knowledge needed to flourish professionally in today’s complex world. However, those in support of a ‘blended learning’ approach to education argue that knowledge in the real world is holistic.
This approach removes the shackles of traditionally divided subjects and instead, implements a practical approach better suited to the modern learning environment. This is not to say that a law student should spend all four years of their degree in a courtroom. However, in today’s society full of many corporate dialects, it is not enough to be a specialist of one discipline, you must commit to being professionally heuristic.
What is the best way forward for Australian education? It is apparent that current curriculums need to be rethought and reworked to overcome the barriers to change. Glyn Davis points to private sector education, stating: “A newly emerging private sector is becoming an important part of the education story.” A prominent advantage of private sector institutions is their focus on innovation and experimentation. New hybrid curriculums are often categorized as ‘blended learning.’
The Sloan Consortium, an organisation specialising in innovate e-learning, defines blended learning as courses that “integrate online with traditional face-to-face class activities in a planned, pedagogically valuable manner.”
An example of this method is newly developed education provider Ducere. Ducere offers online-based multi-disciplinary courses learned through practical case studies taught by business figures and pioneers, world leaders, entertainers, scientists, researchers and humanitarians, regarded by most as business icons. This provides a clear example of utilising technology and real world experience on a large scale.
A report on ‘Blending Learning’ published by the Victorian Government examining numerous blended learning projects concluded that this method created a culture based on the acceptance of change and risk with students learning to overcome issues and challenge themselves.
Ultimately, the benefits of providing students with the skills solely to excel in a global competition of memorising information, will achieve very little in the long-term. The bold questions of how and what are ready to be answered; if not by the government then by the private sector with the help of technology. Developing an efficient educational system that will equip students with professional capabilities is essential.
In an interview with The Australian recently, Dr Hugh Bradlow, Chief Technology Officer for Telstra and Ducere Faculty Member pointed to the significant benefits online education offers its students, namely the flexibility, and ability to share engaging content such as video.
As the recent G20 Summit in Brisbane stated, this is the only path that will lead to Australian growth and job opportunities. If we focus on the bigger picture, beyond the tests and exams, we can see a future where improvements in our educational system will result in wider economic and societal development.
While education is by no means the crystal ball to every world problem, it must take centre stage in creating a better future. In today’s globalised society, it is clear that a countries growth and development relies heavily on the long-term successes of their educational system.
Transforming the e-learning field to create some of the industry’s most innovative educational platforms; Mat’s overarching goal in life is to redefine tertiary education both at home and abroad. He believes by teaching through the world’s most successful public and private sector leaders, and fully utilising public sector institutions, this goal can be achieved.
He graduated from Monash University with a LLB (Honours) and Bond University BA (Honours – English Literature and Philosophy). For two years, he worked across various law firms in Australia, the US and UK and then went on to become an entrepreneur, following his overriding passion for education and ensuring equal access to education to all members of society.
Previously, Mat founded an e-learning company in 2004, Origin Human Resources, that he sold to a publicly listed global HR firm and also founded numerous other successful businesses in Australia and internationally between 1998 and 2004.
In 2011, Mat founded Dūcere, an innovative education provider of high-quality tertiary leadership programs. Dūcere exclusively partners with public sector vocational institutions and universities. Mat believes that the philosophy of these institutions allows the best outcomes for Dūcere students.