Week six on the job, meet UTS’ first cohort of Graduate Learning Designers (GLDs), five recent UTS grads bringing a student lens to learning design. Part of a year-long training program, these talented graduates join PG.f* to partner with faculties in the ongoing transformation of selected postgraduate offerings over 2019.
Behind the program
The idea to start the graduate program emerged when PG.f was hiring learning designers for their growing team. Marilyn Harris, Education Strategy Analyst, explains;
“As we move towards more flexible and personalised learning experiences, the university is experiencing a growing need for skilled and creative learning designers to co-create digital learning with our academic staff. There is a shortage of learning designers in the market and many graduates are unsure of the necessary career path. While recruiting, we interviewed many applicants who didn’t have experience but they were really interested in understanding learning design. We thought, how great if we could to hire these keen, talented young people and train them up in what is really a rewarding career. And who better than our own talented grads.”
With a team of experienced senior learning designers already on board with the skills to mentor them, it seemed a no brainer. So five UTS graduates were recruited – spanning undergraduates degrees in communication, creative intelligence and innovation, business, and design.
Working in faculty-aligned learning design ‘pods’ – comprised of a Senior Learning Designer, a Learning Designer, and a Graduate Learning Designer – the GLDs are already, under the mentorship of senior learning designers, developing content, building activities and resources, and in some cases meeting directly with academics to provide a student lens on course design.
Six weeks in…
Sebastian Krook, Senior Learning Designer and Supervisor for the Graduate Learning Designer Program, says that the team is already benefiting from the new recruits.
“We’ve noticed a change since they started. They’re bringing a fresh point of view around learning and it’s really useful to have someone who’s been a student recently to bring that perspective. It’s valuable to our other learning designers in the team and the academics that we work with. Plus, as digital natives, they’re very comfortable using techs. We integrate a lot of third party platforms and embed them into our LMS, and they’ve learned how to do that really quickly. They’ve even suggested third party applications that we hadn’t considered.
“One of their very first tasks was to review a new UTS Open online course before it went live. They were asked to go through the course as though they were still students, to test and recommend changes. With fresh eyes they pointed out instances where an instruction needed to be clearer, and provided insights into student behaviour we haven’t considered. We can sometimes forget these little things, because we’re not the immediate user.”
The graduates themselves are also gaining a fresh perspective. Louise Yeh, one of the five recruits and a recent graduate of UTS’s Social and Political Studies degree, explains:
“I’m surprised by how different it is to be on the other side of learning. As a student I didn’t realise how complex higher education teaching is. I think it’s quite easy for students to forget that lecturers and tutors are people too. Teaching and learning is a very human process; and although it’s not always clear to both parties, the aims and aspirations of students and educators are similarly aligned.”
Meet the team
Liam Ahern, Graduate Learning Designer for Health
I’m a graduate of the B Business (Marketing and Sustainable Enterprise) & B Creative Intelligence and Innovation. I applied for the role because I experienced both the best and worst of what UTS has to offer in terms of education quality and wanted to help make sure others would only experience the best!
What’s it like to be on the other side of learning?
I’ve seen how much academics really care about their courses and work hard to give their students quality educational experiences.
What qualities do you think you bring to the team?
Is a sandwich press a quality…?
Hikes, tunes, covfefe.
Louise Yeh, Graduate Learning Designer for DAB & TDi
I’ve just completed my B Communications (Social and Political Studies) (Honours) and BA International Studies. Education is an area that I’m very interested in I thought the program would be a great way to further develop my communications practice in an area that I’m passionate about. Also, I’m keen to develop my design skills and the program is a good opportunity to keep learning now that I’d finished studying. #learningforalifetime lol:)
What skills do you think you bring to the team?
My double degree, an honours year, and experience working as a Communication Assistant at UTS means I have strong copywriting and content creation skills. I’m excited to translate these skills into teaching and learning communications. Also, I’ve spent a fair bit of time at UTS and I think my experience offers a useful perspective.
As you might’ve picked up I’m keen on writing, which is also informed by my love of reading! Right now I’m reading Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, which is fantastic.
Vicki-Anh Winfield, Graduate Learning Designer for Science & FEIT
I recently completed a B Communications with Honours, majoring in Creative Writing. I applied for the program because my long-term career plan is to be an academic lecturer. I think one of the challenges of tertiary education is that academics are experts in their field but not necessarily expert teachers. So I joined this program to get more experience in ‘how to teach’.
I never realised how much work and effort goes into creating content and resources.
What do think you can bring to the team?
I can bring a specialty in written content production and a creative flair.
Reading Beat poetry to my baby rabbit Twifford, 6am swims and sipping cocktails at Kuletos on a Sunday afternoon.
Kevin Millingham, Graduate Learning Designer for GSH
I’m a graduate of the B Design in Integrated Product Design and B Creative Intelligence and Innovation. Having studied two highly creative degrees I’m really interested in the intersection between products and services. Researching this role I was inspired by the work of the postgraduate.futures team in curating hybrid learning experiences for both students and academics.
I’ve already had some great moments working with academics to reimagine their content into engaging learning sequences and interactive activities for their students online. I’m also enjoying helping define what new courses and subject will look like as they’re being built.
What’s it like to be on the other side of learning?
It’s been incredible to see the amount of time, energy and resources that the university and staff put into ensuring the best possible learning experience for students.
What do think you can bring to the team?
Throughout my double degree, I’ve learned to bring a human-centered design approach to all of the projects I work on and enjoy the iterative process of prototyping which I hope to bring with me to the learning design team.
I spend most weekends hiking and kayaking (basically any excuse to catch up with mates and share a beverage outdoors). I’m also always happy to chat product design successes and failures!
Rory Green, Graduate Learning Designer for FASS and Law
I’ve just completed a Bachelor of Communication majoring in Digital and Social Media, with an Honours program at the end. I picked up a lot of varied skills in my undergrad like user experience, web programming, and research. The Graduate Learning Designer program seems like the perfect opportunity to be in a work environment where I could make use of all of these skills, rather than just one of them.
What do think you bring to the team?
Curiosity, empathy, and plenty of optimism!
In my downtime, I edit interactive literature for youth literary magazine ‘Voiceworks’, and take weekend trips to Newcastle (where the beaches are much better than Sydney).
*What is PG.f?
PG.f is a UTS initiative entering its fourth year that seeks to transform postgraduate coursework experience. It is one of several key initiatives driving UTS 2027’s focus on flexible, real-world and personalised learning experiences that create a global community of adaptive learners and thinkers.
Headed by Susan Cornish and under the remit of Pro Vice-Chancellor Peter Scott, the team is made up of learning designers, media production and support staff. Matched with selected academics to reimagine postgraduate learning, the team have revamped six courses and are set to work on another 11 priority courses over 2019.
PG.f are also responsible for the launch of our UTS Open, UTS’s online platform offering free ‘taster’ modules and a digital window into learning at UTS. Co-developed with faculties, these modules seek to develop knowledge and skills in emerging fields and technologies – think cryptocurrencies, genomics in healthcare and journeys through data. Over the next year, the team will be adding longer courses, including some that may attract credit towards UTS degrees.
If you run a PG subject and want to see how PG.f can help you improve the student online learning experience, email the Head of Learning Design, Susan.Cornish@uts.edu.au
For examples of collaborations between PG.f learning designers and academics at UTS, see: