Can you feel that fresh feeling? The change of seasons is well and truly here. There’s that delightful crisp autumn breeze interspersed with snatches of warming sunlight. What a perfect time to talk about the importance of fresh air, especially when it means becoming AiR or Academic in Residence with the LX.lab!

A fresh look at supporting academic development

The LX.lab’s Academic in Residence (AiR) Program connects a UTS academic with the LX.lab for a six-month period. They work collaboratively on a project with the broad aims of communicating and disseminating learning and teaching outcomes to the academic community, developing communities of practice at UTS and providing development opportunities to other UTS academics. This the first AiR program since 2018-19, where we partnered with four academics to develop learning resources and assessment strategies for entrepreneurship education.

By way of the Inclusive Practice in Education Fellowship, we were introduced to our latest AiR candidate in the form of Samuel Yu. Sam had been tasked with developing a new TD School Elective for Autumn 2023 called Envisioning futures worth wanting and was keen to ensure his subject had the highest levels of digital accessibility. As Sam notes:

Accessibility is crucial for creating subjects that invite and accommodate for all students and their learning needs. It ensures that all students can access the learning material from the beginning.

We established what our mutual goals would be, including ‘Design all materials and practices from the project for inclusiveness and accessibility‘ and ‘Add value to the subject beyond our standard consultation services to ensure the AiR program is effective’. Once the project brief was signed off by Bem le Hunte, the Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) of TD School, Sam’s six-month commitment to the programme was endorsed and he was supported by TD School to engage with the LX.lab agile way of working.

How we got here

Agile what? Well, every fortnight on a Tuesday morning, a small team of LX.lab staff met with Sam for 30 minutes to discuss our priorities and work out what our tasks would be for the following fortnight. Each of these fortnights was deemed a ‘sprint’ according to our agile process.

We planned to work through four phases:

  • Phase 1: Develop strategies to be used at scale
  • Phase 2: Produce content / provide media support
  • Phase 3: Review inclusive practices and accessibility
  • Phase 4: AiR and learning experience evaluation

Phase 1-3 were on a kind of loop as Sam had to produce content for the subject gradually and the team responded with strategic and on-demand support.

Reflecting on the process, Sam highlighted the importance of support and resourcing:

One of the key areas of focus was accessibility for developing my subject; which despite having the support of the team, as well as my pre-existing knowledge, was still a challenge to implement without greater resources for the LX Lab and academics.

The product and the learning process

Together with Sam, we produced some resources that we’re well proud of such as the guides to Make a Kaltura video transcript available in Canvas and Collaborative and learner-centred group activities. We also supported Sam to create high quality well-captioned videos with industry partners City of Sydney.

This outlined for us the key importance of accessibility resourcing. Despite the challenges, it was ultimately worth it to design a subject from the ground up with these principles in mind. As Sam points out, the process resulted in learning on multiple levels, including learning about previously unknown resources:

Working closely with them, I was able to get more insight into how LX.lab operated as a unit within UTS. There were many resources that the Lab has created that I wasn’t aware of beforehand, as they weren’t being promoted within my usual sphere of awareness.

They were very accomodating and helpful with all my questions. Even with things that were beyond the scope of engagement, the team were willing to assist or direct me to the right place to address them.

For future Academics in Residence, Sam’s advice includes defining a clear scope of engagement, and staying on top of each sprint and tasks to maximise time with the team and the support they can offer.

Stay tuned for a follow-up blog post where Sam’s tutors and students reflect on the impact of this project from their perspective.

Could you be the next AiR?

Do you have a subject in development, a subject you want to improve in some way (for example, making it more accessible), or some other digital learning ecosystem project you’d like to pursue? Talk your LX.lab faculty chapter lead or your faculty teaching and learning team and find out more information about the Academic in Residence Program.

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