Season’s greetings and reflections on a year of change and innovation

791bc27a07ee8fd738a2aa66cb148302As the 2016 academic year draws to a close, we would like to thank you for your interest in and involvement with education and educational innovations over the past year. We wish everyone a happy and relaxing summer break, and look forward to continuing and beginning collaborations in 2017.

Probably the biggest and most exciting educational development in 2016 was the transformation of the undergraduate curriculum which was approved by the Academic Board in November. The new curriculum aims to retain the best elements of a Sydney education whilst providing distinctive features to enable our graduates to succeed. With Board approval in place, 2017 will be a year of intense work to prepare for delivery of the new degrees in 2018.

The Educational Innovation team is now arranged into a ‘hub and spoke‘ model with academics and educational designers working directly with groups of faculties on short and long term projects as well as continuing its central strategic role in re-shaping teaching delivery including a new professional learning model for university teaching. 2017 will see this work expand with a new program for first year coordinators, focussing on the transformation of teaching approaches, and models for recognising the contribution of teaching in academic careers. As part of this work, in semester 2, we ran the highly successful ‘Week 4 // Open Door‘ event during which staff opened up their lecture theatres to peers from across the institution. We plan to run this again in semester 1 of 2017 and to expand the event to include a wider range of classes and opportunities to observe and be observed whilst teaching.

Strategic Education Grants of over $750,000 were awarded to 29 projects in September. These are now funding teams working on educational innovation in existing courses as well as delivering the distinctive elements of the new curriculum. The 2017 grants have just closed and are due to be announced before closedown.

2016 also saw the launch of the first University of Sydney ‘massive open online course’ (MOOC). At the time of writing, we now have 5 MOOCs running with a further 7 due to be launched in the new few months. Plans are currently underway for the development of our next set in 2017.

In October, the inaugural University of Sydney Innovation Week celebrated the best of our teaching and research through a range of events including a highly successful teaching colloquium on ‘experiments in learning and teaching‘ and the recognition of over 50 colleagues in the Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence.

In the second half of the year, we also launched the LMS transformation project. This project will deliver a recommendation on the delivery of a ‘single, integrated, enterprise-level virtual learning environment that is agile and supportive of innovation’ by the end of 2016. More news will follow in the new year. Huge thanks to all of the staff and students who have been part of the evaluation process of this hugely important project.

In case you missed them (or want some light holiday reading), popular posts on Teaching@Sydney from 2016 were around unpacking and implementing authentic assessment, chunking your lectures based on tips picked up during Week 4 // Open Door, leveraging student-generated videos to encourage prework, engaging students on discussion boards, and improving the aesthetics of your Blackboard site. As we look to 2017, we at Teaching@Sydney hope to work with you to share many stories of educational innovation at Sydney and beyond. As always, we would love for you to contribute to this blog.

These are just a few of the highlights from an extremely busy and productive year. Huge thanks must go to colleagues from across the University who are contributing to the transformation of education at Sydney. On a personal note, I would like to express huge thanks to the wonderful Educational Innovation team in making me feel so welcome in my new role as Director. We look forward to an equally busy year in 2017.

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