The Australian education landscape is rapidly changing and universities are facing pressing issues to meet the needs of their students, stay competitive and attract highly motivated learners. To get a better understanding of the current situation, we decided to conduct a study among Deputy Vice Chancellors and Pro-Vice Chancellors, with learning and teaching portfolios. We compiled a list of 10 learning and teaching challenges, gathered from recent keynotes and presentations from Australian academic leaders. We assembled these challenges into a short survey and asked senior academic leaders to rank them in order of importance.

Our survey yielded 16 valid responses from 15 of Australia’s 40 universities and, given the relatively small sample, we aggregated the responses across the top four ranked items.

According to our academic leaders, the top three learning and teaching challenges were:

  • Student career development and employability (68.75% of respondents)
  • Student engagement and satisfaction (62.5% of respondents)
  • Assessment and feedback (50% of respondents)

Following the survey, we also conducted interviews with nine of the respondents to gain deeper insights into their most highly ranked challenges and we asked them how they were responding institutionally.

The interviews established that our academic senior leaders were strategic in the ways they prioritized their challenges and in the initiatives they were championing to respond to these challenges. They were mindful of the major factors influencing the quality and outcomes of a university education and the increasing expectations of students, families and government to deliver high quality experiences and tangible value now and into the future.

In collaboration with ASCILITE (Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education), we combined our findings with the insights of our academic leaders to create a white paper ‘Learning and teaching challenges in higher education in Australia: A view from the top’. We are already receiving feedback that the white paper is a valuable resource that provides an astute snapshot of the current higher education environment. We hope you enjoy it and that it promotes useful discussion in your own institution.

Whitepaper: Learning and teaching challenges in higher education in Australia

About the Authors:

Allan Christie is Vice-President, eLearning, APAC region, Blackboard
Dr Caroline Steel is Strategic Educational Consultant, APAC region, Blackboard
Assoc. Prof. Dominique Parrish is President of ASCILITE and Associate Dean (Education), Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, University of Wollongong

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