Dr. Kulari Lokuge, Director of eLearning at Monash College Central eLearning Team (CeLT)

Monash College Earns Awards for Its Education Transformation


Open LMS was acquired by Learning Technologies Group (LTG) on March 31, 2020. To learn more about Open LMS, please visit https://www.openlms.net.

The following story is an update of an article originally published on E-Learn Magazine on Jan. 16, 2018. Click here for the Spanish version.

By moving away from the traditional teaching method to a blended and flipped classroom model, Monash College is ensuring its students receive an academic foundation through cutting-edge technology. Their award-winning model supports staff’s professional development while providing students with a modern way of learning. Owned by Monash University, the College offers foundation programs, English language courses, diplomas, study groups, professional experience programs, and more.

For over 20 years, Monash College has prepared international students for success at university and beyond, through the provision of transition education programs and services. The Collegeis the preferred pathway to Monash University for international students. Its vision to be recognized as the world’s leading provider in transition education drives a constant focus on best practice in teaching and learning to unlock students’ potential.

“As part of the Monash ecosystem, it was felt that the traditional teaching methods used at the College in 2015 needed to be revolutionized. We wanted to move to a model where technology-enhanced learning (TEL) and the use of technology increased the engagement of our students through innovative learning and teaching,” says Dr. Kulari Lokuge, director of eLearning at Monash College.

To bring this to fruition, a Central eLearning Team (CeLT) was formed and a strategic plan was designed to pave the way forward. “We wanted to ensure our teaching was enhanced and supported through technology to increase engagement and feedback of our international student cohorts, enabling them to develop the skills needed to succeed at Monash University,” Dr. Lokuge explains.

To achieve this, three core drivers were developed that underpinned the strategic plan: engaged learning, innovative teaching, and quality education.

Led by Dr. Lokuge, the Monash College Central eLearning Team (CeLT) has created innovative and collaborative approaches in digital learning, embedding tools such as Blackboard Open LMS and Echo360 Active Learning Platform (ALP) into the classroom model. From the start, Blackboard has provided the technology structure for student learning and staff professional development.

Award-winning Model

The combination of a strong education at its core, innovative technology tools, and a teaching staff trained and supported by the administration is why Monash College was granted the prestigious Association for Learning Technology (ALT) International 2017 Team Learning Technologist of the Year award and the Blackboard APAC 2017 Catalyst Award for Professional Development.

“This was a significant acknowledgment for the team who carried out a large number of training and support sessions, inspiring and empowering staff on how to use and maximize the exciting new learning technologies,” says Dr. Lokuge.

In 2018, the College was awardedtwo gold awards for Best Learning Design Team and Best Simulation Learning Design at the 2018 LearnX ImpactAwards in Melbourne. The institution was also a finalist at the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) awards for their innovative and creative ways of revolutionizing the College’s teaching and learning practices through a cultural transformation that used learning technologies to support staff and students.

“All of the awards recognize CeLT’s passion and dedication for the use of TEL to improve student outcomes, the commitment of senior management and the Board of Directors, and the teachers who are willing to innovate and collaborate to transform students’ learning experiences,” says Dr. Lokuge.

The team is comprised of four support categories: Learning Content Designers, Learning Resources Designers, Learning Management System Specialists, and Learning Analytics Specialists.

The Professional Development Strategy

Monash’s Digital Learning Initiative was launched in conjunction with an eLearning Professional Development strategy. The process began in October 2015, when the CeLT team went beyond their mission to create a professional development framework that supported teaching staff, transforming their classroom into the new model.

Based on the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership standards, Professor Gilly Salmon’s five-state model and Carpe Diem Model were used to encourage staff to design their courses and experiment with the tools within the College’s learning management system, Blackboard Open LMS.

To engage staff and students, Blackboard Open LMS was upgraded to a modern-looking interface. As the staff’s confidence using the new technologies grew, additional tools for media management, such as Kaltura and other collaboration tools, were introduced.

Dr. Lokuge believes identifying the tools teaching staff need and providing them with the knowledge on how to use them constitutes professional development. Since 2015, CeLT has provided over 280 training sessions for 2,500 teaching staff.

Training provided staff with the opportunity to embrace the new technology. This was evidenced by the increased attendance in professional development workshops; the increase in Blackboard Open LMS storage use; and more than 5000 videos created by teaching staffsince the implementation of Kaltura’s Media Management System in January 2017.

The professional development model is structured to recognize teaching staff for their success and initiatives with technology. Teaching staff is featured in the College’s internal news, are given access to conferences and are invited to present their learnings to peers and senior leadership. To solidify its success and staff engagement, the professional development framework is integrated into the College’s Professional Development Process. Staff can also be recognized through the College’s end of year Outstanding Contribution achievement awards.

The professional development program was built to ensure that staff is consistently integrated within the online learning system. The program begins when new staff members are introduced into the College as part of the induction process.

The eLearning induction program trains new staff so they are able to deliver quality classes regardless of their teaching experience. The use of technology provides teaching staff more time outside of class, which they can use for online learning and blended learning research and innovation grants. Teaching staff is also provided with the tools needed to identify students who are not performing or engaging as expected.

“The greatest measures of our accomplishment are the students’ classroom success and happiness, and their success when they transition across to Monash University,” says Dr. Lokuge. Students are meeting performance and engagement goals and the CeLT is receiving praise from surveys and anecdotal feedback from students and staff. The success of the students lies firmly with the teaching staff’s adoption of the blended and flipped classroom model.

A Glimpse of the Future

Dr. Lokuge credits the transformation success to the model. “It is so efficient and effective because of two reasons: getting everyone involved in the transformation journey and providing the resources to solve any problems.”

According to her, open communication and collaborative work practices have been central to Monash’s success, always strongly supported by senior leadership that trusted the team to explore opportunities and deliver exciting and innovative programs that help transform lives.

Dr. Lokuge says that introducing the technology to teaching staff was easy. “The challenge was integrating technology that fits the classroom’s purpose and sustaining it.” In this process, Blackboard was a key partner.

“Working closely with Blackboard Open LMS has assisted us to make the necessary changes in a timely manner. We have worked with our vendors as partners who continue to support our journey. This win-win situation allows the College to provide feedback, and the partner organization the opportunity to make the necessary changes that support our College’s vision,” she explains.

Now all College courses are delivered using a technology-enhanced learning approach. “Our students attend face-to-face classes, however, their pre and post-class learning happens through a breadth of well-researched, piloted, and specifically-selected tools to support our programs,” says Dr. Lokuge.

“Our College-wide, revolutionized, innovative course delivery has resulted in outstanding staff satisfaction feedback in professional development — 91.4% — resulting in increased TEL in the classroom across the College and better student engagement.”

Dr. Lokuge and Monash College have no plans to stop. Taking the College to the next level requires a sustainable model. “This will allow us to go into a new phase of Monash College’s development,” says Dr. Lokuge. “Moving forward, we have to ask how we can improve our student outcomes and teachers’ impact in the classroom.”

Monash College is now recognized as a leader in technology-enhanced learning and will continue to innovate with personalized adaptive learning and use of learning analytics to prepare teachers and students with 21st-century skills.


Best Practices for a Student-Centered Institution

Carpe Diem Learning Design Process – The CeLT team began designing courses using the process developed by Professor Gilly Salmon, which takes a pedagogy-first approach. “Focused on the vision of ‘Student-Centered, Quality-Led Growth,’ the College was determined to provide a rich learning experience for students and staff,” says Dr. Lokuge.

Formal and informal communication methods – Staff participated in surveys and focus groups. The CeLT and the director scheduled times with managers and teachers across all campuses to discuss and resolve problems. Staff was then invited to take part in pilot studies specific to their issues.

Communities of Practice – The CeLT team also participated in existing Community of Practice groups, as well as supported teaching staff to create new groups that allowed further opportunities to share ideas.

College-wide support – According to Dr. Lokuge, staff at all levels across the College were made aware of innovative technology-enhanced learning methods, senior leaders were kept abreast of processes, and middle management was trained to support teachers. “As a result, teachers were inspired to use innovative technology-enhanced teaching methods through pilots and showcasing sessions, and then enabled through further support via drop-in sessions conducted twice a week,” she explains.

Monash College’s Commitment

Engage students by recognizing that each one is an individual with a diverse cultural background, with different needs and motivations. Continually strive to adapt and vary how we engage with our students as they continue to advance. Have a positive impact on their experience through student-centered learning and teaching, flexibility with technology applications, and effective and efficient support services, processes, and systems.

Use innovative technology to design, develop, and deliver courses that enhance the student learning experience both within and outside the classroom, and to pedagogically enable students to easily understand and master skills.

Embed quality in content and experience to ensure that students achieve learning outcomes that meet their expectations and industry and transition needs by applying the principles of innovation, continuous improvement, and validation to our courses, units, and teaching practices.

Photos: AFP Mal Fairdough