Innovation champions enhance the student experience

Dr Alana Thomson said the tools used in the project would give students real-world skills that would appeal to employers.

A pilot project between Adobe and Federation University has seen academic and teaching staff from across higher education and TAFE selected to serve as innovation champions and showcase the University's digital capability.

The Adobe Innovation Champions project ran during semester one, with those selected demonstrating their passion for innovation in learning and teaching and enhancing the student experience. They were selected via a competitive application process.

Director of Learning and Teaching in the Institute of Innovation, Science and Sustainability Associate Professor Lara Wakeling said the Champions had the opportunity to learn about the Adobe Creative Cloud Platform and the options available to enhance digital literacy via a series of workshops. The Adobe Team also provided individual support during the development of each project.

The key criteria for teaching staff were to show examples of where they had been innovators previously and present a project where they felt they could use the technology. During the showcase, Champions shared their journey, including the challenges they overcame to achieve their final product and their future plans.

"We told the Champions that we wanted to invest in them, giving them the opportunity to enhance their skills and therefore the experience of our students," Associate Professor Wakeling said.

"We have come to the end of this initial project, but the work is ongoing for many staff members. The projects they developed in semester one will be rolled out for semester two. And we're looking at having a showcase later in the year to highlight the progress in this area, but also what's happening in other key areas of digital learning and teaching." Associate Professor Lara Wakeling

Associate Professor Wakeling said the project was a key example of Federation's commitment to embedded digital technology.

"Looking at the bigger picture of the University's strategic plan, it highlights that this is what we need to be doing – delivering high-quality experiences for all our students right across the institution," Associate Professor Wakeling said.

"Students will have to opportunity to enhance their digital literacy in their courses. Some of their assessment tasks will be utilising the Adobe products within their courses. One of our staff members has been asked by Adobe to present at a conference that they're running soon.

"We've been doing projects in the digital space for many years now and we have experienced staff experts in online pedagogy. The other important aspect is that our students are really happy with the experiences that they are getting as well."

International Sport Management lecturer in the Institute of Health and Wellbeing Dr Alana Thomson participated in the program with a project based on her event management courses.

"The course innovation I focused on for this pilot won't be delivered until next year but I'm already looking for opportunities to bring the Adobe platform into my courses running in semester two this year," Dr Thomson said.

"There are a number of technologies in play in the education space, but the thing that stands out for me with the Adobe platform is that it is a technology students are likely to use in their workplaces, so it makes absolute sense we would build it into their university education and enabling our students to engage with what's going on around them and be active contributors – empowering them to create knowledge, not just be consuming it all the time."

Dr Thomson said the tools used in the project would give students real-world skills that would appeal to employers.

She highlighted an important focus of her work for the project – looking at critical theory in sports events and linking that with sustainable development goals.

"We're seeing a number of large-scale sports events committing to legacies around sustainability, gender equality and social inclusion, but it's very hard to deliver on those outcomes if our practitioners and policymakers haven't understood the root challenges of these issues and that's where I want to bring critical theory into my event management teaching, so our sport event students go out into the real world knowing the complexity of these issues and being better positioned to come up with meaningful solutions. But the challenge for me is that critical theory can be a difficult area of sociology to engage my students with," Dr Thomson said.

"The way I can make it more engaging, accessible, and more exciting for students is to design it so that they become content creators with these digital tools. Once we've had a look at some of the fundamentals, they can go and develop a case study about a sports event, explore the critical theory in the real-world setting, and then they develop a website post about it." Dr Alana Thomson

"With these tools, there's an opportunity to really get to the deeper learning experiences. We're not always in a classroom anymore where we would do deep facilitated critical discussions. It is challenging to replicate those discussions in an online classroom, so we've got to look for other ways to get those meaningful learning experiences by bringing in the technology.

"It's about empowering students to go out and find that learning for themselves. That's what education is about, empowering students to go out and find the answers themselves. The Adobe platform allows us to do that in a really cool way.

"Don't get me wrong, we still need to do the behind-the-scenes work in developing the pedagogy and frameworks and skilling our students, but the work they can create looks great and students can be proud of what they put together. It's not an essay that no one else will see. They can use this in their career portfolios and post it to LinkedIn and let people see what they're doing. They can really be proud of what they are creating."

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