Educators NZ - Teachers to undergo tech overhaul at Unitec

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Teachers to undergo tech overhaul at Unitec

Unitec is implementing a new standard for its teachers to develop new skills in order to incorporate technology into learning practises.

The learning institute says its teachers will spend the next 18 months developing the skills needed to implement a ‘new and innovative’ style of learning.

Unitec says its vision is for all of the programmes it offers to be technology-rich and work-integrated by 2017.

Academic staff will learn new teaching approaches like gamification, how to better integrate learning with work, and how to effectively blend face-to-face and web-based learning, Unitec says in a statement.

Staff will have at least five days of training that is customised to their subject area and the opportunity to test the new practises and technology in prototype classrooms. This should happen before the end of 2016, Unitec says.

Unitec plans to spend over $200m over the next 10 years upgrading and consolidating its Mt Albert campus, and $40m on support for technology, people and change.

“The vision is to become a leader in contemporary applied learning, with the primary goals of creating highly employable and enterprising graduates, responding to industries and employers who need the skills and talent Unitec creates,” explains Doctor Rick Ede, Unitec CEO. As well as “having engaged and inspired staff equipped with the capabilities they need for the future, and financial stability.”

Ede says achieving these aims means making major changes to both the campus and the way programmes are taught.

“Basically the working world is changing dramatically and like most tertiary institutions we haven’t been able to keep up by trying to evolve current ways of doing things,” Ede says.

“The value of qualifications and credentials as a proxy or benchmark for capability and potential of graduates is being increasingly challenged,” he adds.

Ede says students are questioning the value they gain from an investment of tens of thousands of dollars and years of their lives for an uncertain employment outcome.

“We also need to be regarded by employer organisations in key sectors as a strategic talent partner that through our students and graduates helps them to become better performing organisations,” he explains.

Linda Keesing-Styles, Unitec dean of teaching and learning, says the new direction is exciting and demanding.

“We are asking teachers to confront their current approaches to learning and teaching and to stretch their practice into new approaches that are aligned with contemporary trends,” she says.

“This includes highly student-centred practices, the utilisation of significant components of web-based learning and employing new practices such as gamification and makerspaces.

“These approaches can give both better learning of the subject matter, and help build the vital soft skills like teamwork, problem solving and collaboration,” Keesing-Styles explains.

“The age of the ‘sage on the stage’ delivering knowledge to a passive audience has gone.”

Keesing-Styles says every course Unitec offers will be remodelled over the next three years so they can be taught in these new ways.

Prototype spaces

To understand what works and what doesn’t Unitec has built prototype classrooms to trial the new methods and technologies with teachers. Ongoing feedback from staff and students is informing how future spaces will be designed.

“We opened a prototype space in February and have been trialling it with a group of about 10 teachers and their classes, and we have opened more than 100 classes to small-group observation by other teachers,” Keesing-Styles says. “We ran an evaluation from February to May and will use the results to inform the rest of the build as well as other parts of our operation.”

The opening of a further, larger space in July will allow more staff and students to participate in and help design the future of contemporary applied learning.

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