Q&A: Strategic Priority 4

ACU’s Strategic Plan 2020-2023 features six strategic priorities that outline our vision for ACU in the coming years.

To help you understand how you can support our strategic plan, we’ll be highlighting a different priority each month through a Q&A. This month, we hear from Deputy Provost Professor Meg Stuart about Strategic Priority 4: Vibrant academic culture, enriched by innovation and discovery.

1. How is ACU working towards this Strategic Priority and what are some examples of how we are already achieving it?

The Interim Provost is driving an innovation agenda that is collaborative and has multiple touch points with academic culture. Innovation in course offerings, student experience, digital education and revenue diversification each provide opportunities for academic staff to work differently and respond effectively to an increasingly competitive higher education sector.

The innovation agenda is central to all work in the university. Each of the four key areas is led by an Executive Dean but each has application across all faculties. This is a new way of working for ACU, facilitating access to the expertise of our leadership team across a range of university-wide approaches.

To support this agenda, a number of strategies have been developed or are being developed, including the Education and Digital Education, Widening Participation and Global Strategies.

The Education and Digital Education Strategy will directly influence academic culture and innovate learning and teaching practices, by supporting the teaching-research nexus, staff professional learning and the student experience. For example, newly established school-based research centres in areas of excellence will support the integration of teaching and research.

Though not all innovation involves technological solutions, technology is a key focus within our strategies. ACU will pilot a number of educational technologies that will assist teaching staff to work differently, including CATME (peer assessment tool) and Cadmus (a tool to support alternative assessment formats).

2. How does this Strategic Priority interact with ACU’s focus on opportunity, innovation and ethics?

Through fostering a vibrant academic culture, ACU will support staff to innovate their academic practice, to strive for excellence, to learn and succeed - as well as to fail and recover.

As we innovate and explore elements new to ACU, we’ll use best evidence to inform our decision-making. By testing initiatives and evaluating outcomes via data, we continue to learn from our successes and our failures.

A focus on the student experience is key to all we do. A critical discovery piece on the student user experience conducted by Marketing and External Relations (MER) will inform and guide our decision-making and further work on student retention as we progress.

ACU also continues to pursue a range of new opportunities. For example, the new Blacktown Campus will enable ACU to deliver services to a new audience next year.

3. How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed or influenced our work in this space?

The success story from our first semester effort is the raised awareness of our teaching staff to the potential of teaching online. There is growing motivation to further explore this medium for ongoing delivery.

Working and teaching from home has required rapid upskilling of staff in the use of collaborative technologies and teaching tools. For example, IT are supporting a number of staff to pilot innovative and inclusive use of MS Teams for teaching.

The conversion to online was facilitated by a previously unseen level of collaboration and deep engagement between the Learning and Teaching Centre and each of the faculties.

That connectedness continues into Semester 2 and we are already seeing anecdotal feedback from students that the unit enhancement has positively affected their experience.

4. How can staff and managers contribute to this Strategic Priority?

Our challenges now include:

  • Increased demand from our students for flexible delivery and an expectation that we will continue to grow the sophistication of our tools and technologies to support their learning.
  • Supporting staff to upskill and to build institutional capacity, capability and confidence in an evolving digital landscape.
  • Creating demonstratable and clearly articulated reward and recognition pathways for all staff, to incubate best practice, innovation and quality outcomes.

Our strategies intersect with all areas of academic work and many areas of professional work across the university. Colleagues are encouraged to engage and participate where they can.

Keep your eyes out for innovation agenda updates from the Interim Provost in the Staff Bulletin and via the Innovation@ACU group on Workplace. If you have particular areas of interest you would like to see pursued, drop the team a line at innovation@acu.edu.au

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