Universities are facing unprecedented pressures. On the one hand, governments are exerting greater control through emerging standards processes. On another, students are wondering why higher education costs so much when they have to sit in classes of 250 and contact hours have seen a continual decline over the last 20 years. The global financial crisis has sharpened this perception.
Employers are also wondering about value when graduates spend three or four years at university only to emerge poorly prepared for work. Finally, educational technology is offering alternatives that may well strip away the cash cow of large undergraduate courses because many can be easily delivered through online learning and assessment at a fraction of the current cost. These courses are ripe for the taking by educational start-ups operating on a global scale.
What are we to do? There needs to be a fundamental shift from teaching the knowledge of each discipline to teaching the practice of the discipline. This will rely on access to online learning and assessment and it will engage students actively in projects, which will effectively use the new learning spaces that are appearing at many universities. These new curricula will be challenging for both staff and students, merging teaching with research methods, to graduate a new generation ready for the knowledge economy. Professor Roger Hadgraft
Roger Hadgraft is an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Discipline Scholar in Engineering and ICT completing the Academic Standards Project during 2009-10. He has led curriculum change in several engineering disciplines, with a focus on problem/project-based learning (PBL) at RMIT, Monash and Melbourne Universities. He co-established the Master of Sustainable Practice at RMIT in 2005-6, which attracts students from all disciplines into a program deliberately using adult learning principles.
In 2012, Roger returned to RMIT to lead a new, cross-disciplinary program in Sustainable Systems Engineering. He is a Governing Board member of the International Research in Engineering Education Network and a Past President of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education.