IRU members have a foundational commitment to engagement with Asia, enjoying long-established links with Asian counterparts. As opportunities for Australian interaction with Asia grow across all disciplines and areas of activity, IRU members lead the way in collaborative teaching, language, research and policy initiatives. The IRU International Strategy focuses on four key areas:
- Developing new markets and opportunities to engage collaboratively
- Enhancing the student experience
- Enhancing staff competencies
- Policy engagement
Three working groups are guiding implementation of the strategy with a focus on:
- Identifying target countries for future activity and mapping current member activities,
- how best to use data to drive future collective activity, and
- Staff professional development
In November 2014, IRU signed a three‐year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Malaysian Research University Network (MRUN). MRUN comprises five research‐focused Malaysian universities namely Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).
The aim of the MOU is to establish close and continuing partnerships between IRU and MRUN universities, using the financing of a select number of projects in the Research and Teaching & Learning spheres to stimulate stronger connections.
IRU and MRUN are currently running two collaborative streams ‐ Research and Teaching & Learning. Each stream involves partnership between IRU member universities and MRUN university partners with some projects involving a number of universities.
Thanks to the IRU-MRUN partnership, 12 research projects are currently underway with representation from across the IRU and MRUN networks. The projects involve collaboration between researchers who had already collaborated in previous research projects. Ranging from projects that seek to maximise the energy performance of building envelopes in the Northern Territory and Malaysia, to enabling ecosystem services from restored mangroves to the development of low cost mechanical heart devices, the 12 projects have the potential of wider economic and social impact. The research foci are closely tied to the respective research priorities of both countries.
Teaching & Learning
IRU universities, Charles Darwin University, James Cook University, La Trobe University, Flinders University and Murdoch University are teamed up with research partners at the Malaysian Research University Network (MRUN) to explore innovative solutions/advancements to current issues in teaching and learning.
The four current projects explore applicability of Australian frameworks and standards in a Malaysian context and benefit from Malaysian expertise.
MRUN comprises five Malaysian research universities — Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).
Universities are increasingly seeking to assess effective teaching using clearly defined and measurable criteria and standards. They want to tailor the criteria and standards to the particular circumstances of their institution but also enable benchmarking of the results with partner institutions. There are no internationally accepted criteria and standards or frameworks for assessing teaching effectiveness.
This project focuses on improving the professionalisation of teaching through establishing and implementing criteria and standards for teaching effectiveness in universities.
Murdoch University, in collaboration with four other universities, has lead a three year Office of Learning and Teaching Strategic Project researching the professionalisation of university teaching. A comprehensive review of the literature on the topic has been conducted and a framework of criteria and standards for university teaching has been developed. This framework, the Australian University Teaching Criteria and Standards (AUTCS) Framework, is designed to be tailored for specific universities but maintains an overall structure which enables benchmarking. With extension funding provided by the Office of Learning and Teaching, the framework is being adapted at 20 Australian universities to be used in recruitment, probation, promotion, awards and professional development. It has shown a remarkable resilience and flexibility, and is freely available under Creative Commons license.
Emerging technologies including Web 2.0 tools are ubiquitous in the lives of university students, mainly for social interaction. In higher education courses, the focus is on learning about such technologies. Student preparedness for learning within this environment varies depending on educational background and access to ICT. While students recognise the value of learning technologies they need explicit guidance for their use for academic purposes. This study aims to design a model of Web 2.0 technology as a cognitive tool in learning. A case study will be conducted to test the Web 2.0 as a cognitive tool model, using the flipped classroom approach.
In this approach, learning objects will be developed to guide undergraduate students to design and develop applications for use as a cognitive tool in learning. The outputs of this study include Learning objects, applications for use as a cognitive tool in learning, a model for Web 2.0 technology as a cognitive tool in learning, joint authorship of journal articles, patent application, and Masters or PhD students.
Universities need to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of their programs and teaching practices to ensure they meet the needs of students and regulatory requirements. Good teaching practices engage students in learning, improve retention rates and foster motivation towards learning.
However, improving teaching practice in higher education is a major challenge because adaptation is required at various levels: systems; students; social and institutional. While the previous studies mostly employed official mechanisms (such as using Standards and Indicators) to improve teaching practice, learning analytics is an alternative way to support improvement in teaching practices.
Using a set of questionnaires, this particular study collected indicators of students’ engagement, retention and motivation in learning and analysed them using data mining techniques. A set of metrics was developed to help teachers improve their teaching practices at larger scale. The effectiveness of the developed metrics in improving teaching practices was also be investigated, based on students’ engagement, retention and motivation in learning.
Learning Space Design
All universities have an interest in the provision of quality learning spaces for their students. While much work has been done in universities in recent years to design spaces to support active learning, there is a need for properly articulated evaluations of these against agreed measures that fit institutional objectives, as well as agreed frameworks that can form the basis for comparison between institutions.
The last couple of decades have seen universities investing significant funds and resources in the construction and retrofitting of learning spaces based on the promise of various Returns on Investment (ROI). This has meant that claims about the influence of active learning spaces on student learning are often not substantiated empirically which in turn means that the Return on Investment (ROI) on learning space development can be difficult to define. This collaborative research project focuses on the systematic evaluation of recent learning space designs in order to better understand the return on investment and to test the underlying design assumptions to help the universities in moving the field forward. The theoretical approach for this project utilises the Pedagogy, Space and Technology (PST) framework as part of the Next Generation Learning Spaces project.
The Higher Education Active Learning Spaces (HEALS) project is a collaboration between La Trobe University (AUS), James Cook University (AUS) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (Malaysia).
Scholars in Asia
IRU Scholars in Asia is a program to enhance outward student mobility across the IRU network.
The program provides opportunities to students at IRU member universities to travel, collaborate and engage with students from other Australian universities whilst also enhancing their individual student experience.
The IRU Scholars in Asia Working Group brings together mobility staff and mobility managers to discuss policy development and future directions of the IRU Scholars in Asia program.
Over time the program has developed from four independently run programs with some support from the New Colombo Plan.