Just after returning from presenting a round of seminars in Asia (in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka), Steve Mackay landed in Melbourne on the evening of the 26th November, with three colleagues, for the TEQSA Conference.
The theme at the conference this year was Partnerships driving Quality – a topic close to our hearts: in essence, as educators, we partner with our students. One of our Master students, Santosh Ghimire, based at our campus in Melbourne, attended the conference as EIT’s student representative.
Another important partnership, which helps us drive quality, is the one we have with industry. We engage practicing engineers to guide us in the design of our course content and experienced engineers from around the world instruct and lecture for us. Furthermore, our students complete internships in engineering industries and ultimately our graduates work within them.
Steve Mackay and our Resources Manager, Danielle Techera, presented at the conference. Danielle’s presentation described the importance of that collaboration with industry, with her focus on its contribution to the creation of our academic resources for students; resources that are relevant, practical and prepare students for real work in their fields of engineering.
Her presentation also described why our materials are designed in-house – rather than relying on individual lecturers for content. Our platform of learning is multi-modal and therefore more complex; a number of lecturers are often involved in teaching a single unit - in higher education, or a single module - in a vocational course. We use industry to design and drive the content, but by creating the resources in-house we can guarantee that the materials are consistent and equivalent across the delivery platforms. It also ensures that our materials are continuously improved; an increasing necessity as engineering becomes more reliant on changing technologies.
Steve spoke briefly about the challenges EIT is facing with transnational education. Towards the end of 2018 an exciting opportunity arose: to work with PNG partners and offer engineering degrees to school leavers. (Engineering graduates are critical to the resources projects that run in the country.) A number of hurdles have presented themselves, however, including some political challenges, but Steve likes nothing more than a challenge. It is likely that his persistence will result in positive partnerships across the Arafura and Coral Seas before long. And more importantly, celebrate the graduation of students who will enjoy fulfilling careers in engineering in PNG.
The conference was an important opportunity to network with the TEQSA team and attendees from across the education industry in Australia. It also gave everyone an opportunity to debate, learn and contribute to issues that are critical in the sector. Some of the topics were very positive, for instance: Creating a Sustainable Culture of Scholarship, and one with which we at EIT staunchly agree: Knowledge as the Key to connecting the Vocational and Higher Education Sectors.
Some of the more dispiriting and threatening issues in education were also broached; for instance how academic integrity is being undermined by contract cheating. The profound extent and impact of unethical businesses which facilitate these dishonest practices was confronting to hear. Thankfully, with its vibrant and established online platform, EIT is prepared and a little ahead in this ‘game’. Our IRIS software (Intelligent Remote Invigilation System) has frustrated many students, just when they thought that ‘a leg-up’ would save them some time and effort!
The conference certainly provided grist to the mill for those who attended and was a fitting end to another successful and eventful academic year at the Engineering Institute of Technology.
We would like to acknowledge the creative and hard work of the incredible EIT teams of academics and administrators scattered globally. And to our wonderful students, past, present and future - based in all corners of the world - we wish you everything of the best as 2019 draws to a close. We thank you all for your support.