All posts by Sherman Young

Sherman is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching).

Being Digital?? by Sherman Young

There’s a lot of sound and fury around the increasing use of digital technologies – and not just in learning and teaching. It’s either self-proclaimed futurists insisting that an avalanche is coming, or naysayers loudly proclaiming an inherent evil in all electronic screens. The reality is, as usual, somewhere in between and there are some fantastic opportunities for learning, as well as some huge challenges.

What’s undeniable is that digital technologies are rapidly becoming our normal way of engaging with information. They are now at the centre of our commerce – our banking and shopping, our entertainment and current affairs, our socialising with family and friends. And more and more, they are central to the way we work – my new boss (hi John) seems very content reading meeting papers on his smartphone or tablet.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that those digital technologies are rapidly becoming the centre of our learning and teaching. Already iLearn at MQ generates 1 billion (with a b) views annually, and all the evidence points to huge student use of our existing online resources. And judging by the current year 8 experience of my own kids (and yes, I know I shouldn’t generalise), our students’ use of digital technology is only going to increase.

Our approach to teaching should understand that. Properly designed and utilised, digital technologies provide tremendous opportunities for better learning. It can also free up teaching time, and allow more effective student interaction in face to face engagements. Fortuitously, our student cohorts (like the broader world) are increasingly engaged with digital technologies – to best address them, we need to fully develop emerging digital learning possibilities. So what about a principle along these lines:

Design for Digital, Digital by Design…

  • All of our learning will be blended, with every unit offering a mix of face to face and online activities;
  • Our core curriculum content and assessment (including examinations) will be on open, accessible digital platforms;
  • Our suite of fully online programs will be strategically expanded and strengthened

Any thoughts??

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A Note on Brand Macquarie by Sherman Young

For many academics, the words ‘Brand Consultants’ might instinctively sound like natural constituents of Douglas Adams’ Golgafrincham B Ark . But having seen some of the early presentations from the brand consultants working for Macquarie, the Push Collective,  I was persuaded. What I saw was an exploration of the university’s creation myth, the aligning of values and aspirations and the shaping of a compelling narrative around what it means to be part of the Macquarie community. 

For example, I found out that Macquarie has always been a pioneer in its approach to learning and teaching.  Amazingly, we were the first to send examination results directly to students, rather than have them published in the newspapers.  And we introduced recruitment, timetable and curriculum innovations that are now commonplace sector-wide. Indeed, whilst Macquarie has sometimes come across as a bit beige, in reality it has been a little rebellious and just different enough. The challenge is in building a brand to match that reality.


Our Brand is more than a logo and a tagline. It should articulate our vision and values –  the story of who we want to be. I’m looking forward to the launch to see how the thinking has developed since those early presentations.

Some thoughts on student engagement from Sherman Young

One of the key components of  a learning and teaching framework is how we think about student engagement.

The most recent examinations period has seen Faculties reporting some issues in this area – with concerns about indicators such as lecture attendance and assignment submission.

Already in train are a number of projects looking at student engagement in learning and teaching (as well as the broader student experience) but I think we need to make a coherent statement about how we wish to engage with students at Macquarie. Following some broader consultation, and drawing on literature and experience such as this, this and this, I’d like to suggest that we consider that we adopt, and build on the following principle:

Students are partners and co-creators of their learning.

  • Our students will be partners, change agents and leaders in their learning; across the formal and informal activities of the University;
  • Our approach will focus on active learning, emphasising collaboration and the co-creation of knowledge;
  • Our students, staff, alumni and industry and community partners will be connected to unlock their potential.

Again, any comments are welcome.

Sherman will be presenting a Learning and Teaching Strategy Update on 22 September at Learning and Teaching Week #mqltweek : register here

That Vision thing…

A Framing of Futures situates Macquarie as a University of service and engagement

It states:

We serve and engage our students and staff through transformative learning and life experiences

We serve and engage the world through discovery, dissemination of knowledge and ideas, innovation and deep partnerships

This is followed by statements on our Vision and Values, all of which speak to the highest order thinking for the institution.

The vision declares our aspirations, identifying Macquarie to be a destination of choice; deeply connected with stakeholders; ranked highly in research and known as custodians of the campus.

Building on those foundations, we need to draw out a more specific vision for learning and teaching.

We need to synthesise the declared purpose, vision and values and set out a high level vision for learning and teaching at Macquarie so that we might then develop a framework and strategy. In short, before we work through our strategies and goals, we need to agree on what some call ‘the vision thing.’

We know that a culture of transformative learning in a research enriched environment is a priority, where: ‘Learning and teaching is at the centre of our purpose … ‘ and that experiences that change the lives of our students include PACE, infusing cutting-edge technology, and promoting enquiry-driven learning.

These goals provide us with distinctive projects and help us to formulate a vision for learning and teaching.

But we need to further explore the questions of ‘Why, what, and how do we teach?’ and more particularly ‘How does this distinguish Macquarie?’

The idea of transformative learning is central to those questions and their answers and that idea – and others –  demands further examination. In order to provoke that examination, I offer here a suggested Vision for Learning and Teaching – my synthesis of our values and goals, which is designed to provide a starting point for reflection and conversation.

We aspire to be a University that empowers its students with the capacity and desire to change their worlds.

I look forward to receiving your feedback and commentary.

L and T Strategy Update from Sherman Young

In the wake of last week’s release of the Research Green Paper, just a quick update on progress around the Learning and Teaching Strategy. As some of you are aware, we’ve had a number of small-group brainstorms, discussions with A/Ds, Executive and other stakeholders and two bigger planning sessions for a wider range of staff where some initial thoughts have been discussed and dissected. Thanks to all those colleagues who contributed.

It’s been a very productive process and all the feedback (both positive and negative) is being synthesised into our thinking. We’re continuing discussions over the next month or so by talking to FLTCs and FSQCs – and this will be followed with more consultation and in-depth consideration by a smaller reference group – which will now include our new DVC-A.

There is, of course, a lot to think about. In particular, we need to ensure that the L&T strategy aligns with evolving contexts around Government policy and the University’s priorities – for example, the research framework and the new pathways college. But we are now better placed to be able to ensure that alignment.

The result of all this thinking will be a draft framework which is currently planned for broader dissemination at this year’s Learning and Teaching Week in September, at which time we will also release a timeframe for next steps which will include further consultation, consolidation and final implementation.

As part of the ongoing process, I’m going to start using this blog as a discussion area for some of the emerging ideas – so watch this space…

Sherman Young: A Visit to SCIL

I visited the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning  on Friday and was taken on a great tour by Stephen Harris (Principal) and Mark Burgess (Deputy and Learning Activist). Based in the Northern Beaches Christian School, SCIL takes a disruptive approach to K-12 education with the use of innovative learning spaces, blended learning environments (Moodle and EdModo for the most part), BYOD approaches and PBL.

Continue reading Sherman Young: A Visit to SCIL

April Fool(s) by Professor Sherman Young

It’s probably apt that my first post for Teche should be on April Fool’s Day. It’s now been a few months since I began in the role of PVC (Learning, Teaching and Diversity) and – as many of you may be aware – it’s been a fun learning curve as the role has evolved. Now that I’ve had time to settle in, you’ll be pleased to know that there will be much more news from my office over the rest of the year 🙂

Futurama - April Fool's DayA key part of the role is to think about a long-term learning and teaching framework/strategy for Macquarie and as the pieces fall into place, and various stakeholders are consulted, I’ll be posting on that ongoing development. Rest assured that there’ll be some interesting ideas around what we teach, how we teach and who we teach – with plenty of opportunities for consultation as the year goes by. So watch this space.
In the meantime, on this particular April 1st, remember Isaac Asimov’s advice regarding fools like us (from his Guide to Shakespeare):
“That, of course, is the great secret of the successful fool – that he is no fool at all.