Category Archives: Watercooler

Less is more: A Word About Learning and Teaching Week

Few would argue against the aesthetic appeal of Apple’s minimalist design. For many, that design principle carries through to its functionality, where a limited range of inputs allow for a surprisingly complex array of interactions*. There’s an elegance and an effectiveness to offering simple solutions in response to environmental constraints.

Less is more.

Now, minimalism is great for consumer electronics fruit companies and 1950s German industrial design schools, but how well does that principle travel**? Can we apply it to higher education? What might the Dieter Rams-ification of teaching and learning look like?

LT Week Poster

Enter Learning & Teaching Week 2014, for which the Call for Proposals are due on May 23rd. This year we’ve opted for the statement “Less is More” as our theme. What can we do less of to make our teaching and learning more effective?

‘Effective’ means many things in many contexts – ‘efficient’ may be effective in some circumstances, while in others it relates to ‘engagement’ or ‘understanding’. The aim of L&T Week, as ever, is to draw out and celebrate examples of innovation and best practice across the campus, so the theme is intended as a suggestion (and provocation!) rather than a prescription. We hope it sparks off ideas and gets you thinking about your current practices.

Of course, you’re more than welcome to disagree with the premise – no doubt some would argue that ‘less is more’ is nothing but a trite tautology!

We’ll be bringing you news and information via Teche over the months leading up to Learning and Teaching Week, so be sure to keep reading. And don’t forget, the Call for Proposals is due on May 23rd, so visit for more information!

Until then… less is more!

PS. If you’re looking for inspiration/provocation, check out Dieter Rams’ ‘Ten Principles of Good Design’:

*Not applicable to the Apple Magic Mouse, which is an entirely ludicrous, awkward, impractical and uncomfortable testament to the folly of form over function

**Obvs doesn’t apply to overwrought blog posts

Written by Phil Betts @philbetts

Why do students hire us?


Is a question posed by Clayton Christensen and colleagues in a 2011 report, Disrupting College: How Disruptive Innovation Can Deliver Quality and Affordability to Postsecondary Education.  Disruption has since had much attention in the media and literature; the hiring function somewhat less.

So why do students hire their chosen universities?  In a recent Gallup-Purdue study of 30,000 U.S. graduates it was found that which university you attend (large, small, elite or not) makes little difference to your workplace engagement and overall well-being.  What matters is the experience you have – or not. Continue reading Why do students hire us?

Getting to know you……

Thackray, Alex,, , July 2, 2007, accessed 13 May 2014In Getting to know you…… we will be introducing you to some of the fabulous, interesting and quirky people who help in keeping iLearn the awesome-o online learning space that it is.  This update, we are going to get to know Alex Thackray, Educational Designer currently assigned to the Faculty of Business and Economics.

How long have you worked at Macquarie?
Since 2007, when I began working at the International office.

When did you join the LTC?
Back in 2011 when I was lucky enough to join the (then) FITSO (Faculty iLearn Training & Support Officer) crew!

What’s your favourite part of being an Educational Designer?
The challenge and variety – I’m always learning.

Share something personal with us or something surprising that not many people would know about you.
I believe you should try and do one thing every day that scares you. For me, that’s usually Crossfit!

What’s your #1 hot tip (on anything to do with iLearn, etc)?
A clear structure and instructions are key – students aren’t mind readers. Develop solid rubrics to communicate expectations and save marking time.

Do you have any pets?
Yep! A little blue, broccoli eating budgie – he goes nuts for the Game of Thrones theme song!


Stanford study finds walking improves creativity

Richard Lam, a second year undergraduate student at Macquarie University, reflects on  a recent study of Stanford University

walkingStanford’s researchers have found that walking has the ability to increase a person’s creativity level by an average of 60%.

The study on the impact of walking and sitting towards a person’s creativity level has been carried out in a detail manner by Stanford researchers. Continue reading Stanford study finds walking improves creativity

Quality and the market

In the report, Dimensions of Quality, Graham Gibbs (former Director of the Oxford Learning Institute at the University of Oxford) synthesised significant research over the last 30 years or so that identified valid success factors in undergraduate education.  It attempted to identify what data we should take seriously when making judgements about the quality of learning and teaching and associated resourcing.  Much more than input and output, what mattered most were process variables – what institutions do with their resources for the students they have.

In late 2012 he published another report, Implications of ‘Dimensions of Quality’ in a market environment, which considered how institutions are variously responding to demand driven, data based markets as they attempt to improve market share, quality and value for money.

Sound familiar?

Both reports draw evidence form the USA, Australia and elsewhere, but the higher education system Gibbs was most interested in was the UK’s.  So as the Australian sector increasingly focuses on the market to drive quality, is there anything we can learn?  Probably.

Implications found that reputation still dominates even though this is an invalid indicator of educational quality and institutions with already high reputations have a vested interest in resisting the introduction of more valid indicators.  It found that quality assurance in most institutions overlooked the most crucial indicators of quality, namely: class size, who does the teaching and the contact students have with them, learning resources, feedback, collaborative learning, and belonging and engagement.

Gibbs went on to look at the practical consequences of the data market and the ways in which institutions are reacting.  He observed a retreat from the unitised system toward program level organisation and assessment; quality enhancement focused at the team level (along with reward and recognition for leadership in teaching and learning); new processes for institutional change (including things like changing the students’ role from consumers to partners); a focus on hygiene factors and service delivery; promotion of institutional distinctiveness; and a re-built emphasis and systemic infrastructure for teaching (one that aligned things like recruitment, initial training, promotion, resources, library, priorities, etc.)

If, as the Minister for Education expects, the market will drive quality I believe these two reports offer much in providing us with a glimpse of a possible future, its opportunities, and mistakes to avoid.  There is more in them than I can summarise here and I leave it to you to consider where we are and will be in the years hence.

Need beautiful scientific images? Meet your new best friend

Finding images that are freely available for educational use can sometimes be tricky.  CSIRO has just made it a whole lot easier for those in scientific (and other) fields by releasing its ScienceImage library ( a Creative Commons Attribution license.

Everyone now has access to freely use, repost and transform the collection’s 4000+ high definition images and videos – perfect for Powerpoints!   The library represents more than six decades worth of environmental, industrial, agricultural and technological research images.

Janet’s Rally for Hope Africa


As you all know, our very own Janet Greeley is on safari in South Africa in support of the organisation Hope Africa.  

The Student Centre launched its support of Janet’s fundraising rally on Wednesday May 7 with a magnificent curry lunch for the team , raising $300. Grateful thanks must go to Radha, Shyam and Neil’s mum Meena for a magnificent spread of butter chicken, raita, potato curry, breads and pickles! Thanks also to Anita and colleagues for setting up an stunning instant restaurant in the staff room!

On Wednesday 14 May, the Student Centre also hosted a morning tea with a great turn out of staff who enjoyed a wonderful array of teatime treats and a welcome opportunity to catch up with colleagues. Thank you to everyone who attended both functions  and helped us to raise a total of $715 towards Janet’s Rally for Hope Africa.





ATTENTION all lecturers! International Student Barometer Survey

international uni photoEvery year , Macquarie International takes part in the International Student Barometer and, as with all surveys, participation is critical. Your help is needed to ensure as many international students as possible complete the survey by the deadline of 16th May.

The survey is a chance for students to tell Macquarie University what’s working and not working, and what their university experience has been like. Their feedback will help us improve the Macquarie experience and our rankings.

To thank students for completing the survey, i-gradute offers a chance to win $1000 cash prize. Macquarie is also offering a chance to win an Apple iPad!

If possible, we would like to access the first two minutes of your lecture in the next week to address the group. Please advise the most appropriate times and locations for this.

It not, please ask students to check their emails and complete the survey.

We highly appreciate your cooperation and we thank you in advance.

A message from Nicole Brigg, Director, Macquarie International