14:47 | 01/08/2019 Society
(VEN) - In a country where rote learning and highstakes testing are the educational norm, RMIT Vietnam has made a courageous shift in education delivery.
After extensive research into the student experience and industry demand, the University implemented a new teaching and learning strategy where industry-relevant projects and authentic assessments replaced traditional exams to create a student experience that is transformative and engaging.
RMIT Vietnam Authentic Assessment Project
The RMIT Vietnam Authentic Assessment Project commenced in 2017 and took 18 months to complete. The objective was to ensure students were assessed in ways that mirrored experiences they would face in the workforce after graduation and to measure skills and application, not just tacit knowledge. It initially focused on eliminating traditional course examinations to make way for authentic forms of assessment.
The project began with extensive mapping of ten programs to identify a number of key opportunities for improvement in order to strengthen assessment and related areas of learning and teaching. The initiative sparked a tremendous transition within the RMIT Vietnam community. The assessments shifted from stressful, quickly forgotten memorization exercises to engaged, industry-relevant experiences with concrete results. In the absence of exams, RMIT Vietnam academics noted that assessments had become more creative, relevant, and reflective experiences for students. The results also gave students lasting, intrinsic value by giving them an opportunity to add the assessments to their portfolios.
By the end of 2018, 30 courses that were directly supported by the project were providing students with industry-relevant experiences and Work Integrated Learning (WIL) projects to prepare them for life and work.
Today, authentic assessment and learning is integrated across all disciplines and academic levels at RMIT Vietnam; it underpins the assessment and learning designs, approach to co-curricular projects, course materials, feedback given to students, collaboration with industry and community, professional development, and recognition of University staff. Activities vary from practicing corporate decision-making on a business simulation provided by an industry partner in the MBA program or applying machine learning algorithms to analyze real datasets in Robotics, to designing a CD cover for a band and building a brand. These activities all share more meaning for students than traditional examinations, and they build practical skills and student portfolios.
Work Integrated Learning (WIL)
The university’s original motto, “perita manus mensexculta” (a skilled hand, a cultivated mind), is still embraced today. Its history is one that emphasizes employability, industry-relevant experience and praxis. Industry engagement is central to its strategic plan, which includes learning through work and enterprise. At RMIT Vietnam, learning is integrated with work at every stage of the student journey. The programs are aligned with future workforce demand and shaped by the expertise of industry practitioners. Learning through work and enterprise takes many forms, from internships and projects to virtual simulations and networks.
The recent progress in incorporating WIL across the curriculum is a clear example of RMIT Vietnam moving faster than others, ensuring that students in every undergraduate program experience a minimum of two designated WIL courses.
In 2018, RMIT Vietnam participated in 57 distinct WIL projects in which students engaged with industry partners on an interactive project. In addition, lecturers regularly facilitated guest lectures and field trips. This year, discipline leads reported that at least 26 courses included specific assessment tasks involving collaboration with industry partners.
Authentic digital materials
With this shift towards authentic assessment came a review of learning materials to ensure students were engaged with the most current, industry-relevant and authentic materials possible. This led to the replacement of textbooks with more contemporary and digital materials, and the elimination of single-source textbooks from all courses. RMIT Vietnam courses now incorporate a variety of modern, online and media-rich resources.
Without prescribed textbooks, the courses look radically different, as the learning materials draw from multiple mediums.
Evaluation and evidence
Throughout the implementation of the new learning and teaching initiatives, RMIT Vietnam monitored their strengths and weaknesses through staff and student feedback. Staff felt the variety and flexibility that the authentic assessments offered allowed students to express and explore social, cultural, and academic characteristics and skills, and their own individual motivation for studying.
Many students indicated that assessments had become more challenging, but most agreed that the assessments helped them practice skills they would need in the workforce, and many also commented that they benefited from more enhanced teacher feedback.
As authentic assessment is uncommon in Vietnamese high schools, RMIT Vietnam recognized that students needed a higher level of support to help them transition, so the University introduced tutoring and additional resources. The authentic assessment learning and teaching team also invested heavily in teaching staff by guiding teachers in more explicit and inclusive practices through the creation of clearly written, authentic assessment guides, and rubrics to inform students about assessment requirements. A significant project achievement has been the creation of common rubrics in three disciplines, which has brought more clarity and consistency to the achievement and marking of learning outcomes.
These comprehensive learning and teaching initiatives are seeing early signs of success. RMIT Vietnam has experienced a 16 per cent increase in commencing enrolments from 2017 to 2018. Student employability has increased in the past 12 months, and now sits at an all-time high of 73.2 per cent. The University looks forward to building on this success to become the most industry connected higher education institution in Southeast Asia.
RMIT Vietnam was shortlisted in the Teaching and Learning Strategy of the Year category of the inaugural Times
Higher Education (THE) Awards Asia in 2019.