Live blog – Navitas Learning and Teaching Forum 2016

This is the full, live feed from March 16-18, covering the first global Navitas Learning and Teaching Forum. Navitas staff can head to Yammer for the conversations and updates from colleagues by searching for #LandTforum and participate directly in the collaboration and networks started at the forum!

Note: Yammer is a private network; posts have been reproduced here with permission.

Wednesday 16th March 2016, 2.05pm – Day 1
The first global forum for Learning and Teaching across Navitas kicks off , with a view of Sydney Harbour out the window and inside, a room of 60 curious people waiting to see what it’s all about. Collaboration throughout the forum is encouraged through the Navitas social network Yammer using #LandTforum so that staff who can’t attend in person can participate in the forum

Representatives flying in from around the world on behalf of their teams include college directors, student services managers, academic leaders and a diverse range of individuals from teaching, technology and operations teams.

This forum provides the first opportunity for Learning & Teaching staff to connect with each other and explore future directions for Navitas Learning & Teaching. People at the forum are encouraged to collaborate throughout the forum with their teams on campuses and locations around the world using Yammer and the hashtag #LandTforum.

2.15pm – Day 1
Just 10 minutes into the forum, collaboration is underway (the keynote speaker is happy to wait!). Groups are given huge, disruptive ideas impacting the world today and a mere 20 minutes to research and communicate the implications for Learning and Teaching. The outcome is some incredible, new ideas shared fearlessly…

first collab

4.30pm – Day 1
Keynote speaker Gus Balbontin, the former Executive Director and Chief Technology Officer who helped Lonely Planet tackle the digital revolution, winds up an energising talk on how to lead the way in innovation through an era of disruption in learning and teaching.

Perhaps the favourite quotes for many people were “you need a clear vision and a vague plan” and “innovation is a volume game… don’t wound your ideas, just kill them. Kill them dead. And then try another one”.

Gus’ speech will be shared for all Navitas staff to enjoy.




6pm – End of Day 1
There’s a lot of noise by the bar! We checked in with the people representing their teams around the globe and asked what they are taking in and hoping to achieve in this inaugural global forum for learning and teaching across Navitas… Check out our Vox Pop video here (using your login):

Thursday 17th March 2016,9am – Day 2
Everyone’s safe from the rain, caffeinated and ready to collaborate!

First to bat today is the short-and-sweet Pecha Kucha (even shorter here as speakers are restricted to 10 slides instead of 20!). In this activity, every team gets up to present 10 slides with 20 seconds per slide. This practice of Pecha Kucha encourages highly visual slides and engaging talking, passing the microphone and sharing the energy.

So far, we’ve heard from the fast-paced team from North America who have taken innovation in their stride since first being tasked with taking one Navitas model and making it work in Canada and the US. We’re hearing now from two innovators in learning and teaching from Australia and looking forward to a solo act representing the work of Navitas Group functions (today’s group includes IT, HR, Marketing, Quality and Stakeholder Relations).

10am- Day 2 Collaboration: Building “The picture of us”
A buzz of activity is going on in as people map new connections and next steps for after the #landtforum

Here’s a nice video of the “building” phase:

And here’s more of an explanation from the Senior Manager for Innovation and Learning, who designed the activity:

10.30am – Day 2 Student Success Drivers
Everyone is split into eight teams to sit down to tackle specific ‘student success drivers’. These include activities like orientation, student community and experience, and even a wildcard category to make sure every idea has a home!

We’ll be returning to this activity for a “deep dive” this afternoon, but already the room is buzzing with ideas. For most people at Navitas, their work is all about student success and student outcomes, so the enthusiasm and knowledge being shared is massive! It’s actually getting hard to navigate the room because there are so many conversations going on and so many people rushing between the eight student success drivers to share ideas (and to think, most of these people had never met before yesterday!).

11am – Day 2 Pedagogical reflection
Lucy Blakemore, Senior Manager for Innovation and Learning at Navitas, makes the design of the forum explicit. In a way, she starts to show the forum her ‘lesson plan’ to highlight how each of the activities and the sequence of activities has been carefully designed to advance from some high-level concepts and visions to concrete connections.

At the end of the forum, a specialist teacher with years of experience in teacher training will provide an analysis of the pedagogical approach taken in the Learning and Teaching forum. So, we’re talking pedagogy within pedagogy! (Hmm… did you see that ‘Inception’ film?)

12.30pm – Day 2 Lunch
Time for a well-earned break, harbourside.

In addition to all the triumphs of the first 24 hours of this forum, the food is an unqualified success!


2pm – Time to let the ideas sink in with a team-building game!
After lunch, there’s a bit of a slump as bodies kick into siesta mode. But, thanks to some preemptive designing, the facilitators have already scheduled a fun team-building challenge to get the teams back into gear for the busy afternoon ahead. It’s an oldie, but a goodie…

Specifically, it’s the Marshmallow Challenge. The eight teams formed for the eight student success drivers now turn their minds to building the tallest free-standing structure with only spaghetti, string, tape and a marshmallow that must sit atop the structure.

After the chaos settles, the facilitator leads a short reflection on prototyping, team work and collaboration and explores how some assumptions can create problems in projects. For example, in the Marshmallow Challenge, the groups who tend to perform best are engineers and architects (no surprise there), but the next best are young children. Where MBA graduates fail by trying to design the perfect structure, children succeed by getting stuck in and doing some rapid prototyping.

3pm – Day 2 Pedagogy reflection
Hearing now from a Senior Academic Developer in the Learning & Teaching team, Christina Del Medico. Christina summarises some lessons learned from years of facilitating group work both face to face and online. Some of her tips for well-designed group work include making time for careful planning, and allowing your students to take control of their own learning in group work.

One of her final takeaways is that teachers should experience group work, especially online, just as their students do, for example by enrolling in an online course as a student to see what it really feels like to navigate that learning space and stay engaged.

3.30pm – Day 2
Afternoon tea (finally!) provides a well-earned chocolate treat after a very hands-on forum day full of activity-based, ‘student’-centred learning and collaboration.

5pm – Day 2 Student Success Drivers “Deep Dive”
The last few hours of the day have been a flurry of activity.

People re-formed into their eight groups to address the eight different drivers of student success. In addition to those mentioned above, the list also includes meaty topics like teacher development, technology-enabled learning and teaching, learning skills development and learning design & innovation.

Once presentations have been hurriedly pulled together, participants take turns presenting their vision for a particular student success driver, then walk to other groups and hear their vision for their part of the puzzle.

Here’s a short video that captures some of the student success drivers activity:

Friday 19th March, 9am – Day 3
Caffeinated and buzzing, the forum kicks off its final day with a recap of the previous day. The events of day 2, as you can see in the video below, were completely activity-based, encouraging networks to form and ideas to be fearlessly shared and explored…

9.15am – Day 3
Hearing from Katrina Hennigan, a Project Manager in the Navitas English language teaching business (ELICOS).

Katrina considers international students studying in English-speaking countries, and three seemingly commonsense notions that may not be as sensible as they first appear: (1) short words are easy to understand; (2) words used in everyday life are easy to understand, and (3) formal words are difficult to understand.

Katrina is challenging our diverse audience to consider how we work with students and staff, especially student services, to create better communication and make the most of learning opportunities. Discussion is passionate and highly engaged after the workshop presentation concludes.

There’s so much packed into Katrina’s presentation, including a lot of activities. Hopefully we’ll get Katrina to provide a webinar or interactive online session for the Play Again section of our website, so that her excellent work gets to be enjoyed by more of our staff around the world!

10am – Day 3
The North America team from UP and Emma Coakes from Marketing talk Design Thinking, with some real examples of Design Thinking in practice and some questions to reflect on about your own projects and contexts. Key takeaways from these short but insightful presentations were about using a common language around projects or processes, and involving diverse teams to work on complex problems.

11am – Day 3
If you’re on Yammer, you may notice a sudden flurry of activity at about 11.10am!

Everyone at the forum is posting about one of the connections they’ve made that they’ll be following up on with their teams. The activity not only cements their connection with a real follow-up to happen next week, but lets the team mates back home know what kind of networks and innovations are being discussed at this inaugural Learning and Teaching forum.

networks networks2

12pm – Day 3, Setting more goals for after the forum
People are seated in tables according to their business unit. The past hour has been spent sharing ideas about how to get stuff done, especially in situations where the project is complex and involves many moving parts. Clear goals are set individually and at each table to follow up on next week, and a representative stands up to share each business unit’s insights with the rest of the global representatives.

2pm – Setting our shared vision, collaborative writing activity
In a clever bit of learning design, people are now taken through an individual and group writing activity. Each participant needs to complete a sentence on a sheet that has a number of sentence prompts (then fold, pass and write again), to share and ‘re-mix’ their vision for the direction of learning and teaching at Navitas. Then, individuals share with their table to devise a unified vision that represents their thoughts collectively. The main result is a focus on student experience and student outcomes.

3pm – Review of the forum’s learning design
An experienced teacher trainer with years of experience the industry, Denise Isik, reviews the tasks, activities and techniques used in the forum, in a step-by-step breakdown. Overall, the activity-based, student-centred approach was a resounding hit. The only real change she recommends would be to schedule more free time for people to digest and connect with one another. (It has certainly been a non-stop collaboration!)

3.30pm – That’s a wrap!
The first ever global Learning and Teaching forum wraps up, first with a good-humoured quiz to see who has been paying attention during the forum, and then with awards to those people who really excelled at the forum in some way, whether it was making the most concrete connections to follow-up on next week or utilising Yammer the most to keep the rest of the company in the loop.

The General Manager of Learning and Teaching Services, Maria Spies, concludes the forum and thanks the wonderful organisers for their efforts that helped to make the forum a huge success.