Shaping the Future of Higher Education: CEO Insights on the Impact of the Universities Accord

Shaping the Future of Higher Education: CEO Insights on the Impact of the Universities Accord

Beau Leese, CEO and co-founder of Practera, had the honour of presenting to the National Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (NAGCAS) colleagues on the potential impacts of the Universities Accord on educational access. This presentation required diving deep into the Accord’s 400 pages and revisiting several pivotal reports, including the Jobs Ready Graduates, NPILF, Bradley, and WIL in Universities reports. Beau extended his sincere thanks to Marnie Long and Leanne Burke for the invitation and the engaging homework! It was refreshing to delve into policy and strategy. A special shoutout to his co-panelists Denise Bradley, Penny Chancellor, and Michelle Moss for their insightful contributions.

While the Accord awaits Government selection, funding, and implementation of its recommendations, it has set a long-term horizon to 2050. By analyzing broad trends across these policy papers, several clear directional themes have emerged:

  1. Workforce Needs and Mass Education: Tertiary education is poised to meet over 80% of Australia’s future workforce needs. Universities, already delivering a mass education model for over 50% of the commencing workforce, will be increasingly called upon by the Government to align with workforce demands through funding mechanisms.
  2. International Education: Over the past 25 years, the number of international students has grown tenfold, approaching 1 million out of 21 million people aged over 15. This sector is both socially and economically significant, and thus politically sensitive. Universities will need to recalibrate international education to align with national economic needs, including regionalization, diversification of source countries, addressing housing issues, and workforce shortages.
  3. R&D and Innovation: Australia’s investment in R&D and productivity outcomes lags behind most OECD peers. University R&D expenditure now constitutes over one-third of the total. Universities must demonstrate a higher return on investment in national innovation and productivity outcomes.
  4. Access to Work Integrated Learning (WIL): Access to high-quality WIL is unequal, with First Nations, low SES, regional, and international students less engaged than their high SES, metropolitan counterparts. This disparity correlates with attainment and employment gaps.

Strategic Implications for Universities and Career Services

Given these themes, what might they imply for the strategic direction of universities and their careers and employability capacities?

Fundamentally, universities must deeply embed and evidence a distinctive theory and framework for employability, career preparation, and attainment within their education strategy. This must align with national skills requirements and institutional contexts. Key strategic imperatives include:

  1. Enhancing Experiential Learning: Deepen and broaden the integration of experiential learning, employer engagement, and WIL within the curriculum.
  2. Dynamic Programming: Develop dynamic in-curricular and co-curricular programs that address the skills and innovation impacts of new technologies, evolving job gaps, and emerging skills and technologies (including micro-credentials).
  3. Equality of Access to WIL: Ensure equal access to WIL for disadvantaged groups, linking this to improved equality in graduate employment and career attainment.
  4. Sustainable International Strategies: Develop more sustainable international student recruitment, experience, and alignment strategies.
  5. Lifelong Career Support: Shift to a mindset of lifelong career support, partnering with students and alumni throughout their careers, emphasizing skills, experience, and connections.
  6. Engaging and Incentivising Students: Systematically engage and incentivize students to participate in extra-curricular, co-curricular, and in-curricular employability activities, and meaningfully verify and credential their achievements alongside their degrees.

Learn more on the benefits of gaining real-world experience in our ‘Effective Experiential Learning’ whitepaper

Practera’s Role and Vision

At Practera, we see numerous examples of leading practices aligned with these themes in many institutions, and we are thrilled to be working on programs that support them. Too often, these initiatives are specially funded pilots or extracurricular activities. The real opportunity for many institutions lies in genuinely committing to, mandating, and investing in these programs as core components of their strategy. Building the institutional capability to deliver these programs over the long term will yield significant returns in graduate outcomes and alignment with future Government funding incentives.

By embracing these strategic imperatives, universities can position themselves competitively for future funding and ensure they meet the evolving needs of the workforce, students, and the broader community.


Experiential Learning in Business Schools and beyond

Experiential Learning in Business Schools and beyond

It was a pleasure to join Beau Leese, Wes Sonnenreich and Jane Hallett from Practera recently in London for a stimulating and enjoyable round table with colleagues from a number of UK university business schools. The event was framed with thought leadership from Kate Ross, Workforce Education and Skills Global Program Manager at IBM, whose perspectives and provocations catalysed some fascinating conversation about experiential learning (EL), not just in the business school context but with significant implications for higher education and employers. Here are five reflections on what we discussed.

Fusion skills are key…

Kate Ross drew together a number of perspectives on the skills conversation, from whether Excel is essential for everyone to what a top five desired transferable skillsets might actually be. One of her key points built on findings from a City of London/NESTA report on transferable skills (2019) that proposed the concept of ‘fusion skills’: the combination of technical skills and transferable skills that enables the “merging and blending of skills and industries…[which are] key components of the current and changing labour market” (p.7).

This resonated very strongly with colleagues at the round table, not least because of the role of EL in enabling students to explore and apply both technical and transferable skills. For students on Business School programmes, industry-aligned EL within their programme is often the first time they have had the opportunity to explore this skills development in a ‘safe place’ which is important no matter what sector or role they end up in.

Indeed, for some students, ‘fusion’ might also refer to the application of existing skills while acquiring new ones, and EL can be an essential space where that happens. Which leads to another really important point that Kate made: that…

…telling your story as a graduate has never been more important.

Institute of Student Employers survey data tells us annually that self-awareness is an essential attribute which graduate recruiters seek, but telling a story goes beyond being able to articulate what you can do. Kate noted higher education’s enduring resistance to the responsibility for teaching graduates how to work, but education is all about reflection and universities do have a fundamental role to play in ensuring that their graduates are not just knowledgeable and skilled, but also reflective too.

It was inspiring at the round table to hear so many examples of how colleagues are embedding reflective learning into their programmes. So ‘telling the story’ in skill development terms is about recognising and articulating the stages, from identifying what skills are involved and whether you have them, to recognising that you have developed them and can apply them and, crucially, that you understand why an employer needs them. 

The graduate story isn’t just about career decision-making therefore; it’s about contextualizing the learning and development journey that takes place into the goals that the employer has for their future employees. That is an innately academic journey too.

Balancing external expectations

A particularly interesting feature of our round table discussion centred on the roles of both employers and Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRBs) in collaborating with and shaping degree programmes and learning and skill development outcomes. The high levels of industry collaboration in Business Schools means that they are often particularly impacted by these two communities, which may at times also be in tension with each other.

This is not surprising, and it has some implications for EL: we could see PSRBs as representing an idealised representation of sectoral expectations, while we know that each employer will bring their own nuanced perspective.

A good example of such a difference would be in a skill like leadership: leadership competencies are often a key part of sectoral frameworks, but the reality on the ground increasingly represents distributed leadership and flattened hierarchies.

A student project with an industry client might be a great introduction to the experience of distributed leadership, but that may not resonate strongly with a more fixed statement on leadership from a professional body.

Embedding inclusion in EL

There was universal enthusiasm and agreement that whatever form EL takes, it must be inclusive. Embedding EL in core curriculum is the most efficient way to ensure that all students have access to and don’t self-select out of doing EL, but ensuring EL is actually inclusive and enables all students to gain the value, no matter their starting point academically or experientially, is a different matter.

We discussed the barriers that students can experience to engaging and benefitting from EL, including the nature of a student’s transition to engaging with an industry partner for the first time. And, as with ‘telling your story’, confidence and self-awareness are key.

As academics, experiential learning professionals and careers and employability professionals, we need to guard against assuming that reflection comes equally naturally or automatically to all students, and we need to use pedagogy to put in sufficient scaffolding to enable it to occur inclusively for all.

Active learning vs. ‘CV seeding’

Finally, there was a strong emphasis on pedagogy in all the EL practice shared by the academics, which reinforces the conversations that are surfacing through the Institute of Experiential and Skills-Based Learning about EL as a way of activating and deepening engagement with the subject. This contrasts with how experiential learning is often seen strategically by higher education institutions, which is as ‘CV seeding’: giving students tractable bursts of industry engagement with the intentional goal of improving employability towards graduate outcomes.

It would be easy to see these as opposite ends of the scale, but they aren’t and shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Indeed, when seen through the lens of subject engagement, experiential learning is both conceptually and practically capable of holding opportunities for complex subject engagement which might also lead to employability enhancement.

This is particularly important when we talk about experiential learning in subjects that don’t have strongly aligned professional outcomes and open up very diverse career choices, such as across the humanities, where conversations about EL can often be divisive if EL is considered to be only for industry engagement.

Furthermore, the idea of fusion skills is no less relevant here, particularly if we consider (as I do in my own work on skills and curriculum) the innate transferable skills of the subject to be also the specialist technical skills of the subject.  

Beau, Wes, Jane and I would like to thank Kate Ross and all the colleagues who joined us for a really stimulating and important discussion. If there are discussions that you would like to have about themes within experiential learning, pedagogy and university strategy, please do get in touch.

Learn more on the benefits of gaining real-world experience in our ‘Effective Experiential Learning’ whitepaper

Kate Daubney

Careers and Employability Consultant and Practera Advisory Board

Kate Daubney is a former academic and a former head of university careers services, and now acts as a consultant on education, careers education and employability strategies to universities in the UK and internationally. She is an Advisory Board Member for Practera and on the Board of Gyrfa Cymru Careers Wales.


How Gamified Learning Increases Productivity and Engagement in Higher Education

Today’s educators are always looking for new, motivating, and powerful ways to engage students. Two popular modern methods are gamified and project-based learning—but what’s involved in these pedagogies, and what makes them so effective?

You’ll find all the answers you need in this article!   

What is gamified learning?

Gamified learning is an educational approach that combines video games and education to create a more engaging and motivating learning experience.

But it’s not just about playing games in the classroom. It’s about using game-like elements to make any kind of learning more effective.

Quiz apps like Kahoot! are a popular example of a gamified learning platform used in classrooms around Australia and the world. The app’s game-like ‘rewards’ such as points, badges, emotes, and unlockable ‘chests’ drive students to succeed.

When combined with project-based learning, which involves active engagement in meaningful projects, gamification creates a powerful learning experience.

The key to a successful gamified learning project is good game design. Whether designing a gamified lesson or an entire gamified course for your students, you’ll need to think like a professional game designer.

Most importantly, you’ll need to create challenges for your students that are meaningful, achievable, and rewarding while making sure they align with your curriculum’s goals. It’s also a good idea to create feedback loops so your learners who are struggling or show signs of mastery can continue progressing.

Preparing students for the workplace with experiential learning

How gamified learning increases productivity and engagement

So, how exactly does gamified learning improve the educational experience for students and educators? We’ll dive into this question in the sections below.

Enriched learning experience

Today’s young people are so deeply entwined with technology it has become an integral part of their everyday lives. Modern universities have adapted all kinds of technology, such as online distance learning platforms, digital file-sharing tools, and electronic whiteboards. Game-based learning is another step in this forward-thinking process.

Because modern students are so accustomed to technology, gamified learning works on their unique level. Students earn interactive rewards, points, and achievements as they learn, creating an enriching, holistic experience that makes them feel empowered and accomplished.

Increased desire to learn

Gamified learning also leverages students’ desire to learn and increases their interest in the subject matter. The best way to achieve this is to create interactive, engaging gamified content using proven game design principles.

But how does gamification boost the desire to learn? It’s all about dopamine. 

Just think about the rush you feel when you score a goal in basketball or win a prize from an arcade machine—it’s the same thing! When your students earn rewards and points through gamified learning, they get a dopamine release, making them want to keep learning.  

In the context of project-based and experiential education, your students will also have a clear, well-defined goal, which creates a sense of urgency and drives them to succeed.

Want to learn more? Download the ‘Quality in Online Project-Based Learning’ white paper to see how top institutions are using experiential learning.

Stronger knowledge retention

As an educator, you’re likely always looking for ways to improve knowledge retention within your student cohort. Repeating the same subjects is time-consuming, so it’s best to do whatever you can to help your students better absorb and retain what they learn.

Gamification is a fantastic way to achieve this goal. According to a 2015 study, gamification improved student retention rates by 25%, while an addition of social game elements raised this amount to 50%. This data shows that gamification is even more powerful when social aspects are involved, which is a key part of project-based learning.

Diverse learning methods and materials

Project-based learning in higher education is all about encouraging students to take control of their education and take advantage of their unique learning styles. Gamification takes this a step further, making it easier than ever for educators to personalise learning experiences for each student.

For example, some students learn better through visual demonstration than written content. With a gamified app, you can automatically deliver the same information through different formats for each student, giving each individual the greatest chance at success.

Gamification isn’t limited to the digital world, either. Let’s say a group of students have set a project goal to raise money for a local charity. You can gamify the project by allowing students to gain ‘points’ for each dollar they raise, receiving a badge, medal, or prize when they reach a certain number of points. This can boost intrinsic motivation and will be especially beneficial for students with a hands-on learning style.

Active collaboration

Gamification also encourages active collaboration, where students work together to earn points, achieve rewards, and reach short and long-term goals. While traditional assignments may lack concrete goals, gamification can break a large project down into several ‘stages’ with rewards at each checkpoint.

As we mentioned above, social gamification increases retention even further than gamification on its own. This increase happens largely because students engage in real-time, which is particularly helpful with distance education.

Your gamified project’s social and collaborative aspects could include students versing each other in a digital quiz, working towards team-based achievements, or ‘upvote’ systems where students can send points and rewards to others.

Project based learning

How you can implement gamified learning in your classroom

So, now you understand the immense benefits of educational games and gamifying project-based learning, you’re probably wondering how to implement the approach within your classroom. We’ll give some specific examples below to help you get started.

Point systems

Many educational video games use a point system to measure students’ progress and encourage them to proceed. The typical ‘star charts’ used in primary and high schools across Australia are a basic example of a point system.

You can easily implement a point system within any project-based learning activity—it’s all about getting creative. For example, art students planning and running a local gallery show could earn points for each part of art submitted to the show and each ticket sold. They could then earn rewards or badges once for every 5 or 10 points gained.

Gamified grading

Typical grading systems involve students completing a task, quiz, or project and receiving a letter or number grade at the end. This system isn’t particularly encouraging since the ‘reward’ is only earned at the end of the project, and numbers and grades can be arbitrary.

A gamified grading system could involve students earning experience or ‘XP’ points for each section of the project they complete successfully. As they build up XP, students can gain levels, competing with their peers to achieve the highest possible level or ‘grade’.

Challenges and projects

Many companies set gamified challenges to promote their products, such as Nike’s Nike+ Run Club, where runners compete against each other to share their race statistics and compete with other challengers. You can use similar ideas in your classroom to keep your students engaged and involved.

For example, if you teach an IT class, you could run a ‘game jam’ type event where you challenge your students to design and create a program, app, or game. The students could then test and play each others’ programs or games, voting on which ones they like best. The top three most-liked apps could win a prize.

Leaderboards and badges

Leaderboards are another great way to gamify the project-based learning experience. You can combine leaderboards with badges—i.e. the #1 student earns a platinum badge, students #2 to #5 earn gold, #6 to #10 earn silver, and so on.

Implementing a leaderboard is a great way for students to physically see their progress and weigh up their achievements against other students in the class. The drive to reach the top of the leaderboard is highly motivational for many students and can help them do their best work.  

Educational gaming platforms

Using educational gaming platforms within your classroom is one of the simplest ways to gamify the student learning experience. 

The language-learning app Duolingo is a great example of a successful educational gaming platform. The app implements several game mechanics to motivate students, such as points for getting several questions correct in a row, daily goals, community challenges, leaderboards, and achievement badges.

But gamification isn’t limited to language learning. Regardless of your course focus, you can likely find an educational platform or app to help gamify the experience. For example, the educational coding platform Codecademy uses gamification to keep students progressing through their courses.

Work Integrated Learning (WIL)

Make gamification simple with Practera

Gamifying your project-based learning activities is easier than ever with Practera’s dedicated gamification tools. The platform features several fantastic gamified features to drive student engagement and productivity, including badges and achievements, interactive performance tracking, and custom grading scales. 

Using Practera, you can create custom workflows, implementing gamification features as you see fit. Using Practera’s range of achievements, you can create different pathways. In this way, you can create a personalised experience for each student that will drive them to succeed. 

The platform also offers a huge range of features for educators and higher learning institutions hoping to deliver powerful project-based learning experiences, including a detailed analytics dashboard, chat-based collaboration tools, activity trackers, and much more. We also offer managed services to help connect students with global organisations to ensure you get the most out of your learning experiences. By connecting with our team, we can ensure continuous support with a dedicated program manager.

To get started with Practera, contact our friendly team, request a platform demo, or download our white paper to find out more today.

Boost your skills and employability with Practera and learn more about the importance of experiential learning today.


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