Swinburne partners with Nous and Ziplet to re imagine vocational education

Swinburne partners with Nous and Ziplet to re-imagine vocational education

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Swinburne University of Technology is a world-class university focused on creating impact. Swinburne is committed to transforming education through strong industry engagement, social inclusion, a desire to innovate and a determination to create positive change.

Supporting students to be Future-Ready Learners

As part of its 2025 Strategic Plan – which prepared it for technological disruption, growing expectations from industry, and digitalisation – Swinburne sought to develop Future-Ready Learners: graduates who lead in employability and business creation.

Swinburne aimed to transform its vocational education student experience to strengthen graduate employability and improve student satisfaction and retention. Getting there involved establishing design principles, developing a road map, implementing the transformation, measuring success and activating the student voice.

A road map led to principles with tangible applications

To develop a transformation road map, Swinburne and Nous drew on human-centred design techniques.

Nous facilitated a Skunk Works Innovation Lab, in which more than 80 Swinburne executives, teaching and corporate staff joined an immersive and interactive workshop to build support for the transformation of learning and to document their ideas. The event included a panel session with industry to discuss their expectations, a student panel to explore their experiences and guest speakers who were leading thinkers on vocational education.

Swinburne partners with Nous and Ziplet to re-imagine vocational education
Swinburne partners with Nous and Ziplet to re-imagine vocational education

Then during a four-day design sprint, a core team designed, workshopped and defined the future learning experience and expectations for the upcoming design and piloting phases. A future experience prototype was tested with more than 100 staff, students, stakeholders and industry contacts.

This led to four design principles for transforming learning, and activities to deliver on them:

  1. Authentic immersion in the real world of work and practice. This involves connecting students to businesses, social enterprises and community projects; as well as placing them in immersive learning environments, such as hospital floors.
  2. A guided, relationship-based learning experience. This involves student success coaches, who are peer and industry mentors that support students to achieve their aspirations.
  3. Engaging with industry to co-design and deliver. This involves partnerships with industry and work readiness training, projects and placements.
  4. Targeted investment in people, processes and technology. This involves investing in training and support to build staff capability, technologies and processes.

To put these principles into action, 40 staff formed working groups to implement 11 projects.

Swinburne used Ziplet to activate student voice and understand the impact of change

Key to success was activating the voice of Swinburne students to validate the projects.

To achieve this, Swinburne used Ziplet (formally Loop), an app-based platform that provides continuous, real-time feedback to education institutions and teachers. Swinburne used Ziplet to gather student views on its transformation in two ways:

  1. Teaching and learning model questions, to achieve formative change in the classroom in line with the transforming education principles
  2. Student experience questions, to measure and understand the impact of broader change, with a handful of questions distributed to each student each term.

Through Ziplet, Swinburne captured student sentiment, measured the impact of change and sourced new ideas for continuous improvement.

More than 75 per cent of students provide regular feedback to Swinburne and their teachers, with more than 65 per cent of teachers actively gathering feedback. Swinburne has gathered responses in hours – rather than weeks or months – due to Ziplet being accessed by students on their phones.

Ziplet data is instantly available to relevant Swinburne leaders or teachers, enabling them to connect with students immediately to understand their concerns or make immediate change. Swinburne can verify, effectively in real-time, the extent to which program changes are helping students be work-ready.

Transformation required a concerted effort

Implementing the transformation required a concerted effort across Swinburne. It involved:

  • targeted investments in the e-learning platform Canvas, staff secondments, professional development, technology and equipment
  • developing critical leaders as champions, aligning vision to strategy and embedding it in development plans
  • developing the workforce, including through delivering roadshows to more than 200 staff and setting and communicating key performance indicators
  • a communications roll-out, including poster campaigns, bulletins, videos and an intranet.

The transformation is improving outcomes for students

By the end of 2019, some 60 per cent of Swinburne’s vocational education courses, amounting to 100 courses, have undergone transformation. This includes courses in justice, business, film, nursing, plumbing and engineering.

Now Swinburne is making progress in delivering on its measures of success: to drive increases in student satisfaction, retention and articulation; graduate employment; employer satisfaction with graduates; and student acquisition.

What you can learn from Swinburne

Engage all stakeholders in the organisation in all stages, supporting people to generate ideas and be active supporters.

Not all ideas will be viable, so use agile models to pilot, evaluate and scale up or discontinue.

As well as helping providers iterate education transformation, activating the student voice is critical to achieving buy-in.

External tools like Ziplet can provide assurance with continuous improvement through activating the voices of students.