Three Weeks into Active Learning at SAE Institute

Recently, the post-secondary college I work for (SAE Institute) actioned an overhaul of it’s Learning and Teaching (L & T) paradigm to include more focus on ‘Active Learning’. The reality is that this isn’t a great deal different to how we were teaching originally, it was simply formalising it’s structure. This has positive ramifications due to the unique nature of our campuses, there are six across Australia for example, each one with a considerable student body and all with so much potential to engage in cross-campus, cross-disciplinary practice.

But how?


That’s a good question, I’m glad you asked. PBL (project-based learning) is the approach SAE has taken with our third trimester (second year Uni equiv.) since 2014, always with the intention to push the PBL model into commencing students at some stage. This focus on PBL has had a strong focus on collaboration, which in the creative industries goes without saying, you can’t make a film, game, animation without sound…well you can, but why would you.

One of the problems we have had with the PBL and when it is introduced is that learning to engage in collaborative practice and deal with the challenges that come with it are, well, challenging and don’t happen as quickly as we would like. It takes time to navigate the murky waters of group work, and truly learn while doing it. For the commencing student this thick lathering of PBL can be incredibly daunting, but the fundamental skills that make it such a great learning environment are less so. Namely, self-reflection, deliberate practice, and group activities.

This is what ‘Active Learning’ for commencing students at SAE hopes to achieve and the early signs are good, if not a bit chaotic (chaos is fun). Anecdotally I have noticed peer groups engaging far more swiftly and easily with each other, students actively seeking out clarification and help from faculty more readily and a general vibe that I haven’t experienced at this intensity on campus before.

This quicker engagement in iterative and collaborative work environments will hopefully allow students to be really comfortable with collaborative PBL the moment they get to it, rather than dealing with a transition period. This in turn should encourage them to think farther afield when the roles they need filling locally for their projects can’t be found, that’s one of my hopes. Obviously this requires the facilitation by a cross-campus faculty but this is quickly becoming a reality. The early signs are good, difficult, but good. Nothing worthwhile was ever easy, why should this be any different.