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Mixed classes

Many institutions understand that by combining subject areas that may not normally go together, new insights can be discovered

When we enrol in a course, our area of study generally sits within a particular faculty or department. And we often complete our course without knowing what students in other faculties or departments may be learning. This is a pity, because in the real world we need to work with people from a range of disciplines, and having an understanding of what they do could be really useful.

Many institutions understand that by combining subject areas that may not normally go together, new insights can be discovered. This is not such a new idea - for many years it has been possible to study "Arts/Law" or ‘Economics/ Law" and other combined degrees at some universities. But in order for real innovation to happen, existing subject area ‘silos' should be crossed. Some universities are creating extra degrees that combine with existing degrees to breach existing subject area silos (for example UTS, with its Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation).

At the TAFE NSW, some initiatives are exploring the concept of collaborative classes.

Recently a Games Development Certificate group shared a class with the Marketing and Business Certificate group, and began working on a multi-disciplinary brief. The students will work together in the real world, so it makes sense to begin during their time studying. They can learn about each other's disciplines, and how to work with people who may have a different world view.

A typical session begins with each faculty describing how their course runs, and then moves into areas of common interest, followed by a problem that needs to be solved. Following an initial information session, students are given a brief where they work in blended groups to brainstorm a solution. They present back to the group, and receive feedback from their peers and the other groups.

Some students were initially skeptical, but thrived on the experience. All of the blended groups presented original and compelling concepts for games that could solve the business problem presented, and the marketing students are now taking the concepts into market research. Following this, the groups will come together again, and hopefully we'll see some great games as a result.

Such collaborative learning can be extended into other faculties where students can use their practical skills across faculties and disciplines to further mimic a real-world working situation. It's a great approach to hands-on learning, and students can see, in a practical way, how their skills translate over a variety of areas. This in turn exposes them to a multitude of career opportunities.

In another example, horticulture students and teachers are trialling the use of digital media to identify and download plant information, and are looking to ‘gamify' the experience.

So keep an open mind. It doesn't matter what you're studying - think how you could work with people in other areas to generate new ideas. Even a simple conversation can yield some really exciting possibilities.