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What are TLOs and why should I know about them?

Recently you may have heard talk about a cross-disciplinary Threshold Learning Outcomes exercise and been wondering in what ways it might relate to the work you might have been doing on graduate learning standards in Journalism, Communication Studies/Media Studies or Public Pelations programs at your university.

On the other hand, you may yet to even hear about – or to fully understand – what this exercise is all about. However your understanding of what’s happening is important as the project winds its way towards implementation.

What are the JoMeC Network's goals?

The JoMeC Network Project has been an Office of Learning and Teaching-funded national exercise in preparing and presenting unified plus discipline-specific sets of minimum learning outcomes for graduates of these disciplines in line with the Australian Qualifications Framework

All disciplines across Australia’s higher education sector have been conducting such work since 2011. In many cases, disciplines with educational and/or sectoral elements in common have clubbed together to agree on overarching minimum graduate outcomes, accompanied by discipline-specific outcomes. 

In some instances, the number of disciplines providing input to these collectives is quite tight and in others it is quite expansive. For instance, the Creative and Performing Arts cohort includes seven disciplines, these being creative writing, dance, music and sound, screen and media, drama and performance, and visual arts. Meanwhile, the Health, Medicine and Veterinary Science cohort includes input from as many as 26 different healthcare disciplines.

Is this some sort of standardising exercise? Will we lose our individuality?

The point of this exercise is not to prescribe immutable outcomes, nor is it to standardise educational offerings across these disciplines. It is, instead, to offer minimum learning outcomes for graduates in each discipline. These, in turn, will naturally be supplemented by the unique additions and specialities of individual programs at each institution.

An example of this is James Cook University, where the journalism program has a strong connection to its Indigenous studies area, so it is able to offer its students a particular educational focus on reporting Indigenous issues. In addition to this specialty, JCU staff will be able to demonstrate that their graduating students meet the TLOs expected across the country of a graduate in that discipline by the assessment and learning program they have in place. Over time, they may choose to benchmark with similar programs at other universities.

At the 30 universities across Australia involved in this exercise, there exists the widest possible ways of defining majors and grouping disciplines in "hybrid" bachelor-degree programs. As a consequence, while the generic, overarching TLOs are likely to be relevant to all programs, they may, in fact, play a more prominent role for hybrid-degree programs. On the other hand, for badged programs or majors that are discipline-specific, those generic TLOs may play a secondary role to the relevant discipline-specific TLOs and accompanying commentary.

Who has been involved to date? How can I become involved?

Over the past two years, a collective of journalism, media/communication and public relations academics have been collating similar input via the JERAA- and ANZCA-endorsed JoMeC Network Project.

While dozens of academics from all of these disciplines have contributed ideas and observations over that time, because of structural and staffing changes within individual universities and their programs, it has not always been possible at a given point in time to reach the correct program staff, heads of schools or even deans, so this may even be the first time you’ve heard about this exercise. 

If so, we invite you to explore this resource and, if you still have questions about the project or ideas to contribute, please feel free to contact the JoMeC Project Manager.

Why is this important to me or my program?

The importance of your awareness and understanding of this project as well as your use of its resultant TLOs will become evident over time as the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Authority (TEQSA) begins working with individual university programs to assess whether graduates are achieving the outcomes claimed. Having already benchmarked against a set of discipline-specific Threshold Learning Outcome statements – and having networked with peer programs in other universities – can be helpful starting points to evidencing such claims.

What if our program has cross-over with other disciplines?

In some cases, program leaders may find they are benchmarking against TLOs from more than one source and comparing assessment and other learning tasks with a small group of universities from other states or regions. An example of this is the University of New England, where because of the nature of its programs, UNE academic leaders will reference both the JoMeC-collated TLOs as well as those from the Creative and Performing Arts.

Where is the project going now?

The JoMeC Network would especially like to thank all those who responded to our various calls for feedback on the important the Threshold Learning Outcomes project for undergraduate programs across the fields of Journalism, Media/Communication and Public Relations.

As 2014 unfolds, here’s quick update on where this sector-wide exercise is at:

  • A plenary panel to update progress on the project was presented during the 2013 JERAA Conference (December 2-4, Mooloolaba) and an invitation issued for expressions of interest to form discipline reference groups across the fields of journalism, public relations, communication and media studies. The discipline reference groups will provide advice to the Discipline Scholars and project teams on the direction and implementation of the Learning and Teaching Academic Standards project. The groups will review drafts of project-related material, including statements of threshold learning outcomes. The work of these reference groups into the future will be undertaken on behalf of ANZCA and JERAA.
  • Reference groups for each of the disciplines are being established. Anyone interested in being part of a disciplinary reference group should contact the JoMeC Project Manager. Your expression of interest should specify: * The discipline area you wish to represent
    * a 500-word statement about your expertise and how your expertise contributes to the project.
    You should also attach a copy of your CV.
  • A workshop to obtain feedback and revise the first draft of the TLOs was also held during the 2013 ANZCA Conference (July 3-5, Fremantle).
  • Here is the latest draft of the TLOs which incorporates feedback to date from the various disciplines. The final version of the TLOs will be circulated to the reference groups for yearly review and discussion.
  • The project now has this web resource (www.jeaa.org.au/research/218). This site, which is hosted by JERAA, explains what the project has been about, why the disciplines involved need TLO statements, how the draft TLOs were formulated as well as a growing list of useful resources for program co-ordinators to use as they go through the exercise of formulating or updating their graduate learning outcomes. This resource is evolving and will contain the latest drafts (and, eventually, the finalised TLOs), a growing collection of useful, easy-to-use resources plus exemplars that demonstrate how individual university programs are have been meeting – and evidencing – achievement of their discipline’s TLOs by their graduates.
  • It is proposed that the content of these web pages be mirrored on the ANZCA website in the near future.
  • This web resource provides a Disciplinary Network Hub, which will ultimately provide benchmarking opportunities within and across the disciplines of Journalism, Communication & Media Studies and Public Relations.
  • A new Facebook page (www.facebook.com/aussiejomec) has been launched to keep interested parties informed, alert stakeholders of developments, encourage networking and point to new website content. Simply 'Like' this page and any notifications will come up in your Facebook feed.
  • In this latest TLO draft, the introductory general statements have been streamlined and specific commentary confined to the discipline-specific TLOs. References to the role of story-telling and the importance of technology have been included, as has the increased focus on relationship-building across all of these disciplines.
  • Engagement, functionality, the highly experiential nature of journalism knowledge – as well as issues around understanding, interpreting and translating complexity – have also been included.
  • The JoMeC Network will be seeking to highlight learning outcome exemplars from universities that demonstrate how program leaders have gone about ensuring an individual overarching or discipline-specific TLO is being met. If you wish to contribute an example from your university, please contact the Project Manager

How can I learn more?

You can discover more about the project itself, how it has been unfolding and how you can be involved (at www.jeaa.org.au/research/218).

Should you have any questions about the project – or some suggestions on any of the above – please email the JoMeC Project Manager at jomec@jeaa.org.au

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JoMeC Network home page

What is JoMeC?

Why the need for TLO statements?

How did JoMeC develop the draft TLOs?

How are TLOs 'evidenced'?

Resources

JoMeC Facebook page