Brisbane MediaMap 2005-2008: The Legacy of Authentic Learning

Written by Camryn Giles

The years between 2005 and 2008 were filled with progress and innovation for Brisbane Media Map. The year 2005 saw the grouping of entries at the subcategory level and the addition of a search field, significantly improving the map’s interface. The following year, 2006, saw the implementation of Google Maps API, which created a visual display for business clusters within a media category. Through 2007 to 2008, the maps’ geographical boundaries were redefined, and media profiles were introduced. The DBMS system was altered to Ruby on Rails, a web application framework, due to its usability.

However, one key component of the unit remained consistent throughout this time; authentic learning. To find out more about Brisbane Media Map during this time,we spoke with Associate Professor Christy Collis, who coordinated the unit between 2005 and 2008.

Collis’s intention was for the unit to facilitate student involvement in a real-world project, throughout which students would be required to apply the theoretical knowledge and skills they had accumulated throughout their courses. Accordingly, Collis based the unit on the theory of authentic learning, an instructional approach which asserts that students learn most effectively when involved in practical, real-world projects, as opposed to theoretical learning. A crucial aspect of authentic learning is the requirement that the final product produced by students is made publicly visible. This provides student work with exposure to public audiences and industry professionals, increasing the pressure for students to collectively produce high quality work.

 Interestingly, this is an aspect of authentic learning that is often avoided by academics, as it presents uncertainty, increases stress and is more difficult to execute. However, Collis asserts that public exposure “is the most important aspect of authentic learning”, as it further motivates students and provides them the opportunity to create publicly visible work to demonstrate their ability to potential employers. Through facilitating a true authentic learning experience, Collis’s main approach throughout the unit involved affording the students “a fair amount of agency”, which she describes as the “most pedagogically valuable” aspect of the unit. This agentic approach afforded students the ability to govern themselves and experience agency in decision making. From here, students could learn from the outcomes of their decisions, preparing them for their future practice as creative professionals.

From a co-ordinator’s perspective, Collis describes student response to this agentic approach as one of the interesting elements of the unit. Student perspective was often divided; while some found the unit highly rewarding because of the level of difficulty and challenges they had to overcome, others expressed dissatisfaction in the unit for that same reason. According to Collis, this was a strong indicator that the agentic approach was the correct approach. Collis believes that “as you are learning…  it actually is quite uncomfortable”. While Collis continued to monitor students closely as they experienced stress and discomfort, these emotions indicated that they were learning and that the process was effective. In addition, post-graduate feedback Collis received also attested to this agentic approach, with many recalling that while they disliked the unit at the time, they now view it as one of the most valuable and relevant learning experiences of their degree. 

The pedagogy that Collis had set up for Brisbane Media Map, along with the successful outcomes of the unit, prompted Collis to start-up and co-ordinate the Entertainment Media Map unit in 2012, which she co-ordinated through to 2015. Collis remains committed to authentic learning, currently coordinating the QUT Creative Industries Faculty’s Work Integrated Learning units. Collis believes the concept of media mapping is still relevant today, describing the industry as “a swiftly evolving landscape”. Authentic learning remains to be a core component of the unit, and following co-ordinators have continued to utilise Collis’s agentic approach. Furthermore, the legacy of the unit lies within the authentic learning experiences gained by students of Brisbane Media Map throughout the years.  

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