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Centre for Higher Education Research, Innovation and Impact

Our story

Higher education plays a critical role in Australia's society and economy. It's really vital that we have a good understanding of how students experience higher education and how academics teach in higher education, so that we have a strong evidence base to inform policy and innovation in the sector. 

I'm Shirley Agostino and I lead the research group CHERII. We are a group of leading researchers in education with an overall mission of better understanding student experiences at university and how academics teach at university. 

Higher education is facing many challenges but also has many opportunities, a key aspect of our research group is to understand those challenges, why they are occurring, how could they be overcome so that we could use that to leverage opportunities. 

Never before in higher education have we had a situation where we have so many students coming from all walks of life to university and so we need to have a really solid understanding of the student experience of all students, how they are engaging in university, what their experiences are like, these are all really important issues that need to be explored in order for us to have a strong and effective higher education sector that will support all students to be successful. 

Our focus is to help people, help students be the best learners they can be, and help teachers to provide the best quality experiences for their students 


- End transcript

Provision of, and access to meaningful and engaging educational experiences is a strategic objective for all universities. As education providers, universities need to ensure that teachers employ pedagogical approaches that promote student-centred learning and leverage digital technologies to provide an overall innovative high quality learning experience.

Globally, there are many challenges and pressures facing the Higher Education (HE) sector, such as a growing and diverse student profile, quality imperatives to provide meaningful learning experiences for all students, and the role higher education plays in addressing the growing global challenge of lifelong learning.

Our research group’s work seeks to advance knowledge to inform solutions for these ‘wicked problems’ .


Here is a sample of nationally-funded projects that illustrate the breadth of issues we are exploring focused on Higher Education.

Research team


Digitalisation is transforming the world of work. Professional careers are changing. Effective professional learning is more critical than ever to address the high demand for specialist knowledge, interdisciplinary capability, interpersonal skills and digital literacy in this context of change and disruption. Australia’s higher-education sector, employers, professional bodies and government need to respond to the emerging learning needs of professionals, but need evidence on the enablers and constraints in work circumstances to inform the design and development of appropriate learning provisions for professionals in evolving work contexts.  

The project (2021-2024)

Our project aims to investigate learning practices of professionals whose work is effected by digitalisation. The findings will inform understandings about how professionals learn to respond to emerging changes to their work practices. That is, how their learning practices shape and are being shaped by evolving work practices. This new knowledge will be used to suggest learning solutions for professionals and their workplaces and education providers, particularly higher education. The findings will inform the development of guidelines to inform individuals, education providers, professional organisations, and governments on how to address professionals' evolving learning needs. 

Research questions

  1. What are professionals’ learning practices in evolving work contexts?
  2. How are these learning practices enabled and constrained in professionals’ workplaces?

Phases of the research

Our four-year project comprises three phases:

Phase 1: Preliminary survey to identify the range of professional learning activities

Phase 2: Case study research to explore professionals’ learning lives in situ 

Phase 3: Detailed survey (developed from Phases 1 & 2 findings) to examine professionals’ learning lives at scale



Project funded by the Australian Research Council
(Discovery project: DP210100164)

Research Team


University science learners will become our future scientists and science teachers and thus need to develop content expertise and communications skills during their studies. This interdisciplinary project will examine the quality of learning as university science students create digital explanations of science concepts. Learning with digital technologies is increasingly common across many science contexts and this project aims to develop evidence about the quality and durability of the science learning as well as theoretical insights about multimodal literacy development in the process of creating digital explanations. Research into the quality of learning resulting from innovative strategies to learn science through digital technologies is significant for the future of Australia’s knowledge economy and creating a digital explanation shows promise for enhancing both engagement and quality of learning among university science students.

Project funded by the Australian Research Council
(Discovery project: DP160102926)

Research Team


University learning in the digital age. Learning in higher education has become more complex since much of the founding research 40 years ago, with online technologies increasingly used to engage a diverse university student population in student-centred learning. The proposed study aims to update our understanding of student learning to this contemporary university context. The project will focus specifically on how students interpret online tasks set by their teachers, how they complete those tasks by tracking their activities in real-time, and what outcomes they achieve. This study will advance fundamental understanding of these interrelated processes, and provide the stimulus to change thinking about educational design, teaching practices, and support for students. 

Project funded by the Australian Research Council
(Discovery project: DP140100406)

CHERII Seminar Resources

Presentation by UOW PhD Candidate Jacinta McNamara - Presentation

Presentation by UOW PhD Candidate Annette Turney - Presentation

Seminar by Visiting Professor Rhona Sharpe, March 2019: PresentationVideo

Seminar by Visiting Professor Allison Littlejohn, January 2019: PresentationVideo

Seminar by Visiting Emeritus Professor Stephen Kemmis, July 2018: Presentation