Digital media expert recognised with national teaching award

01 March 2021
A CQUniversity Mackay academic has been recognised with a prestigious national award for his outstanding contribution to student learning.

Senior Lecturer in Digital Media Dr Ashley Holmes received an Australian Awards for University Teaching (AAUT) Citation' recognising his contribution to the quality of student learning.

'I feel truly honoured and grateful for the encouragement and support of students and colleagues at CQUniversity and those in the wider community'' Dr Holmes said of his award win.

It was' ultimately' Dr Holmes' passion for authentic' service-learning education that led him to the award win.

'Dr Holmes' authentic' service-learning units embody many of the graduate attributes essential for employability in the 21st century including problem-solving' communication' initiative' enterprise' self-management' social responsibility and collaborative practice'' Head of College Professor Judith Brown said.

'The projects undertaken by students in these capstone units have always engaged students in real-world problems and remain at the forefront of the ambitious social innovation agenda that underpins the curriculum at CQU and its ongoing commitment to serve its diverse communities. Dr Holmes' impassioned leadership of these collaborative projects has ensured that project partners' including community organisations' businesses' and a wide range of creative enterprises' are able to connect with CQU digital media students to solve authentic problems and provide solutions that have lasting benefits to these project partners.'

Dr Holmes applies changemaking principles that enhance student employability through providing socially innovative opportunities for undergraduates to learn project collaboration while solving digital communication challenges.

'The projects that we offer to students come from organisations who want to perform their digital communication role or function' better' more easily' or more effectively'' Dr Holmes explained.
'Our students opt to take on a challenge by forming a team to co-design a solution with the client stakeholders. It is not a 'quick fix'. It is about sharing social capital in sustained partnerships. Our experienced tutors support the collaborators toward a shared objective over two University terms (24 weeks). The impact of this kind of authentic experience on employability has only just begun to be researched in Australia. There is statistical evidence of benefits for graduates including being more satisfied about being employed actually using the skills gained during their study.'

CQUs Bachelor of Digital Media has been outperforming the national average in a number of teaching areas including overall experience' positive teaching experience and full-time employment.
'The degree provides options to specialise in at least two out of four fields: animation' graphic design' interactive media and screen production. Our industry-experienced academics are constantly reviewing the mix' updating and renewing the curriculum to keep it real and relevant. Additionally' each member of our team genuinely desires the success of each student to realise whatever ambition they have.'
Dr Holmes has taught Digital Media in Mackay for almost 20 years' having moved to the region from Adelaide in 2002 to take up the role at CQUniversity.

'When I arrived' I really appreciated the high level of sophistication of the teaching resources at CQUniversity compared with other unis I had worked. I believe that we are still ahead of that curve in terms of our delivery of online learning and this really showed during our recent initial period of COVID lockdown.'

Before turning to academia' Dr Holmes was a company and creative director for innovative production studios for two decades' surfing the wave of change from analogue to digital production.

'I recall creating audio-visual training modules for oral surgeons where the biggest challenge in the whole process was inventing compression algorithms to enable efficient distribution of a product via numerous floppy discs to be snail-mailed'' he recalls.
'In these 5G times' that kind of problem is hard to imagine!'