Live Ideas: Partnering community and industry with staff and students through engaged learning and research experiences

Case Studies | WIL Teaching and Learning


Southern Cross University


Live Ideas: Partnering community and industry with staff and students through engaged learning and research experiences

A university-wide platform for connecting students across any discipline with experiential authentic engaged learning experiences.

Dr Kristin den Exter

Dr Kristin den Exter

Southern Cross University


Live Ideas crosses all disciplines

Model/s of WIL activity

Industry/community based placement, Industry/community based projects, Research activities

Description of WIL activity

Live Ideas provides real-world opportunities for Southern Cross University students and staff to collaborate with community partners for mutual benefit. Partners submit project ideas via an online platform. Submissions are moderated by the University for value to student learning against 10 key impact areas. Staff and students use keyword searches to find projects matching their interests. Starting with the needs of our partners, Live Ideas empowers partners to articulate their needs as the basis for research and teaching activities. Live Ideas immerses students in real-world, problem-based learning, providing organisations with fresh skills and knowledge, especially important in our regional context.

How long has it been operating?

Live Ideas was launched in 2015.

How does the WIL activity demonstrate good practice and/or innovation?

Live Ideas is a unique and innovative example of a “community-to-university-inbound program” which for many Universities is notoriously difficult to demonstrate (Sandmann, Thornton, & Jaeger, 2009). Live Ideas has been centrally administered by the Office of Engagement since 2015, and includes a publicly accessible website which is integrated with the University-wide CRM. The Live Ideas platform increases staff and student engagement staff with regional communities as part of their teaching, learning, and research at Southern Cross University. Live Ideas has been intentionally designed to broker relationships, enabling cross-fertilisation of disciplines, streamlining of project administration, and the capturing engagement impact between partners and Southern Cross University staff and students.

Live Ideas supports students engaged in real-world projects with problem-based learning and supports academics looking to embed real-world projects in their units/courses or research. Each Live Ideas project has a clearly defined, positive learning outcome for students and a clear outline of the benefits to the partner. Live Ideas has connected students and partners with high-profile poverty alleviation and culture-led regeneration projects; projects where whole classes make a difference, and to projects where regional students make an impact overseas. Live Ideas immerses students in real-world experiences that build networks, enhance community capacity, and align with learning outcomes ensuring no student is disadvantaged by living, working, or study location. Live Ideas equips students with opportunities to be impactful global citizens through partnerships that enhance their learning in ways that directly benefit our regions and our communities.

Who benefits from the WIL activity and how?

Live Ideas supports organisations frequently lacking resources or expertise to undertake events, research, and evaluation. There are cases of long term collaborations with partners since 2015. Live Ideas provides learning opportunities for students across locations, aligning community needs and course learning objectives, with student personal and professional curiosities and passion for impact. Students learn, through collaboration, the value, and challenge of working with others, increase their self-awareness, understanding of communication, flexibility, and creativity through experience. For staff, Live Ideas provides a platform for developing and maintaining relationships with industry and community partners, streamlining project administration and strengthening the University’s contribution to the region.

How does the activity embed successful evaluation processes?

Systematic feedback is collected using survey tools integrated with the University’s CRM. “Progress Surveys” sent to staff and students along their journey, and a “Completion Survey” sent to all collaborators, include measures of satisfaction using Net Promoter Scores (NPS). Feedback is tracked via the enterprise-wide CRM and captures successful outcomes, as well as any requests for support, or follow-up communication. Testimonials provide qualitative feedback. This feedback informs the strategic partnership direction for the engagement portfolio, as well as curricular and co-curricular engagement for the University, providing indicators of satisfaction, reciprocity, and mutual benefit for our community and industry partnerships.

What are the broader/longer term impacts for stakeholders?

Since 2015, Academics have been using Live Ideas to tailor community engaged learning experiences to course outcomes, reducing time searching for productive and meaningful experiences and partnerships. Live Ideas has connected community partners with students across 203 real-world projects creating mutual benefit around ten key impact areas: Social Enterprise, Migrants Refugees and Asylum Seekers, Health and Disability, Community Development, Civic Engagement, Education, Environment, International Development, Social Justice, and Social Welfare. Whilst partners gain valuable knowledge skills and access to University resources, students gain course credit strengthening portfolios, developing their professional identity often leading to greater employability outcomes.

How is the WIL activity integrated into curricula?

A range of units are supported across disciplines varying between introductory 12 credit point units to advanced capstone units worth 24 credit points. The Live Ideas Collaboration Guide prepares students, helping to develop shared intent and clarify expectations, forming the basis of the student negotiated ‘collaboration agreement’ – an assessable item for one capstone unit. Students are encouraged to take an action learning approach, and depending on the unit, to use portfolios and reflective journals to support their learning experience – these can also form the basis of assessment. For other units, project outputs may also form the basis of assessment.

How is it informed by relevant theoretical or empirical literature, research and/or scholarship?

Pedagogically the work of Kolb and Kolb (eg 2005), Dick (2020) and others in the action learning space, and Radinsky et. al. (2001), have been influential. Integrating community/industry and student engagement using an explicit skills framework has been explored via the development of models of engaged teaching and learning (Bandaranaike & Willison (2010); Willison 2012). Two models have guided the design of engaged learning (see Bowen 2005) at Southern Cross University along continuums of real-world possibilities and student engagement (den Exter et. al. 2017).

What are the plans for the WIL activity in the future?

Building on the success of the Live Ideas platform, SCU is developing a co-curricular leadership program, providing an opportunity for students to build confidence and leadership capabilities through immersive, transformative experiences in safe settings. The program will be student-led, developing a network of peers, and a supportive community through their time at Southern Cross to becoming Alumni. This new co-curricular program will be distinct from existing academic offerings with powerful, one-day, immersive experiences that scaffold over time, building skills for students in achievable ways.


den Exter KA (2019) Southern Cross University – ‘Live Ideas’ In The Role of the Civic University in Australia. The Making of a City Region Conference, Engagement Australia 29-30 August 2019, Australian Catholic University Brisbane.

den Exter, K.A. (2017) “In Action: Snapshot of Engagement Activity, Southern Cross University’s Live Ideas: In Re-imagining the Engaged University.” Transform Iss. 2 (2017) p. 58

den Exter KA, Purdy J, Wessel A, Reimer, L, Scherrer P. & Whelan M (2017). Let’s Make It Real! Approaching Engaged Learning from Authentic Contexts Across Disciplines, Emerging Case Studies from Southern Cross University. In J. Willison (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Conference on Models of Engaged Learning and Teaching. Adelaide.

Sandmann, L. R., Thornton, C. H., & Jaeger, A. J. (2009). The first wave of community-engaged institutions. New Directions for Higher Education, no. 147, 99-104.