Why RMIT is partnering with Adobe for digital marketing learning

GM of strategy and new product at the university's digital division explains how it's vital industry and education providers partner on next-generation learning to give students personalised experiences

Giving students real-world skills to stay above water and make strategic career moves, while helping industry build the modern workforce, are driving forces behind RMIT’s new learning partnership with Adobe, its strategy and product lead says.

The Victoria-based education institution and Adobe have partnered up to co-design three digital marketing courses off the back of the vendor’s software and expertise. Each will be available under RMIT Online’s professional course offerings, and focus on tackling real-world marketing situations with an emphasis on best practices, data-driven marketing and emerging technology.

Each course incorporates working with mentors, student advisors and course managers from both the university and Adobe’s employee ranks. The three courses are: Digital Marketing; Marketing Analytics and Insights; and AI and Emerging Technologies for Strategic Marketing.

The first course debuts on 20 August, while the second around analytics is due for release in October. RMIT Online and Adobe are also working together to devise more flexible and accessible study options digitally.

The partnership builds off the back of RMIT’s decision to invest in the Adobe suite of marketing technology products to improve its own marketing approach.

RMIT Online is a wholly-owned, separate entity of RMIT aimed at helping the tertiary education provider better harness digital and the future needs of modern learners. Established two years ago, the division now has 17,000 students, most of which have been doing online degrees and accredited programs at both Undergraduate and Masters level.

The Adobe partnership takes its cues from a raft of industry partnerships RMIT Online has been building. The first was with Apple, and culminated in a short course for iOS development using the Swift programming language under RMIT Online’s short-course credential portfolio, launched last November. Short courses are 4-8 weeks long and all co-created with industry.

“We have always been focused on capability development, how we support the workforce and how we help students to develop against their needs while helping industry fill the skills gaps they’re experiencing,” Hylands said. “Where we have seen huge development is around what has become a fundamentally digital world, where the pace of change is exponentially increasing. The need for people to continuously upskill or reskill to either stay above water in their own field of expertise, or move into new adjacent opportunities, is huge.

“New jobs are emerging and people are looking for shorter, sharper and more targeted learning that is current, industry focused and presents things they can apply immediately back into business.”

The vision for RMIT Online is to foster “a community of lifelong learners navigating the world of work”, Hylands continued. Critical to that is establishing partnerships with industry.

“These go through the whole value chain, from identifying what the real needs are in the market so we can create course to meet those requirements; to building content and learning experiences with industry, so students are engaging with more holistic education but also getting the key skills they need to engage with today’s technologies.”

For example, this could be getting their hands on the Adobe Experience Manager and other software critical to their future.

“Then it’s about tapping the expertise of our partners, who mentor in our courses to ensure students are engaging in the community. It’s not about knowledge transfer, these courses are an opportunity to build careers and connections as well and get to the outcomes students want to get to. For some, it’s about skills development, for others, it’s a new job,” Hylands said. He added it’s these outcomes RMIT Online will be judging its success on.  

Read more: Report: Aussie marketing jobs tally set to skyrocket in next five years

Since November, RMIT Online has launched several short courses focused on digital transformation, agile, design thinking, customer experience and product management.

The partnership with Adobe fits into the digital marketing learning strategy. RMIT Online is also working with Isobar on the first digital marketing course, a strategic Adobe partner, while in analytics and insights, students are also gaining access to Tableau’s data visualisation software and employees.

“With AI, we’re looking at things like voice, virtual reality and new techniques so people even very progressed in marketing can stay engaged,” Hylands continued.

Every student who complete a course gets an RMIT and partner credential. These can be cashed in at the university for advanced standing in Masters qualifications. Where there is dual opportunity to get certified by a technology vendor, RMIT is developing the capability for students to take those exams.

The whole engagement picture

Alongside course development, RMIT as a wider organisation is building a relationship with Adobe to improve its digital marketing and student engagement efforts.

“Higher education is really embracing the fact that the entire student experience is critical to us being able to differentiate from other organisations in getting the best possible experience and outcomes,” Hylands explained. “Our university is embracing the entire Adobe Experience Cloud for us to get an understanding of students across all of our platforms.

“We have 90,000 students and higher education is growing exponentially in terms of the number of people it engages with. They all have different past experiences, bring different things to the courses and have different aspirations. We’re striving to deliver something that’s much more personalised and we’re working closely with Adobe to bring that to life.”

Hylands noted RMIT’s recently installed CMO, Chaminda Ranasinghe, who was formerly with ANZ, brings hefty insight into modern marketing as well as Adobe’s platform potential and is working to realise that. RMIT has also moved to Agile ways of working to further modernise the wider organisation. And it’s these experiences directly that are helping inform the course curriculum.

“An amazing thing for our university is our vice-chancellor, Martin Bean, is from an education technology background and was the global head of education for Microsoft in the US, so he understands the technology and digital landscape incredibly well. Along with our CIO, Paul Oppenheimer, and our CMO, we have powerful leadership that understands how we can bring that technology at an enterprise scale into RMIT,” Hylands said.  

For Hylands and RMIT, the future of universities is providing students with an incredibly personalised journey. And there’s no doubt about the scale of customer opportunity for education providers.

“Globally in 1900, there were 500,000 students in higher education; today there are over 200 million. In a couple of decades, it’ll be over 400 million,” Hylands said. “Unsurprisingly, there is a much more diverse set of needs and aspirations. We need to be able to engage with them in a more personalised way.

“Being able to use these technologies to therefore connect the different parts of the university is key. A student might want to do a course online, then another on campus, then do a few short courses to help them on the path to a Masters qualification, and we want the experience to be seamless for them.”

An interesting challenge for RMIT Online, meanwhile, is understanding how students are engaging with the software tools, where they’re successful, and where pain points exist, then integrating those insights into assessments and gradings. To do this, both the university and industry partners must ensure the transition from learning systems to technology products is seamless, Hyland said.

As well as having single sign-on for students, Hylands said vendor partners are working with the university on ways to share data insights within the privacy guidelines.

“It definitely presents challenges but what’s positive is both the university and industry are fully engaging with the fact that neither side can deliver successfully to students to develop the skills required for their ecosystem to prosper if we’re not working together,” he added. “Living in separate worlds just doesn’t help anyone anymore.”

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