RMIT Students’ Success on Niagara Falls Project

lunch scene

Property evaluation students in the RMIT School of Property, Construction and Project Management were able to apply their university knowledge to new contexts and build valuable industry connections through an Industry Partnered Online Learning activity organised through Global Experience. Students from both the postgraduate and undergraduate degrees were connected with Canadian developer Times Group Corporation through RMIT partner Riipen, an online collaboration platform which links university courses and industry partners. Times Group Corporation is a well-established family-run company with over 35 years of experience in the property development and management industry, based in Toronto, Canada. They tasked the students with writing an evaluation report on a property in the city of Niagara Falls, thousands of kilometres away from the students themselves. The report would help Times Group Corporation in pricing and determining the unit mix of the one-of-a-kind development in its area.

Shadi, Vice president of Times Group Corporation, recognised that the job she put to the students was no easy feat. She said that the pricing and determining of the unit mix of the building required in-depth analysis and strong understanding of the real estate market, noting that no one locally had the scope of knowledge necessary to complete the task. Times Group Corporation was glad that RMIT students halfway across the globe were up for the challenge, and they were curious to see what the students would come up with, as “to price a project in an area where there is no data to do analysis you need to come up with creative ways of approaching the problem.” After posting a call-out on Riipen and being connected with RMIT Lecturer Judith Callanan and her students, the company provided the initial information required for analysis and then eagerly awaited the findings.

Rising to the challenge, the students split into two teams to produce two distinct reports. Student Ryan Resurrection said he “poured in months of necessary research” in order to collect enough data to accurately define parameters such as the unit type, size, suite mix and price. Combining this with Canada’s regional economic data, Ryan and his teammate Jordan Huber were able to determine what the vacation property market was ready to absorb in an area where data for similar developments were sparse. Classmate Matthew Veitch was in charge of collating this information to create “an in-depth financial analysis” that would turn out to be of great use for Times Group. Ryan found that “working on a real deliverable project made schoolwork exponentially more interesting” and it gave him the opportunity to practice using industry-standard development software. Teammate Thomas Key agrees, saying the collaboration “solidified” what he learnt in earlier courses. He also noted that due to this development being in an unfamiliar location, it exposed him to new ways of thinking and applying familiar concepts. Overall, they found the task challenging, but were highly motivated by the fact that it would have a real-world application and be implemented by a prestigious international industry member.

When the report was submitted through Riipen, Shadi and her colleagues were highly impressed with the RMIT students, saying it was “superior in quality” when compared to high industry standards.  Shadi appreciated the amount of work that had gone into the Property Evaluation and how the students “took a pivot matrix and moved it around.” The company could barely believe that this work was completed by university students with little professional experience.

A few months later in February 2020, when on a business trip to Australia, Shadi flew to Melbourne to have lunch with the students with whose work she was so highly impressed. She was pleased to inform the students that their analysis “had the potential of assisting Times Group Corporation with the bottom line” and provided detailed notes on their findings. Thomas was also thankful for the advice that Shadi gave them on another project they were working on and felt the meeting really solidified the professional connection they were building. The lunch was a great way to celebrate the hard work put in and discuss future career aspirations.

On RMIT’s Riipen page the review Shadi left on behalf of Times Group reads simply, “excellent experience all around.” The company rated RMIT’s professionalism, communication and preparedness highly and noted that the students were always accommodating in working around time zones.

This project, and the positive experience Shadi had with RMIT, has paved the way for future collaborations in other courses such as Professional Writing and Editing, and Professional Communications. The test of any good service, Shadi says she would work with these RMIT students again if she were faced with a similar project.

The students also say it was a great foot in the door and are proud to be able to list this experience on their resumes as they begin their careers. Ryan remains hopeful that this interaction may “open up international doors in the future.” Further to this, Thomas notes that the team building and connections he has made with other students may be the most valuable asset he gained from the experience. Working on a large-scale luxury development in Niagara falls is certainly an experience from which the RMIT students will benefit, and remember well into the future.

International Photography Collaboration


RMIT Bachelor of Photography students led by Rebecca Najkowski, completed a COIL collaboration with SUNY Genesee Community College in upstate New York. Across hemispheres, students employed photography to look at how humans interact with the environment around them by focusing on the exploitation and manufacturing of natural materials, reflecting on the impact of colonisation, performing artistic interventions, or finding traces of overlooked daily human involvement with nature. The project explored a range of ‘natural’ and urban environments, from tourist hotbed Niagara Falls and rural regions in New York State, to the Melbourne metropolitan area and the Mallee region of Victoria and New South Wales. In these varied explorations, landscapes can be seen through a diversity of interpretations.

The students compiled an online gallery here which was also exhibited at RMIT Melbourne city campus and SUNY Genesee.

Foreign Correspondent

RMIT Lecturer Tito Ambyo talks about his online collaboration with journalism students from The Hague University of Applied Science including how he overcame some of the challenges involved with a COIL collaboration.

“The ‘Foreign Correspondent’ COIL collaboration is designed to give students the skills and experience to tell a story about their country to an audience in another place. Students from Australia, Indonesia and The Netherlands are paired up with the objective of finding a story from their own country that will be interesting for an audience in another country. This forces the students to think as a global citizen; something that is widely reported in their own country is not necessarily something that is interesting for an audience in another country. They have to use their research, interviewing and other relevant journalism skills to pitch a story to each other, collaborate to decide an angle for the story, write five interview questions that support the telling of the story, and then they have to take turns interviewing each other as if they were foreign correspondents. The interviews must be recorded and then shared with the rest of the group. A corollary result of being involved in the project is that the students are empowered to actively use readily-available media technologies (Skype, Facebook, Emails) to produce international stories.

The hope is that some of these students will then keep on collaborating and sharing; the next time something happens in those three countries, they will already have people they can call to find out more. A few of the students have continued to build friendships through doing the project. “

Tito teaches Journalism Technologies for the Bachelor of Communication (Journalism) program at RMIT University. His work is informed by a larger study of Anthropology with an interest in Indonesian culture with a focus on digital storytelling. He observes new practices of journalism in a global context. A recent project of Tito’s with his journalism students is called Fact-Check your Mum, where students have to find a story from their family history, demonstrating fact checking skills, and presenting the story in an engaging way with journalistic integrity.


RMIT’s first COIL collaboration

Rmit’s first collaboration with the SUNY COIL network was back in 2015. Lisa Dethridge from Screenwriting in Media and Communications gathered students from across several subjects, in an extra curricular project on the topic of Transhumanism. The collaboration partner was Damian Scofield a professor in computer science from SUNY Oswego in upstate New York. The project was combined with a study tour. Students worked together to create science fiction scripts for robots that the SUNY students were programming. The result was some extraordinarily creative outputs:


Students were interviewed about their experience of the collaboration.

Thanks to Lisa for her pioneering efforts in helping COIL become established at RMIT.

Traditions are Never an Obstacle

This video shows the results of the collaboration between Jis Kuruvilla from RMIT Vietnam and Eva Haug from Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Both Jis and Eva teach marketing. As you can see from the video, students benefited from working in remote teams, creating the experience of working ‘like a marketer’. At the same time learning was more personal, supportive of peer learning and supportive of diversity. The collaboration is tied with RMIT Vietnam’s Personal Edge+ program enabling Intercultural Competency for which students receive a digital badge in recognition.

Eva has also joined with RMIT Melbourne’s Kerin Eslum (School of Media and Communications) and Sally Parrott  (College of Business).

Damian Schofield on COIL

It was great to see presentation at RMIT from Damian Schofield, Professor of Computer Science from State University of New York Oswego. Damian is an experienced COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) practitioner and is the other ‘half’ of the collaboration with Lisa Dethridge from RMIT on Transhumanism. Transhumanism is the study of the crossover between humans and machines; and Damian has a programmable computer chip embedded in his hand. There were a number of points I took from Damian’s presentation –

  • For international collaboration to work the students have to like their professor. They want to go to places they know about. The experience must include local knowledge. And it must be affordable.
  • BEFORE any work – get to know your partner. COIL lives and dies on personal relationships. It’s a good idea to visit if possible. Use contacts in the COIL network you already know, where possible.
  • Cost effectiveness. They can be cheap and sustainable. Program information shows to students the COIL activities and the expectations for global collaboration.
  • Damian’s collaborations usually last for about 4 weeks, mostly involving video conferencing. There is a 14 – 16 hours time difference between his students in New York and RMIT in Melbourne. Damian’s New York students were happy to come in the evening for the teleconferences.
  • Collaborate on small projects. Keep things separate in terms of tasks and assessments.

Damian has worked with other overseas projects

  • VR Interviews between Suny and Spain.
  • Using AR teaching kids to build lego robots with Brazil.
  • Facebook games – with students from India – exploring cultural differences in gaming.

Why do COIL? – for students it’s fun. So few students get interactions like this elsewhere or in their upbringing. And it’s an easy way to create publications.

As well, student confidence rises dramatically, as does self awareness and overall satisfaction. For staff, job satisfaction rises. COIL also enables opportunities for travel, new research, and increases employability of both staff and students.

A good example of employability skills is in a unit on software entrepreneurship that Damian led. Small groups of students were given a small amount of cash with which to hire designers and developers from overseas to build an app. The skills acquired included working in international groups and managing international teams.

On a side note Damian won many hearts in the room when stating that he refuses to use his university’s preferred LMS, using instead his own instance of Canvas.