Online Industry Partnerships at Scale: Interview with Jan Bruggemeier

RIIPEN feedback

RMIT has engaged RIIPEN, a company based in Canada, to provide introductions to companies for the purpose of providing our educators with industry projects their students can do online. One of the best success stories using RIIPEN so far is the effort of Jan Bruggemeier and his team with the project Strategic Storytelling and Creative Content. This was delivered as a 2 week intensive with 120 students, the largest cohort RMIT has managed so far.

Students from Professional Communication and Communication Design at the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) were able to work in small interdisciplinary teams on communication projects for a range of Canadian companies through a global Industry Partnered Online Learning activity organised in conjunction with Global Experience. SIM students undertaking their two-week intensive were connected with these companies through the RMIT partner platform RIIPEN.

Four projects from across three companies were sourced for students to work with 10Net Focus, Bad Dad Tea and the Women’s Economic Council. The students formed interdisciplinary groups across the disciplines of Advertising, Public Relations and Communication Design, through the development of short elevator style pitches. Despite the challenges of working in an intensive mode and receiving client feedback within tight timeframes, the students were able to produce innovative communication solutions to fit their client’s brief. This project enabled the students to gain valuable experience in working remotely with a global client, while negotiating team dynamics and conflict management.

One of the factors we have noticed determines success in attracting industry partners is the effort put in to writing the course description. Jan’s course description is a model that we like to share with others writing their description on RIIPEN for the first time. Jan’s course had 1265 views from industry partners on RIIPEN more than any of the RMIT course descriptions so far. We decided to interview Jan to find out more about what worked and how the experience could be improved.



“We run client-based studios which are usually sourced through our own contacts or school contacts, and we have a stronger connection with them as a result. We like to keep our contacts close. A challenge with RIIPEN is that the companies’ primary connection is with RIIPEN. There is a feeling of less control in not having a face to face relationship. So success depends a lot on the personality of the academic, and not all academics are up for feeling that out of control.

We had one client drop out of our 4 clients. This happens in projects regardless of where they are sourced from – it wasn’t a personal thing. We also had an issue with feedback time where one client took a week to respond. This was despite our requirements for regular contact being written into the company conditions.  Again this is normal and although inconvenient it is a good thing for students to experience. ‘Flaky’ contacts are always a risk even with our personal and school contacts.

Platform feedback

“Some of the company contacts are startups as sole operators, and it is worth being aware of the risks for this. One of our staff feared that her feedback ratings might be impacted by the client’s bad behaviour. It is unclear who can see the feedback function. One company did not want to give feedback to one with all other groups seeing that. However the feedback we received was positive. All clients and their project offerings are visible on the platform so it makes it easy to see and choose. RIIPEN offers a nice variety of companies, from corporations to not for profits. This is really helpful as we had no contacts in Singapore and needed to find something quickly as we transitioned to online.

The RIIPEN platform is good, but some features are a bit annoying. Often clients aren’t as familiar with the platform and we ended up having to teach the clients how to use it, where that is RIIPEN’s job. We started working around the platform as a result. Some clients only had one staff member on RIIPEN, so a problem arose as to how we could communicate with everyone in the company via the platform. The service from RIIPEN is amazing, they are really responsive. It was great to have the opportunity to work with professionals in North America.

Advice for doing RIIPEN at scale

“You need to have enough different clients (for example 5-6 projects per client with groups of 4). Client feedback turnaround time needs to be factored in, and you need to be aware of public holidays in both locations. It would also be good to celebrate project outcomes, potentially with some sort of award event, or to have the students and their projects featured on the RIIPEN/client’s website.”

If you are interested to take part in a virtual exchange with one of RMIT’s partner universities around the world check out Global Experiences at RMIT or contact the RMIT Global Experiences at team at

The sounds of Melbourne and Chicago: Interview with John Phillips

Interview with John Phillips
Interview with John Phillips


For a couple of years now John Phillips from RMIT Sound Production in Vocational Education, has been collaborating with DePaul University in Chicago with class collaboration projects. This activity started with a connection through the SUNY COIL network which was followed by a visit from DePaul academic Rob Steele to RMIT in 2018.

We caught up with John recently to interview him about these experiences.


“These students will typically go on to do sound production for media and events and so online collaboration is typically how they are going to be working beyond their course. It reminds me of recently doing  a documentary film music production. The director was in France, the producer in the US and I was in Melbourne. This is the world we live in. It is not just a one-off challenge. It represents what media production is like these days…even down to a student working on something in their home studio it might sound fantastic at their end; but at the other end it will be lofi, Quicktime compressed they have to hear what it is like for them as well.

Rob’s visit to RMIT made a huge difference to the project as it meant he could have a lot of contact with our students, and enabled him to develop his own perspective of Melbourne. This was especially helpful for the first project. His perspective informed the subsequent communications, and meant that we have developed a strong and ongoing relationship. Rob can choose amongst different cohorts in Chicago and knows that he can trust RMIT with them. Because we run synchronous classes, there are also good opportunities to work through concerns. Students are all faced with the personal challenges that participating in these projects presents.

The Projects 

“The actual nature of the project has changed each year. Rob from DePaul has a different media production cohort each year to which we adapt, which freshens it up. The initial instance involved Blind City Portraits, with students creating soundscapes that painted an audio picture of their respective cities, which they then exchanged so that the other group could do the post production. Because the development of this soundscape involved an intimate knowledge of their home city, this meant that the students had to be able to communicate with each other the ‘soundtrack’ of their city.

In the second iteration, RMIT sound design and DePaul music composition students were asked to all work in groups on the same piece of animation, to create the sound effects and music to narrate the piece. Even with the same animated scene, this resulted in vastly different finished results, simply from nuances in music and effects. Working in these groups enabled students to emulate what the sound production industry is like, as when you have effects and music combined with a busy animation, it’s really important that they coordinate – they need to work with each other to convey the meaning.

In semester 2 2020, students will be tasked with creating a photo montage of their city (like the films La Jette and Baraka), with the soundscape then added in to bring each city portrait to life. This will potentially be expanded to include composition as well as production students who will need to communicate their respective city’s iconic soundscape to the other students.

What and How…

“We try and keep it simple and not to get too ambitious. Class sizes are typically 2030, made up of 34 groups. We set specific requirements where a lot of collaboration is required. Students need to meet deadlines in order to make it happen, and they need to overcome communication barriers. Often they are very nervous to begin with.

We begin with allocating the teams and then file exchanges. We use shared onedrive folders and are often working with large files. For the synchronous classes, Zoom worked a lot faster and better than MS teams.

As well we enrolled all our students into their Canvas LMS. It was just easier to do that. For assessment submitted files go to both their LMS as well as our students submitting to our LMS. It is up to the cohorts to work out their own knowledge management practices, for example some would set up Facebook groups.

It begins with the first online meeting, followed by a monthly Zoom. Students are broken down into small groups to work on each project. For the students it is a little like speed dating looking at their teammates for the first time, feeling uncomfortable then relaxing, as they begin to communicate. Going through this whole process and still meeting production deadlines, in essence mirrors industry practice.

Cultural Exchange

“When Rob visited Melbourne he was fascinated with all the accents and languages of Melbourne. He heard a fresh view of Melbourne. We had a lot of dialogue on how the students could represent each of their cities in the first project. What are the iconic sounds of Melbourne? Some people live in very urban areas and some live in more rural contexts. Our class collaborations keep the dialogue going.

Collaboration in a Covid World

“For next semester with Covid, synchronous classes will be slightly different, as we won’t be starting in classrooms, which will be interesting to see. The first synchronous class will be an icebreaker, where we will get the whole class into breakout groups with each other. They are thrown in the deep end and are often nervous at first and a bit uncomfortable. Through the necessity of deadlines they need to quickly thaw the ice. After about 15 minutes they start relaxing. They start describing their cities. We allow them to nominate who is in which groups and then we massage that a bit, as we want to make sure participation sustains at both ends. So we make sure there is at least one strong student in each group at each end. Sometimes a student might be left on their own however, and that can be ok depending on the student.

Students don’t like participating in groups but that’s the work. Your name’s on the job. This will happen in the real world. We get caught up with the idea of the studio practice as industry practice. But our group based collaborations mirror the industry more closely than anything, according to my experience and background. The nice challenge with Covid is that it is just another challenge it is not an impasse. It’s just another obstacle to negotiate. For the world our students are going into, in music production, that is the world in which they will live. The studio will be in both Melbourne and Beijing, and they will work with staff all around the world. The Chinese do the film production and Melbourne does post production. There will be tight timelines and no face-to-face. All the work will be online and then there is the language barrier. So it is all about collaborating and exchanging and getting the job completed.”

If you are interested to take part in a virtual exchange with one of RMIT’s partner universities around the world check out Global Experiences at RMIT or contact the RMIT Global Experiences at team at

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.