Jessi Dillon and Ghaith Zakaria, learning designers
Jessi Dillon and Ghaith Zakaria

Two Victoria University staff from the Connected Learning team were recognised as game changers in the 2020 Educator’s Higher Education Rising Stars award announced 11 March.

Ghaith Zakaria and Jessi Dillon, both learning designers, were among 20 higher education professionals from across Australia recognised for going above and beyond to positively shape the tertiary sector. 

Ghaith and Jessi started their work in VU’s Students as Staff program. In the early stages of their careers, they are already leading a charge on cutting-edge research, innovation and positive change to ensure VU students thrive and receive the highest quality educational experiences.

The two were nominated for the award by their colleagues, and their application was endorsed by VU’s Director of Connected Learning, Trish McCluskey.

“I’m very fortunate to work with such a talented crew. This award also shines a light on our in-house programs, ethos and team spirit, to support multiple connections, and the multi-layered partnerships that exist between learning, teaching, scholarship, disciplines, work and innovation so our students benefit,” she said.

VU’s award-winning Connected Learning team provides expertise in technology-enhanced learning, curriculum design and innovative pedagogies, and professional learning for staff.

About Ghaith Zakaria

Leading the curriculum redesign of over 60 units for VU’s revolutionary Block Model, Ghaith and his team improved the learning experience and educational success of students from low socio-economic, first-in-family and non-English backgrounds. 

His contributions include developing 3D-printed educational resources and learning activities for students studying physics, anatomy, environmental science, engineering and building construction, as well as designing 300 creative online interactive activities that prompt engagement and enable self-paced learning.

Ghaith’s passion for creating engaging learning experiences resulted in the development of applications that allow an augmented reality and 360° virtual experience of VU’s innovative, collaboration space, The Hive.  

About Jessi Dillon

While studying a Bachelor of Professional and Creative Writing at VU, Jessi worked in Connected Learning as a training and support officer, where she discovered a passion for educational technologies and design. 

As a Learning Designer (Educational Developer) Jessie presented at the H5P Conference in Melbourne in 2018, a conference with over 200 delegates from around the world. Here she won a People’s Choice and a Panel Selection award.

Jessi also helped to design and develop more than 60 of VU’s higher education units for block model delivery. In December 2019, she was appointed as Design Team Lead with her own team - the youngest Design Team Lead in Connected Learning.

Video messages from our award-winning staff

Watch video messages from Ghaith and Jessi about their Higher Education Rising Stars 2020 awards.

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Simone Sampos
Internal Communications Specialist
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