Teaching and Learning Forum 2000 [ Proceedings Contents ]

Creating a single learning community for on and off campus students by provision of consistent and comparable learning experiences through open and flexible teaching and learning

Ian Lee, Dianne Budd, Marietje Doornbusch and Sue Fyfe
School of Biomedical Sciences
Curtin University of Technology
    The LEAP (Learning Effectiveness Alliance Program) project is an initiative from the Office of Teaching and Learning (OTL) at Curtin University to support at the Divisional and/or School levels, quality enhancement of teaching and learning. The LEAP initiative is designed to facilitate significant change through collective effort by teams of colleagues, and enable the University to identify a range of reliable indicators of quality in teaching and learning.

    This paper describes the underlying concepts of and progress in the development of a program designed to develop open and flexible approaches to teaching and learning that can be applied to units across the School of Biomedical Sciences. In 1999 the School of Biomedical Sciences succeeded in obtaining support from LEAP for this project which is to develop tuition mechanisms that, through an open and flexible approach to teaching and learning, provide on and off campus students with the same learning outcomes. The increased flexibility and collaboration engendered by this project will blur the boundaries between on and off campus students and create a cultural shift in the way teachers teach and students learn. This will provide undergraduate students with a cohesive approach to the development of the skills necessary for them to become effective lifelong learners. Additionally, as the changes in information technology impact on employer expectations and requirements, there will be increasing need for on going education and professional development for both employer and employee. These needs can be effectively met (particularly for postgraduate students) through distance education programs that are available on an "as needed" basis. The outcome of the project is to promote and sustain a cultural shift in attitudes towards teaching and learning that will become an integral part of the philosophy of academic programs offered by the School of Biomedical Sciences.

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This project is to develop tuition mechanisms that, through an open and flexible approach to teaching and learning, provide on and off campus students with the same learning outcomes.

The underlying philosophies of the proposal are:

  1. that existing and emerging technologies can be integrated to implement effective open and flexible teaching and learning strategies which will blur the boundaries between on and off campus students.

  2. use of the judicious application of incentives and rewards to encourage all staff in the School of Biomedical Sciences to use available and emerging technologies to create new ways of delivering the programs offered by the School.
To achieve the desired outcomes, several approaches have been undertaken to date. These are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Figure 1: The approaches used to achieve the aims of the project. As is shown,
there is a considerable degree of inter-relationship amongst the various approaches.

The approaches used in this project are discussed in some detail below.

  1. Assessment of similarities and differences among the many different units run in the various programs conducted by the School.

    To facilitate rapid assimilation of the material delivered to students in the various units in which they are enrolled it is desirable that there is some uniformity but not regimentation, in the methods of delivery to both groups of students. Before proposing a possible approach for unit delivery it is apparent that knowledge of existing deliveries is required. For this all members of staff were interviewed and their answers to a standard series of questions was recorded. These answers were then transcribed and evaluated. The questions asked and summaries of responses obtained will be detailed in our presentation.

  2. Identification of resources, both within and external to the School, that are appropriate for the project.

    As with unit delivery it is desirable to ascertain what resources are being used and/or developed by members of the School. Some novel resources are being developed by staff members and useful web sites identified by staff are linked to the School's home page. Discussion and presentation of a selection of these resources will be made.

  3. Identification and development of strategically important units for open and flexible delivery

    Two first year units, both with large numbers of students, were chosen for the first stages of this part of the program. One of these units is taken by most students in the Division of Health Sciences and the other is a unique unit specifically targeted to first year students in the School of Biomedical Sciences. The development of these units will be discussed.

  4. Establishment of a cohort of staff wishing to be involved in the project and the provision of assistance for their proposed activities.

    To alter the delivery approaches across whole programs requires the eventual participation of all staff in the School. To achieve this we have instituted a gradual approach in which cohorts of staff are sequentially involved. For this we asked for expressions of interest from staff wishing to develop projects commensurate with our aims. A first cohort of four staff was selected in Semester 1, 1999 and we have provided financial and technical assistance for their projects. One of the stipulations of our selection process is that staff in the first cohort assist subsequent cohorts. Thus our next cohort of four staff, shortly to be selected, not only will receive assistance from us but also will benefit from the experiences of the previous cohort. As during the course of this project we expect to organise four cohorts each of four staff, this will involve increasing numbers of staff. Some of the projects currently in progress will be presented.

  5. Development of an incentive and reward scheme for teaching activities

    Curtin University has for many years run a very successful program that recognises a wide range of research activities carried out by staff. At present however there is no comparable program recognising the wide range of teaching activities carried out by staff. We have designed a system which addresses this lack and which will run for the first time in 2000. Details of this system will be presented but in brief, points are associated with various teaching activities. These points have a dollar value. Staff members indicate what activities they have undertaken and supply supporting evidence for this. Their points are then totalled and payment is made. For example if 100 points are accrued and the dollar value of each point is $8 the staff member will receive $800 to further develop/support teaching activities

  6. Development of a standard unit outline for use by all units conducted by the School

    As more units are adapted for web based delivery there are advantages in developing a uniform system of presenting the essential information to students. To this end we have adapted the unit outline developed by Curtin Business School. In particular the unit outline documents which Health Science graduate attributes are being covered and assessed in the unit. Details of the unit outline we have developed will be presented.

The schedule for these activities, their roles in the project and their time frames are shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Overview of the activities conducted in the project


The changes in technology that have occurred and are still occurring, permit a more flexible approach to the delivery of the units that comprise the various courses conducted by the School of Biomedical Sciences. While this approach has obvious advantages it also can jeopardise the undoubted benefits students obtain by working collaboratively. A central aim of this project is provide off campus students with similar opportunities for collaboration and to enable interaction between on and off campus students. This will effectively blur the boundaries between the two groups of students and will allow both groups to achieve the same learning outcomes. The project also encourages collaboration between all staff involved in the teaching process and will develop an ethos that recognises and rewards excellence in teaching.

Please cite as: Lee, I., Budd, D., Doornbusch, M. and Fyfe, S. (2000). Creating a single learning community for on and off campus students by provision of consistent and comparable learning experiences through open and flexible teaching and learning. In A. Herrmann and M.M. Kulski (Eds), Flexible Futures in Tertiary Teaching. Proceedings of the 9th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 2-4 February 2000. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2000/lee.html

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