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A dilemma beyond discussion: Increasing student interaction in external study modes

Elliot Wood
Curtin University of Technology
A prerequisite for many postgraduate business courses is a number of years of work experience. This enables the lecturer to utilise the varied experience of the student group in the classroom environment and in group assessments to cover topics in greater depth and from a variety of perspectives. However there may be fewer options for utilising such varied experience when a large proportion of students study externally. In a learning environment that often offers only solo learning opportunities and individual focused assessment, external students may have less access to the benefits of shared experience in classroom based discussions and group assignments.

How do we ensure that external study options provide an opportunity to make use of the rich and varied experience of the student group?

At the Curtin Graduate School of Business (GSB) we currently utilise weekly or monthly online discussion groups to enable external students to interact with each other within a unit. It is not evident, however, that these discussions are able to replace the depth of learning that can occur in other forms of interaction, such as group project work, where students are required to extensively research, debate, and integrate various perspectives, producing a combined piece of assessable work, and working through the group dynamics of a project team. We are interested in exploring other ways (besides online discussions) to achieve greater interaction and access to student experiences, in order to provide richer learning opportunities for all students involved.

The basic dilemma we therefore face is:

How do we ensure that external study options provide an opportunity to make use of the rich and varied experience of the student group?

And a related question pertinent to all university staff is certainly:
Do these options have to involve costly technology?
Author: Elliot Wood, Lecturer / Registered Psychologist, Graduate School of Business, Curtin University of Technology. woode@gsb.curtin.edu.au

Presentation format: Dilemmas in teaching or teaching/learning research

Please cite as: Wood, E. (2002). A dilemma beyond discussion: Increasing student interaction in external study modes. In Focusing on the Student. Proceedings of the 11th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 5-6 February 2002. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2002/abstracts/wood-abs.html


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