Closing the distance for students using digital platforms to engage in learning: Emulating the face to face delivery mode

Year: 2019

Author: Ham, Miriam, Richardson, Susan, Richardson, Craig

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

CQUniversity’s mission is to be inclusive of students from regional and remote environments around Australia. A large proportion of students engage in learning through online study however, may choose to access classes on campus if they consider that this will more adequately meets their needs. With 26 established and emerging campuses around Australia, staff at CQUniversity utilize a range of digital modes to deliver lectures across campuses. This research focused on the ways in which one of these digital platforms, (ISL – Interactive System-wide Learning) was used to facilitate synchronous digital classes between the Noosa and Cairns campuses. The aim of the research was to enhance equitable student access to efficacious pedagogical aspects of the face-to-face classroom; relationships, discussions, group work, instant point-in-time responsive feedback and questioning in the ISL space.

The research was undertaken with first and second year undergraduate students and staff in five subjects of the Bachelor of Education using two cycles of Participatory Action Research. The first cycle of implementation occurred in Terms 1 and 2, 2018. Surveys collected from of 52 students and five staff provided data about what they considered successful with the ISL classroom, what barriers were faced that impeded their engagement and learning and suggestions for how these barriers could be overcome. A focus group with staff facilitated critical reflection about their pedagogical practices in the light of students’ perceptions and feedback. In response to the data, the research team crafted pedagogical guidelines for ‘best practice’ teaching in the ISL space as well as a charter of professional engagement expectations for students for implementation in the second cycle, Term 1, 2019. Data about this second cycle was gathered through individual staff diaries and student/staff surveys showing positive outcomes of the implementation of the crafted guidelines.

The findings show that relationships underpin all learning and teaching activities in the ISL space and that proactive staff-based and student-based strategies must be explicitly implemented to establish, sustain and nurture productive learning relationships. The resultant set of purposefully planned pedagogies by staff and students are significant to the ongoing delivery of ISL lectures in CQUniversity but have wider implications for academics utilizing synchronous platforms for the delivery of their units of learning in other Universities.