Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Company to Provide UNSW University Transition Course

The University of NSW have announced an agreement with company OpenLearning for a new Online Transition Program for international students. The course will be start in March 2021. This is is a study skills course to help students to more student active learning. The emphasis will be on project based learning and use techniques such as stand-ups and portfolio reviews. This is a welcome initiative but raises the question: does UNSW have staff qualified to teach in this way?

The ANU has been using this approach with its TechLauncher computer group projects. For several years this was done face to face, with the support of computer industry standard online tools and methodologies. COVID-19 has seen a relatively easy transition to online this year. 

As a computer professional I was trained to routinely work in teams, supplemented by my graduate education in how to work, teach and assess this way. However, outside disciplines such as computing and engineering, which use these project based approaches, academic staff are unlikely to have experienced them, let alone been formally trained and qualified in their use in an educational context.

If UNSW use this project based approach for a transition course, will students be disappointed when they get to the main program of study and find these are run as old fashioned courses, with lectures, tutorials and examinations? Is there a crash program being run at UNSW to train academic staff to teach project based learning and revise all the degrees? Or will UNSW courses be run by new staff, based "in the cloud" who already have these skills, and existing staff made redundant?

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