Flexible delivery for changing student demographics: the UTas experience
Carrington, V and Robertson, M and Dole, D and Schofield, B, Flexible delivery for changing student demographics: the UTas experience, 23th HERDSA (Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia) Annual Conference: Flexible Learning for a Flexible Society, 2-5 July, Toowoomba, Queensland (2000) [Refereed Conference Paper]
Faced with the current realities of more students, increased pressure for outputs on a diminished resource budget, and a student population demanding flexible modes of delivery the traditional face-to-face teaching of lectures and tutorials have taken on new meaning. This paper reports on responses to these issues with pre-service Bachelor of Education students at the University of Tasmania. The student demographics of the population indicate that almost half are in part-time, or full-time work other than their study program, with a similar ratio of mature age to students direct from school (Abbott-Chapman, 1998). To accommodate these changes academic staff in three core curriculum units, Language and Literacy, Mathematics and Studies of Society and Environment (SOSE), have worked collaboratively to initiate changes in their teaching contexts that reveal the shifting cultural needs of students, and the institution. A shift to on-line teaching and learning has been a deliberate part of the conceptual and technological development of teaching (Caverly & McDonald 1998; Charp 1997). Feedback in the form of questionnaire surveys indicates that the students want and need alternate modes of delivery. They also want the traditional lectures and tutorials to be maintained. A need for 'human' contact for motivation was cited as one of the many reasons for maintaining the traditional formats. Interestingly, one third of students indicated they would like both the fixed class time and the on-line versions. The message seems to be one of viewing the on-line dimension as a back-up rather than the sole source of course delivery. The data provides a benchmark of thinking in 2000, which will become part of an ongoing enquiry to monitor the change process in future years. They also raise puzzles regarding pedagogical issues for learning.