Lunch Vox 2

ANU Lunch Vox #2

The student experience of remote learning at ANU has no long-standing tradition. Prior to COVID-19, our students and staff were accustomed to course offerings embracing high quality, active learning through blended learning environments; having face-to-face components. Through our Vision for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, we preferenced our students’ connection to the campus which, by its distinctive nature, could exploit the power of physical and digital infrastructures. Once connected, ANU students could also actively engage in the University community to graduate with knowledge enough to improve the lives of people, the nation and the world. This is as it was…

Feedback on Student and Teacher Wellbeing and Remote Learning (SWiRL/TWiRL)  gathered from our community in Semester 1, suggested the ‘vision’ had become an obscured version of reality. Thanks to the pandemic, the once vibrant physical campus was stripped of its character and in its place a virtual community required a new approach to learning and teaching partnerships: For students generally, the main concerns were future anxiety and online interactions. Supporting students to work through their anxiety about the post-COVID world could be achieved with evidence their association with the ANU brand makes graduates more resilient to crises.

Remote or Isolated: The Student Experience

Thu, 24 September 2020
12:15 PM – 1:15 PM

Register for ANU Lunch Vox #2

Lately, from remote locations, students have weathered some intense environmental conditions. First Semester feedback indicated their appreciation of how teaching at ANU adapted to new modes of online teaching. But more recently, there has been some stated concern cast over the quality of Second Semester experiences. In accepting the reality of ‘remote learning’ staff and students have been confronting ‘isolation’ as a longer-term consequence of education at a distance. That being said, we know that many Universities have built solid reputations on virtual communities that thrive at a distance.  
When eventually, we can put the current crisis behind us, what will we say we learnt about maintaining a determined teaching focus on the student experience? Through upheaval and disruption, what are the fundamentals that remain consistent? And as highlighted in the SWiRL/TWiRL report, what’s the emerging narrative that speaks to an ANU Education Rejuvenation? With so many questions in front of us, it’s time to engage with some of our local thought leaders (staff and students) on the topic of ‘student experiences’ in higher education at ANU. 
The next Lunch Vox session is titled: Remote or Isolated: The Student Experience and your table reservation awaits.

Comments 2

  1. ANU’s Vision for Excellence in Learning and Teaching only requires minor tweaking to boost online learning, without abandoning the campus. E-learning has been proven at ANU over at least ten years. It has been shown possible to produce high quality, award winning, active learning courses and blend them with ANU campus instruction. This has been done with mixed teams of domestic and international students, undertaking practical project online together, to meet professional accreditation requirements. It is possible to teach staff how to do this across ANU.

    I have been teaching online at ANU since 2009. Most of my students were happy with this mode and got similar results to their classroom courses. However, most academics are reluctant to undertake the training required to teach this way and most students have been reluctant to sign up for online courses, seeing them as inferior.

    One way to make online learning more attractive is to offer it as part of a package, with campus instruction. As an example, for ANU TechLauncher last year I designed a learning module with asynchronous delivery in Wattle. This had the usual automated quizzes, discussion forums, videos, ebook and peer assessment. But added to this were face to face workshops, held on the Marie Reay superfloor (Worthington, 2020).

    This blended mode ran for two semesters in 2019. When COVID-19 struck in 2020, the workshops were moved to Zoom. There was no need to change the course materials, activities or assessment, as an emergency online contingency had been planned for (Worthington, 2014 & 2016). There is the option of using a hybrid mode in the future, with some students in the classroom and some online. Also recent developments with online hackerthons by ANU, ACS, CBRIN, and the Australian and NZ Defence Forces show promise.

    Academics reluctance to learn to teach online can be addressed by offering teacher training part of degrees, before they become academics. Rather than being seen as just a training course, teaching can be promoted as part of the skill-set of every profession. Our tutors can study teaching as part of their degree program and pay the usual ANU course fees to do so, at the same time they are paid to tutor. Tutors not enrolled in a degree can receive a micro-credential.

    COVID-19 is just a foretaste of far more difficult challenges to come in the next few years, with technology and geopolitics forcing changes to how, what, where and who we teach. There are likely to be more sudden interruptions to international student access to Australian campuses and new alternatives to studing in Australia (Worthington, 2014).

    The key, I suggest, is not to focus on moving courses online, as that is a relatively simple task. A bigger challenge is to have programs which are more than just a collection of “courses” and offer students vocationally relevant training, with flexibility. I discussed this last week in my last talk in Canada on “Higher education after COVID-19” (click on my name for the notes).


    Worthington, T. (2012, July). A Green computing professional education course online: Designing and delivering a course in ICT sustainability using Internet and eBooks. In 2012 7th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (ICCSE) (pp. 263-266). IEEE. URL

    Worthington, T. (2014, August). Chinese and Australian students learning to work together online proposal to expand the New Colombo Plan to the online environment. In 2014 9th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (pp. 164-168). IEEE. URL

    Worthington, T. (2017). Tom Worthington’s MEd(ED) ePortfolio: Conclusion, Athabasca University. IEEE. URL

    Worthington, T. (2020, June). Blend and Flip for Teaching Communication Skills to Final Year International Computer Science Students. Paper accepted for the IEEE International Conference on Teaching, Assessment and Learning for Engineering (TALE), 10-13 December 2019, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. URL

  2. Hi Tom…. you cover some very useful territory. It’s great to know we have some home grown examples of teachers using the University’s current TEL capabilities to create some very successful blended e-learning experiences (and have been doing so for a number of years). As you allude, the quality of the student experience is linked to how confidently a teacher embraces the integration of contemporary teaching technologies to establish engaging learning environments.

    Today, I’ve been attending the CASS Teaching and Learning Showcase. If you have time to check-in, I’m sure you’ll find yourself in the company of some like-minded enthusiasts. Following the keynotes, I attended three sessions where the presenters were responding to the topic of Adaptations. Using different interactive teaching applications, the three presenters highlighted their willingness to experiment in partnership with their students:

    1) Hello Out There: Reflections On Remote Teaching of a Large Discussion Based Class. Dr Rachael Brown, School of Philosophy. It is tempting to simply put together your lectures for remote delivery just like you would for on-campus instruction, turn up at the empty theatre, and simply hit “record” on Echo360. For all but the most entertaining lecturer, however, this is sure to see low levels of student engagement and enthusiasm.

    2) Adventures in Online Lecturing. Dr Katharina Bonzel, School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics. This presentation (and its title) seeks to encapsulate the various presentation tools and techniques that I have tried out over the last few months.

    3) When All Else Fails: Transitioning to Remote Learning for Quantitative Methods with Cloud-based Software. Dr Matthew Kerby, School of Politics and International Relations. In this presentation I discuss how I repurposed POLS8024: Quantitative Methods for Political Science from an in-situ, intensive hands-on, lab-based course to online deliver with minimal effort and without having to significantly alter the course objectives.

    CASS Teaching and Learning Showcase:

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