Thursday, September 17, 2009

Blended teaching and mobile learning

It’s a fact here at CQUniversity, as it is elsewhere: more and more learning material is being put on-line for students to self-select, self-direct and manage their own learning, which is great. It provides flexibility and can overcome the tyranny of distance that so often challenges learners, especially those scattered across Central Queensland’s vastness. The technology provides wider access to the University and enables students, who for many reasons – work, location, personal commitments and otherwise – may not have been able to start, conduct or finish their course or degree without it.

CQUniversity was a pioneer in Australia of this type of learning – then called Distance Education (DE) – decades ago when far-off students would get audio or VHS tapes posted in the mail along with reams of paper-based learning material.

I used to be a DE student (I did my PhD and MBA through DE). It was wonderful in many respects but a downside remains despite all the advancements: limited human interaction or engagement in the learning environment, leaving many students wanting and needing more substance, hands-on learning, and face-to-face encounters with their teachers and peers.
It’s an issue that university administrators and academics struggle with all the time: finding a balance in course delivery that allows us to reach as many students as we can in a format that truly engages, inspires and results in consistently exceptional learning encounters and outcomes.
Over the years DE has taken on different names and nuances, thanks to changes in technology and pedagogy and plain old trial and error. You may have heard of Flex or Dual Mode or Mixed Mode. All over the world today, however, universities are experimenting with and adopting what’s described as Blended Learning.

It’s a methodology or philosophy that’s supposed to increase options for greater quality and quantity of people-to-people interaction in learning. You can read some more about it by Googling the term or reading the wiki entry at

Here’s a relevant paragraph:
Blended learning offers learners the opportunity “to be both together and apart. A community of learners can interact at anytime and anywhere because of the benefits that computer-mediated educational tools provide. Blended learning provides a ‘good’ mix of technologies and interactions, resulting in a socially supported, constructive, learning experience; this is especially significant given the profound affect that it could have on distance learning.

Across CQUniversity we have done and are doing this in most courses and programs, but not all. And not to the extent that I think we need to today to stand out and reclaim our position as a national innovator and leader in the Teaching & Learning space. As part of CQUnversity’s Renewal Plan we’re looking at our current methodologies, technologies and pedagogies so we can provide Learning & Teaching that not only enhances the student’s learning experience but also adds significant value to his/her learning outcomes, whether studies are undertaken on- or off-campus.

“Blend” indeed has numerous meanings: to compound; to coalesce; to merge or combine; to make uniform; etc. Notwithstanding these definitions, in our context I think it most accurately means obtaining a mixture of a particular character, quality, and consistency that is identifiable as uniquely CQUniversity in all of our Learning & Teaching, which adds real value to the course/program and the student experience.

A conversation is already underway presently at the University based on a recently drafted discussion paper. Join us by posting a comment and let me know what you think.

By the way, many thanks for all your participation in my Inaugural Lecture web-cast yesterday. Please continue with your comments and I’ll try to keep-up and respond. If you missed it you can link to it from the CQUniveristy homepage



Di said...

I would like to suggest a way for CQUniversity to raise its profile in a positive way in small communities. Why not use existing schools as a delivery site for higher ed teaching. This way we offer the community an easy to access educational opportunity (in an already recognised learning environment) which is an easy step to take for not only high school students but the community generally. The technology we may need to put in place such as ISL or video stream would be an advantage to the school, the community and provide a necessary resource for further education and communication with other communities and/or industry.

Naos said...

Hi Scott

Blended learning is a great way to increase the availability of courses to students all around the area, and many people prefer to work semi-independently. I think the challenge for CQUni is to reverse a recent trend and make sure it is blended. We also have many students based around the non-Rockhampton CQ campuses who want contact with lecturers, if they wanted external courses they could go to any university. We must make sure that our blended learning is actually blended and still involves some aspects of either face to face or technology-facilitated interaction with the lecturer and fellow students. ISL was a brilliant facility for this. Online chat rooms are ok but nothing replaces actual human contact with a lecturer. Blended, by all means, is fine. But we must make sure we actually move to blended learning which combines both aspects, not continue what used to be called 'External' and just call it by a new, fashionable name.

Anonymous said...

I think the university name and logo CQuniversity are terrible. Id rather the University go back to University of Central Queenland or at the very least Central Queensland University. I live in Sydney and I think CQUni sounds like one of those fly by night overseas colleges. An Institutions name is important and I think a name change back to what it used to be (with the old logo) would make this institution more marketable.

Vice Chancellor - CQUniversity said...

Personal preference aside, the decision to alter the CQU name and brand in 2008 was about taking a fresh outlook based on tradition.
CQUniversity Australia imagery is a fresh interpretation of the University’s Heraldic Crest.

Whilst acknowledging our heritage, today’s artwork feels open, positive and welcoming. Most of all, however, the design and name conveys that CQUniversity Australia, while based in Central Queensland, like other global organisations, is flexible, forward-looking, not constricted by geography and accessible to anyone anywhere.

Thank you for passing on your feedback.