Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Course handover assistance tool: Supporting transition for course coordinators (#53)

David Birbeck 1 , Andrea Chester 2 , Tracy Levett-Jones 3 , Colleen Smith , Charlotte Rees 4 , Scott Copeland , Kuan Tan
  1. University of South Australia, Woodville West, SA, Australia
  2. RMIT, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  3. University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia
  4. University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

The complex nature of the course coordinator role is well established across the Higher Education sector. Often course coordinators take on the role with little lead time, relying on the “wisdom of experience” and “learning on the job” (Jones & Ladyshewsky, 2009). Universities rarely have a formal process to communicate essential information or support the transition of a course to a new coordinator; handover is at best an ad hoc process and inexperienced course coordinators are unlikely to know what questions to ask. These times of uncertainty put the coherence of programs and capabilities of the graduates produced at risk. The aim of this OLT project was to scope, create and evaluate a course handover tool that supports new course coordinators to understand the teaching, learning and management requirements of the course. A collaborative, multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary approach using a qualitative case study approach was used to gather data. The project was approved by the ethics committees of all partner universities. Purposeful sampling (Patton, 2002) identified information-rich cases in the disciplines of Health, Design and Business. In total 8 individual interviews and 9 focus groups were conducted with 21 new and experienced course coordinators, 6 program directors and 5 heads of school. Transcripts were analysed independently by two members of the research team and the emergent themes were discussed by the team. Preliminary results suggest strong endorsement for a formal process and tool to support course handover. Emerging themes include; academic design eg. how course elements support each other and relate to program outcomes, managerial complexity of the course coordinator role and uncertainty about what questions to ask and to whom. Possible structures for the tool are discussed.  

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

Goos & Hughes (2010, p. 316) found that academics new to the position of course coordinator had few opportunities to prepare for  the role, were uncertain and lacked confidence in their knowledge and responsibilities. A planned Program scaffolds student learning and graduate capabilities systematically throughout its courses. If a course does not deliver the learnings required by the program there may be gaps in student knowledge and/or skills. This can cause problems for other courses in the program and subsequently the program overall and result in a graduate who is not competent. The connections and alignment between courses and a program are complex and can be compromised when a course transitions from one course coordinator to another, a process we are calling ‘Course Handover’. Course Handover is often an ad hoc process with no structure. It is rare that the complexities of a course both managerial and academically are communicated with clarity or depth. This is a risk for both the courses and the program and has implications for accrediting bodies and universities if programs do not produce competent graduates and deliver what they are accredited to deliver.

  1. Goos, M., & Hughes, C. (2010). An investigation of the confidence levels of course/subject coordinators in undertaking aspects of their assessment responsibilities. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(3), 315–324. doi:10.1080/02602930903221477
  2. Jones, S., & Ladyshewsky, R. (2009). Leading courses: Academic leadership for course coordinators. ALTC final report. … (p. 67). Retrieved from desc
  3. Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods (Third.). Thousand Oaks California: Sage Publications, Inc.