Full paper Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Ensuring equity and quality when our learners demand flexibility and choice (#87)

Janine Tarr 1 , Sally Farrington 2 , Kylie Hoffman 3 , Tracy Douglas 1 , Marie-Louise Bird 1 , Jane Pittaway 1 , Chin-Liang Beh 2
  1. University of Tasmania, Launceston, TAS, Australia
  2. University of Tasmania, Lilyfield, NSW, Australia
  3. University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

With advances in technology, students now have a choice of ‘learning places’ that enables them to “be connected to a community of learners anytime and anywhere without being time, place or situation bound” 1. Our institution places significant emphasis on learner choice, whilst demanding high impact, quality and equity of experience, regardless of the choices made.2

We surveyed our students, across four geographically dispersed campuses, to find out why they make the choices they do about where they learn, in an effort to understand how we can best meet their needs without being overwhelmed by the complexity of offering and maintaining multiple modes of delivery. This paper reports demographic factors that, for the 124 respondents, were associated with mode usage and explores the thinking of students around their choice of learning 'place’, identifying key pedagogical and pragmatic themes that were evident in the reasons they gave for the choices they made.

The findings provide a complex picture, but our learners readily identified the elements of their preferred mode that 'fitted' with their learning needs at a particular time and in their particular circumstances.  We discuss the challenge to us to increase quality and equity by ensuring that the elements students value most in each mode are maintained and enhanced, but are also extended to those who choose to engage via other modes.

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

 In this paper we report and discuss the complexity of student choice, the complexity of the lives of our students and the implications that this has for academics. Specifically, we discuss the complexity of providing choices that are truly equitable and of the quality necessary to allow students to meet expected learning outcomes, rather than the provision of choice just for the sake of choice.

  1. Garrison, D. R., & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 7(2), 95-105.
  2. Brown, N., Kregor, G., & Williams, G. (2013). Technology Enhanced Learning and Teaching White Paper. Retrieved August 3, from www.teaching-learning.utas.edu.au/news/news/telt-white-paper.
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