D. Chambers

The University of Melbourne (AUSTRALIA)
This paper will explore the educational design and outcomes for a postgraduate subject that is taught entirely online at a research intensive university in Australia. As a subject for postgraduate studies in Education, students need to work at a very high level and engage in higher order thinking and a goal of the subject is for students to be able to express themselves in a scholarly way and to be able to both question ideas and be able to defend a position in a scholarly manner. In addition to the learning goals to be attained, being part of a learning community is valued by the university and so this is also aspired to, which is particularly challenging when students never meet each other or the teaching staff.

The learning goals of the subject are achieved through a series of staged assessment tasks throughout the semester that students undertake to gain expertise in the content of the subject and to also gain practise in engaging with others in a scholarly way. Although being online can add challenges to deep and rich learning, these can be overcome with carefully designed activities and rapid feedback. The subject being online and the asynchronicity of interactions is a real advantage for students who are engaging with others in scholarly way, perhaps for the first time, as it gives students the time to present themselves in a scholarly way and to take time to think of a suitable question for others or for a suitably scholarly response, backed up with resources they have referred to as they prepare their response. In a ‘live classroom’ with synchronous responses this is not possible, as the class cannot wait while a student finds, reads and digests a paper before answering a question from the teacher or a fellow student. Through the activities of the subject, students not only work at the required high level of intellectual engagement, but also develop a sense of being part of a learning community.