Published on 24 July 2013
When you’re a boilermaker from Moranbah surrounded by lucrative work in the mines, it’s a big decision to move to Bribie Island to study full-time at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
But 21-year-old Engineering student Nathan Spann is happy with his decision to widen his career prospects by attending USC this year, joining his two siblings who he car-pools with to Sippy Downs.
Nathan, who juggles work and study, is taking advantage of the University’s renewed focus on Blended Learning to better manage his time and obligations on and off campus.
Blended Learning is the integration of educational technologies with face-to-face teaching to enhance the student learning experience at USC.
Learning Technology specialist Ian Wright was appointed Blended Learning Coordinator this year to support a campus-wide strategy to embed technologies in learning and teaching operations. He works within the Centre for the Support and Advancement of Learning and Teaching.
Mr Wright said his team worked with academics to make the most of new opportunities to increase flexibility and accessibility of lectures and tutorials, group work and individual testing and assignments.
“We’re introducing options for students, especially our hundreds of mature-aged students juggling many responsibilities, but we’re retaining the strengths of our face-to-face learning environment as a regional campus,” he said.
“Blackboard is one example. It’s a learning management system offering more interaction and it has an iPad app and an iPhone app so students can access their course on the bus or anywhere with an internet connection. We can stream lectures to those devices, whereas previously you needed a computer.”
Mr Wright said Blended Learning helped students become better prepared and more active participants in face-to-face sessions and enhanced communication in relation to their assessments and feedback.
Current plans include rolling out virtual tutorials and future plans include major technological developments in Nursing, Engineering and Urban Planning.
Nathan said he used Blackboard on his smart phone and home computer to join online science discussions and finish science tests, day or night.
“It can really help me get ahead in my studies when I’m not on campus,” he said. “It’s good for study reflection at the end of the week and for catching up on anything you missed.”
He said he used technology to give regular feedback to his engineering and core course tutors, to prepare for upcoming tutorials and to watch videos uploaded by his science lecturer.
“On my own time I can organise study groups quickly by putting up a thread on Blackboard and whoever reads it can comment on it. It’s good for hearing other opinions or just organising a time to meet people in the lab.”
— Julie Schomberg