May 2011

Enhancing student learning in remote areas

Good Samaritan Sister Jennifer Farrell and her colleagues in the School of Nursing at The University of Notre Dame, Broome Campus, have received the inaugural Vice Chancellor’s Award for Innovation in Curricula, Resources and Approaches to Student Learning.

The three-member School of Nursing team, comprising Sally Clark (Associate Dean), Jennifer Farrell (Senior Lecturer) and Donnelle Perry (Sessional Lecturer and Tutor), received the award during the university’s annual awards ceremony in Broome in April.

Jennifer said the team was “overwhelmed” by the announcement. “We had been short-listed for a National Skill Council Award 18 months ago and never expected to win this award. It is a prestigious award for academic teams who show innovation in promoting education in the university.”

The team received the award for introducing a web-based classroom facility called Elluminate Live which provides distance education students with a more inclusive face-to-face delivery and flexible learning experience.

According to Jennifer, Elluminate Live enables students to access education from their own residence or community setting. Along with a web connection, students use a video camera, microphone and text facilities so they can interact with their lecturer and other students, creating the sense they are all sitting in the same classroom.

Jennifer believes this kind of education innovation is vital for a university campus that serves a population of about 350,000 people, of whom over 47% are Indigenous, living in the vast and remote Kimberley region.

“People living in remote areas like the Kimberley often have limited ability to engage in education and in particular to gain a qualification in nursing,” said Jennifer.

“The Notre Dame School of Nursing acknowledges the difficulties for students accessing education from a distance and believes that pastoral care and innovation are the key values that have the potential to keep students engaged with their studies.”

Until the School of Nursing introduced the web-based classroom, Jennifer said there were no tertiary education centres in Western Australia delivering nursing education programmes to students in remote regions unless they were able to leave their communities and families for extended periods.

“The team’s passion and energy to rejuvenate the curriculum and resources for regional students in nursing has been driven by evidence over the years, that an innovative approach to providing a more accessible and inclusive educational approach, to people within the Kimberley and Pilbara regions, and specifically to Aboriginal people, was required,” she said.

According to Professor Lyn Henderson-Yates, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the Broome Campus, the School of Nursing team have been integral to the successful use of the web-based technology to deliver teaching throughout the Broome campus. “I am delighted their achievements have been acknowledged by the University,” she said.

For the past three years Jennifer has been a lecturer in the School of Nursing at The University of Notre Dame, Broome Campus. Before that time she worked as a midwife in metropolitan and rural settings at the St John of God Hospital Murdoch in Perth. She believes these experiences prepared her well for her current role in Broome.

The Good Oil

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