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PEP: Resealing the Education Road Well-Travelled

We spoke with one of our newest Learning Designers, Dr Matthew Norris, who has been involved with the Program Enhancement Partnerships (PEP) and asked him to provide some insight to the process of PEP.

Wiritten by Dr Matthew Noris, Learning Designer (Faculty of Sciences)

Over time there are inevitably changes to the contextual landscape that underpins our role in the tertiary education sector; whether they relate to policy, logistics, changes to staff, or a new generation and diversity of students seeking further learning opportunities. With such frequent changes we develop a multitude of approaches to correct an often unsettled state. But how has our response to continual change manifested in course design, our educational practice and ultimately, the learning experience of our students?

We are all familiar with the anatomy of a road well-travelled. Pairs of sunken tracks where the traffic has been heaviest. Undulating crests and valleys showing the earth’s movement. The patchwork of bitumen squares that reveals a long and vulnerable history. Thousands of meandering fault lines filled to regain structural integrity. New cracks and potholes appear frequently; just the latest challenge for highway maintenance.

Year after year, travellers begin their journey and successfully traverse its length. Yet for some, it can be a very bumpy ride on the road well-travelled. The many obstacles en routecan deter from the beautiful landscape that surrounds it, emphasising techniques for navigation rather than of scenic surveying. Many complete their journey without a chance to observe or venture into the road’s magnificent context, the very premise for its construction.

Many complete their journey without a chance to observe or venture into the road’s magnificent context, the very premise for its construction.

It is inevitable that in an ever-changing university environment we too will tend to address issues at the course and program level in isolation. But over time, a litany of isolated fixes may culminate in a holistic student experience that is inconsistent, confusing and distracting of the transformational growth that we intend our students to discover. By analogy to the road well-travelled, our students are in for a bumpy ride.

Herein lies the mission of the Program Enhancement Partnership (PEP). When the design of a course or program of study, by virtue of its strong foundation, begins to mask its own relevance, a PEP will advocate and support to re-establish depth and quality to the student learning experience, while striving to better future-proof course design and our day-to-day educational practice. Through the partnership of university educators with learning designers, analysts, course builders, educational technologists and media production specialists within the Learning Enhancement and Innovation (LEI) team, we cease to see university courses and programs as the sum of their individual parts, and begin to recreate a whole-of-program approach. We endeavour to simplify course design, drawing on principles of curriculum alignment, constructivist theory and the notion of empowering student learners as active participants in authentic communities of practice. We discuss relevant teaching praxis and optimise course administration for simplicity of structure, execution and maintenance. Together, we work to reseal the educational road that is well-travelled and render it sustainable for future generations of eager learners.

Through the partnership of university educators with learning designers, analysts, course builders, educational technologists and media production specialists within the Learning Enhancement and Innovation (LEI) team, we cease to see university courses and programs as the sum of their individual parts

The collaborative nature of PEPs and the impact they have to enhance educational practice and student learning has inspired my progression from a research-focussed career in science to my current role supporting tertiary educators at The University of Adelaide. Fostering this close and productive relationship among specialists cultivates an agile response to the ever-changing landscape of tertiary education, ensuring a smoother and more focussed journey for all students through their degree program. I look forward to the expanding reach of PEPs at The University of Adelaide and I welcome all educators at the university to partner with a Faculty Learning Designer at LEI.

 

If you’re interested in knowing more about the PEP process, or being involved in a PEP workshop, get in touch with your faculty learning designer.


A brand new addition to the Learning Enhancement and Innovation (LEI) team, Dr Matthew Norris brings valued experience as an early-career researcher and science educator to Program Enhancement Partnerships (PEPs). Previously a Fulbright Scholar at Princeton (United States) and von Humboldt Fellow at Leibniz (Germany), Matthew has a global perspective on culture and pedagogy in tertiary education, and now partners with academic teaching staff at the North Terrace and Waite Campuses at Adelaide as LEI Learning Designer for the Faculty of Sciences.

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