Kangaroos on campus

I was just walking through our beautiful leafy Rockhampton university campus completely lost in thought wondering at how much it would have cost my publisher to send me a written statement telling me I had earned zero dollars in royalties when I wandered through a mob of kangaroos escaping the forty degree heat under some shady trees. The movement of the first kangaroo hopping quickly away startled me and I realised I had walked into their territory. A second female brushed passed me as it jumped away, but the buck stood up and just eyed me, very dominant. I froze, not wanting to aggravate the others any more than I already had. Slowly, I moved back, gave them a wide berth and continued on my way to ponder the futility of managing the royalties of not-yet-profitable books.


Student Voice award 2014

I’ve just received a Student Voice Award for one of my courses – Organisational Communication. That means that my students really liked the course! Every term at my university, students provide feedback about their courses. The students rate the courses on a number of criteria. Awards are not that easy to get: you need to get an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 or above; there needed to be more than a 50% response rate from the total cohort; and there needed to be more than 10 responses. My course was a pretty decent size – 70 students – and I’m delighted that the students rated it so highly. I’m particularly pleased because this is now the third year in a row that I have received a Student Voice award.

I’m obviously doing something right. I have a large Distance cohort (80% of my students study by Distance – that’s “online study”) and this can be a very challenging mode of study. A lot of students feel disconnected and isolated. I commit to these students. I communicate with them individually as well as a whole. Some of the feedback I have received from students is that I am the first person they have spoken to for their degree. This surprises me, and saddens me. I always speak to every single one of my students one-on-one. I can do this, of course, because my class numbers are rarely more than 150. It’s a big job (I ring them twice a term) but I see it as an investment of my time. Students appreciate the contact, and they can ask me questions rather than sending me an email or posting to the forums. That means that my forum discussions, when they occur, are useful and targeted.

The other thing I do is I review my assessment every year. All of my assessment is authentic, and prepares students to be work-ready. There are no essays or exams in my courses! This can be a very challenging approach in a tertiary environment (and open to criticism from traditionalists), so I ensure I map the assessment to the course and program learning outcomes and to AQF requirements. I can justify why my students do what they do – and I explain that to the students as well as to our accrediting committees. I have had feedback from students about this too, that it is appreciated by students that thought and effort has been put into not only the course content, but the course assessment.

It’s nice to get recognition from the students. And reminds me, again, why I do what I do.