By Christopher Kelly:
Left to right, Dr. Francine Garlin, School Manager, School of Business Warren Day, and Professor Sara Denize
Three academic staff members of Western Sydney University’s new School of Business campus in Parramatta CBD have shared an in-depth look into their new future of teaching – minus the traditional classroom.
“There is no front of the room, so there is no place for an academic to give a lecture from,” School of Business Deputy Dean, Professor Sara Denize said. “So the academic becomes part of the group,”
“It’s not about some expert speaking or imparting wisdom, it’s about a shared journey in knowledge discovery. And students become active participants in that knowledge creation process – mentored and guided by an academic staff member, but not controlled by them.”
“We’re calling these experiences an ‘active learning tutorial’. So it’s about active learning.”
Each tutorial room is fitted with ten or a dozen six-seater tables, each with a shared computer, wireless keyboard, and power-points for charging devices, all in a large space that encourages moveability.
“Everybody’s getting an extra 3,000 steps a day because they are big rooms and they don’t feel crowded. It’s a very active environment,” Professor Denize said.
And as well as the active learning inside tutorials, students also have the opportunity to learn outside tutorials with the surrounding businesses of Parramatta CBD.
“We’ve already had businesses like Western Sydney Business Connection (WSBC), NSW Leaders, and Parramatta City Council look at these facilities, because they want [students] to make use of this space,” School of Business Manager Warren Day said.
NSW Leaders and WSBC are expected to bring in 100-150 of their business people into the CBD campus, according to Mr Warren.
“And they don’t want to come in and use this as a conference venue, they actually want to come and connect with our students,” Professor Denize added.
“So the Dean’s and the Vice-Chancellor’s vision for this space is very much about an alive, vibrant, and connected community of students, industry and community.”
“One of the most important indicators for being at risk is attendance,” director of undergraduate programs Dr Francine Garlin said. “In fact, some of the research shows that it is the most important.”
Dr Garlin explained that the new campus can keep an eye on students through the use of their student ID cards, and will be looking at utilizing new technology to keep an eye out for students who aren’t attending or participating.
“Because we are collecting the data, we can analyse it,” Dr Garlin said. “So we can show that there is a statistically significant difference between students who are attending, and who’s been contacted.”
“Don’t get me wrong, this is not like big brother stuff where we’re tracking where students are and all that – it’s not about that at all. It’s about making sure that we can provide support for our students who need it.”
The Parramatta CDB campus is currently open to all Western Sydney university students, and while some post-graduate units have already commenced on January 9, the campus is expected to be fully opened and in use on the start of Autumn session on February 20.
Photos by School of Business, Nicole Gismondo, and Christopher Kelly respectively