Teaching in blocks

Participants fly in to participate in this unit that involves 5 days of face to face time followed by on-line learning. The unit operates in six week blocks several times a year and is quite intensive. More...

I started in this role at the university three years ago after working 25 years in industry. My background includes a long stint in human resources but primarily in the areas of occupational hygiene and occupational health and safety. Our courses run in six week blocks five or six times a year. Participants are funded by their companies so it is important to us that we deliver happy and competent students back to their work places at the end of each course. Our course (unit) structure includes 5-days of face-to-face time with fly in: fly out workers, followed up by on-line teaching and assessment. We teach between 25 and 36 students per course so it is quite intense. Because our course is internationally accredited, we have been contracted to deliver the course in South America, which involves an extra workload. We found on our return from a recent trip that the effort expended was not valued by this School.

In future, and before putting energy into new initiatives, we will find out first what the School supports. There are just three part-timers in our team and we support each other well. We engage sessional lecturers to teach in most courses and, while they are mature people with strong technical and communication skills, many have few or no teaching skills. Rather than induct them in the context of the university, we find it more relevant to explain to them about the course, our niche market and some of the different approaches to help them engage their students. Their experience and skills means they learn quickly.

There has been pressure applied on me to undertake research. I am an organised person, a good communicator and plan well ahead of each course, but I have a young family, I work three days a week and I spend time building relationships with my students. While I usually have difficulty in saying ‘no’ I now have the maturity and confidence to make that call. I realise that, unless I decline extra work, my health and family will suffer. Fortunately, my Head of School supports me. I achieve great satisfaction from teaching this course and seeing my graduates confidently mix with their elders at professional conferences. I love my profession and love my team. I also enjoy the flexibility that working here affords me. Not everyone is so lucky.

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