Professional development for quality
enhancement of learning and teaching

Case Study - Report of the participatory action learning (PAL) project undertaken by the transnational program team of the Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies (BCM) degree

Overview

The Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies is a degree offered in the Faculty of Law Humanities and the Arts at UOW and at INTI. The participatory action learning (PAL) project designed to internationalise and embed inclusive pedagogies into the degree program consisted of the following components:

  1. developing internationalised course level learning outcomes, renewing the curriculum of the core subjects in each of the three years of the degree and incorporating of more literature and knowledge perspectives from the Asia-Pacific region
  2. creating a whole-of course interactive online space for students staff and alumni from all sites.
  3. creating audio-visual and written resources to scaffold students’ learning and use of scholarly blogs in a globalised media landscape
  4. creating on-line resources to support student learning in digital media and academic literacies
The case study outlines how the professional practice development was conducted and provides links to a sample of some of the resources and materials developed during the PAL project.

Keywords

Internationalisation of the curriculum; Blogging and tweeting; becoming digitally literate; academic language and literacies; transnational teaching teams; course-level learning outcomes

Background

The focus of this case study is the transnational program team of the Bachelor of Communication and Media (BCM) studies degree. One of the team members described the degree as preparing ‘students to be media experts in a world of opinion’. The transnational program team consisted of the program convenor from the University of Wollongong (UOW), three subject coordinators from UOW Australia, five UOW sessional tutors, the Dean of the program at INTI Subang, Malaysia, a subject coordinator from INTI, a project team member from INTI and two project team members from UOW. The project team was extremely diverse in relation to cultural and linguistic background, years of experience teaching in transnational education programs, age and academic qualifications. This participatory action learning (PAL) project is an extension and expansion of the PAL project undertaken by the BCM110 transnational teaching team in the previous session and details of this PAL project are outlined in another Case Study on this website.

The focus of the participatory action learning (PAL) project

The team, designed, implemented and evaluated a PAL project that aimed to internationalise the curriculum and embed inclusive pedagogies throughout the degree program. Specifically, the PAL project focused on:

  • Developing internationalised course-level learning outcomes that meet AQF and TEQSA requirements.
  • Collecting relevant data on student progression, student experience surveys and results, range of assessments and topics in the degree subjects etc to inform the internationalisation of the curriculum.
  • Curriculum renewal focused on the core subjects from the first, second and third years and to ensure assessment alignment both horizontally and vertically across the degree program.
  • Creating a BCM online, shared space for all students, staff and alumni from INTI and UOW using the Moodle platform.
  • Building an online glossary for the BCMS program
  • Creating video clips on blogging to scaffold student learning in relation to:
    • Setting up a blog
    • Creating their personal writing style
    • Writing scholarly blog posts and responding to posts
    • Articulating the skills developed through practising scholarly blogging and tweeting
    • Practising inclusive and appropriate blogging and tweeting etiquette
  • Developing BCM-specific resources to support students’ media and academic literacies and gathering a suite of existing resources.
  • Further internationalising the curriculum through encouraging and extending interaction between students across sites, study abroad, exchanges between students and the incorporation of more literature and knowledge perspectives from the Asia-Pacific Region.
  • Providing students with access to a range of perspectives on media and communications for international collaboration.

What did the professional practice develop consist of? How was the PAL project conducted?

The transnational program team met via videoconference 7 times between August- February for about 2hours each time. Project team members from UOW and INTI facilitated the videoconference workshops and worked alongside the transnational program team to design, implement and evaluate the PAL project. In between the videoconference workshops project team members developed scholarly guides and gathered existing resources on the issues related to the PAL project undertaken by the teaching team. Sub-groups of the program team met between workshops to develop BCM specific resources, build an online course site and progress the project. The team provided peer review and feedback to one another on the resources developed.

A shared Moodle site to enhance communication and a shared dropbox for resources were established.

Principles underpinning practice development with transnational teaching teams

The following principles guided the design of the professional development processes used. The professional practice development processes and PAL projects:

  • are collaboratively designed and negotiated with all program team members.
  • are context sensitive and specific.
  • feature curriculum which emerges from and is anchored in the work of the teaching team.
  • involve the team members engaging, negotiating and learning together in their daily work context.
  • acknowledge that transnational program teams can be learning-conducive sites in which team members interact with multiple new peers who bring different perspectives to new work situations and novel issues.
  • are designed to harness the diversity of the transnational program team for maximum benefit.
  • aim to strengthen relations and trust among the transnational team members to enhance their capacity to create collaborative learning spaces amongst students studying in diverse cultural contexts, difference places and shared cyber-spaces.

What worked well?

The regular, facilitated videoconference workshops and meetings with the whole transnational program team were perceived as most valuable and beneficial. All agreed that relationships were strengthened significantly and that the improved communication and connections enabled the team members to enhance the design and delivery of the degree program and the learning experience for students. The team commented that it usually quite difficult to get an overview of a whole degree program, if you are lecturing and/or tutoring in specific subjects. The video-conference workshops enabled everyone to discuss and develop a clear picture of how the degree fits together and the various pathways that students’ experience within the program. An INTI team member commented:

The connections between the academics filters down to create connections between students. So our students are feeling more attached to UOW, they feel like they belong more to UOW.
The experience of the BCM transnational program team suggests that developing a sense of belonging to a transnational team and participating, as a team member in an international context is a necessary condition for maximising student learning in degrees taught transnationally.

The inclusion of sessional staff as members of the transnational program team was perceived by the group as being particularly beneficial. The program convenor comments are representative:

The opportunity to work with the sessional staff is wonderful and it is extremely important to have them involved in subject development.
Situated work-based action learning projects such as developing the program-level online site, filming and editing shorts video on blogging and tweeting and developing internationalised course level learning outcomes were experienced as a most valuable aspect of the project. The workshops and PAL project provided the opportunity for those involved in teaching in a range of subjects to work together and develop a view of the whole degree program. The following comment sums up the team’s experience:
There are such benefits in understanding the whole course context and understanding the connections to INTI. The resources and support have been much better than what I have experienced in the past. It has enabled us to get so much done together in this transnational project.

What were the challenges?

The poor quality and unreliability of the videoconference connections created frustrations and challenges for the team. Frequently, facial features would disappear, the frame would freeze, the sound would distort or the connection would be lost and on one occasion we had to abandon the workshop.

The scope of the internationalisation of the curriculum project designed by the program team was ambitious and it proved impossible to complete all the planned aspects of the project within the available time and resources. Sessional team members were vital to the success of developing the whole-of-program Moodle site and in working with specialist learning development staff to produce the resources to support students’ academic and media literacies. The risk of exploiting their dedication and expertise by not renumerating them adequately for the work required designing and producing tools and resources to internationalise the degree program and embed inclusive pedagogies, resulted in some aspects of the project being deferred.

It proved difficult to create an internationalised model for internships that met the needs of students at both INTI and UOW. For instance, at the UOW faculty level the approved model is a ‘generic’ faculty-wide short internship combined with on campus workshops. In contrast the preferred model at INTI supports longer internships. In the timeframe available to the BCM transnational team a new internship that would suit the requirements of both UOW and INTI and would enable the possibility for students to complete the internship in another country was not able to be achieved.

Aspects critical to success

The transnational teaching team identified the following aspects as crucial to the success of the approach:

  • Regular team workshops and meetings via videoconference and the commitment of the transnational program team.
  • Facilitated group process.
  • Honorariums for subject coordinators and full-time staff and payment for sessional staff.
  • Support and resources provided by the facilitators.
  • The shared Moodle site.
  • Provision of catering (e.g. food and drink).
  • Opportunity to genuinely collaborate internationally.
  • The disciplinary and technological expertise of the program team and the leadership of the program convenor.

Areas for improvement

The transnational program team identified the following ways for improving or changing the project:

  • Incorporate visits by the INTI subject coordinator to UOW.
  • Align the sessions across sites as much as possible.
  • Videoconference facilities in large lecture theatres and improved technologies to more easily facilitate cross-site student interaction.
  • This sort of professional development for international teaching to be ongoing.
  • Resources allocated to enable the participation of sessional teachers in internationalisation of the curriculum processses

Outline of workshops & links to materials developed

Introductory workshop: Before the 1st workshop participants were asked to complete a questionnaire to stimulate reflection and discussion amongst members of the teaching team about internationalisation of the curriculum and embedding inclusive pedagogies into Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies degree program. The questions were adapted from Leask’s (2010) Questionnaire on Internationalisation of the Curriculum. The first workshop introduced the concepts of internationalisation of the curriculum and inclusive pedagogies, discussed Leask’s 5 stage model for internationalisation of the curriculum and identified the data needed to be gathered to inform the internationalisation of the curriculum. Links from this workshop include:

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    Pre-workshop questions for BCM curriculum team [PDF 158KB]
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    TTT Curriculum presentation [PPT 6,247KB]
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    Internationalisation of the curriculum [PDF 513KB]
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    Guide to Action Learning [PDF 185KB]

Workshop 2 focused on:

  • reviewing and reflecting upon:
    • the responses to the internationalisation of the curriculum questionnaire;
    • the first year students’ responses to the transnational education survey conducted as part of the PAL process that is outlined in Case Study 1.
    • the data collected since the previous workshop on student pathways and progression through the BCM degree at UOW and at INTI.
  • discussing the goals for the internationalisation of the curriculum process and deciding on the specific focus on the PAL projects.

Workshop 3 focused on developing a set of internationalised course level learning outcomes for the program that were aligned to the requirements of the AQF and TEQSA and deciding on what would be included in the new course level Moodle site for students, staff and alumni. A link to the draft course level learning outcomes developed :

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    Draft CLO’s [PDF 279KB]

Workshop 4 focused on reviewing the new course level learning outcomes and the assessments for the core subject in each year (BCM110, 210 and 310). These were reviewed in relation to how well they worked together, how suitable they were for students learning in different cultures and contexts and how they scaffolded student learning across the degree program.

Workshop 5 focused on renewing and internationalising the core second year subject (BCM210) in relation to the subject learning outcomes, the assessments and the resources. It also focused on strategies for building more interaction between students across sites into the subject.

Workshop 6 focused on planning the development of video and online resources to support students’ learning in relation to blogging, tweeting, digital storytelling and academic language and literacies in the context of a globalised media landscape.

Workshop 7 focused on reviewing the major aspects of the project and the related resources. This included the student and staff video clips on academic blogging, the BCM glossary, the digital story telling resources, the academic language and literacies resources, the readings from the Asia-Pacific region and the alumni space on the course level Moodle site. The workshop also included a discussion evaluating the project. New sessional academics were introduced to the transnational teaching team.

Links to blogging and tweeting resources developed in and between these workshops include:

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    Adopting a Personal Writing Style [PDF 386KB]
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    Blogging Etiquette and Meaningful Content [PDF 394KB]
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    What Do Academic Blogs Look Like? [PDF 385KB]

Links to academic language and literacy resources include:

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    Grammar [PDF 302KB]
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    Keeping A Research Journal [PDF 395KB]
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    Paraphrasing [PDF 386KB]
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    Quoting [PDF 449KB]
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    Reading Academic Texts [PDF 292KB]
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    Why reference? Academic integrity [PDF 301KB]
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    Writing A Literature Review [PDF 292KB]
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    Writing A Report [PDF 597KB]
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    Writing An Annotated Bibliography [PDF 308KB]
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    Writing A Conference Paper [PDF 291KB]
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    Writing A Research Proposal [PDF 302KB]