Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bioscience at Otago Polytechnic

I had a chat with Megan Gibbons who teaches Bioscience on the Midwifery programme at the Otago Polytechnic. The Midwifery programme caters to students throughout the South Island of New Zealand.

Flexible delivery on the Bioscience course involves use of both Elluminate and Moodle.

According to Megan, Elluminate is used because it allows high quality distance interaction between the tutor and the student during tutorial sessions. Students have the opportunity to discuss various issues during such sessions. Elluminate sessions take place at 9.30am on the days that these are run so as to allow parents sufficient time to drop off their children at school, should they need.

Megan felt that a downside to using Elluminate is that it does not allow the tutor to pick up face to face signals such as student body language which would help the tutor to pick up on whether students “get it”. However, she felt that tone of voice may assist in this judgement.

Moodle is used on the Bioscience course for a number of reasons.

1. The Midwifery programme is run in conjunction with CPIT (hyperlink) who were existing users of Moodle
2. It is cheaper to use than the existing on-line tool at the Otago Polytechnic.
3. Moodle is a great way to get information to students. The Bioscience course has the following types of information and resources.
a. Course outline
b. Objectives for each session
c. Reading materials
d. Lecture notes and slides – with the capacity to do voice overs to go with these.
e. Quizzes
f. And crossword exercises
g. Extensive use is also made of the forum facility on Moodle which allows students and tutor to “discuss” any issues or topics of interest and relevance. There is also the capability to make forums open to the public or closed. Megan felt that a closed forum provided students a sense of safety in the on-line environment.
h. Also, the tutor is able to take a roll to identify who is taking part.

Megan and the team at Midwifery have taken this flexible approach because it allows mature students to fit in study commitments around their busy schedules. Students are able to access the information when they want it.

Megan did point out that it takes a lot of time to develop the resources for Moodle, however it is well worth the effort. From her experience it also means that there is quite a bit of pastoral care in order to help the students when they have issues and such on-line learning options were favoured by some students and not by others, as will, no-doubt, be the case with most learning tools.

The on-line nature of the Midwifery programme also allows students to complete a four year degree in three years because students can access the information over holiday breaks.

By all accounts the Midwifery programme is doing very well this year, with part of this success being due to the flexible nature of its courses and staff.


  1. I do wonder though about the aspects of students fitting a 4 year course into 3 years, which ties in with the paper Bronwyn asked us to read about workloads. You've got to remember that these students have families and have to work to pay their fees. What stress are we adding to them? How flexible is the course-what happens when a student falls back in progress?

  2. Great thought provoking questions Sarah