Deakin University

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Residential schools in a first-year undergraduate engineering programme

Version 2 2024-06-02, 13:29
Version 1 2015-12-11, 10:30
conference contribution
posted on 2024-06-02, 13:29 authored by John LongJohn Long, S Cavenett, S Chandrasekaran
BACKGROUND OR CONTEXT: For over 20 years, Deakin University has delivered an accredited undergraduate engineering course by means of distance education. Prior to 2004, off-campus students were not required to attend classes in person on campus. The course was designed so that the off campus students were able to undertake all study and assessment tasks remotely from the university campus. Offering accredited domestic undergraduate engineering courses via distance education has been seen as an important strategy for helping to provide graduate domestically educated engineers to meet Australia’s current and future needs. From 2000 the Australian accreditation management system for professional engineers, as managed by Engineers Australia, has increased its scrutiny of accredited domestic undergraduate engineering courses that were provided in distance-education mode. This led to a series of policies and recommendations for Australian universities that offer accredited engineering courses in distance-education mode: one of the recommendations was that off campus enrolled engineering students should periodically attend some campus-based activities throughout the course. During the 2004 accreditation review of engineering courses at Deakin University, the accreditation panel requested that mandatory campus-based activities be incorporated into the accredited undergraduate engineering course. Specifically the request was that Deakin mandate that all off-campus students enrolled in an accredited undergraduate engineering course provided by university attend in person a residential school at least once during every year of equivalent full-time study load. The accreditation panel suggested a program model for the residential school component of the course as developed by the University of Southern Queensland. PURPOSE OR GOAL: This paper describes the development of the mandatory residential school component of accredited distance education undergraduate engineering courses at Deakin University with a particular focus on how the residential school program is implemented at level 1 (first-year full-time equivalent level) of the courses. APPROACH: To be compliant with accreditation requirements, since 2005 Deakin has conducted residential schools for off-campus students at its Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus. Initially the schools were conducted annually over two-weeks during the first semester, and have transitioned to the current mode where the residential school is conducted as a one week programme in each of the trimesters. During these schools, activities are organised around the respective engineering-course units undertaken by students during the trimester. DISCUSSION: The minimum requirements for the on-campus components of distance-education-mode accredited engineering courses were developed by Engineers Australia in consultation with members of the Washington Accord (International Education Alliance) and at the time of development, generated considerable debate (Palmer, 2005, 2008). The intended purpose of residential schools was for off-campus enrolled students to have reasonable exposure to a typical “on-the-campus” student experience periodically throughout the course. Elements considered suitable and worthwhile for inclusion in residential school programs included: • in person engagement with their academic lecturers, • presentations and interaction with guest speakers from industry, • industry-based site visits, • engagement in sole and group-based learning and assessment activities on campus, and • social interaction with other students. RECOMMENDATIONS/IMPLICATIONS/CONCLUSION: We have found that advantages to the students who attends a residential school include completing real practical work without the need to assemble their own materials at home, and social engagement with staff and students. Off-campus students leave the residential school with a sense of belonging to a “community”, “one of many doing the same and not the only one”. They have the opportunity to share their often significant professional experience with the generally younger and less experienced on-campus student colleagues. Through this interaction between on-campus and off-campus students, the on-campus students benefit as much as the off-campus students. The disadvantages to the off-campus students is the requirement to travel to Geelong for an extended time, which costs the students both money and time away from work and family. From our experience, we recommend to other institutions starting residential schools of their own that they exploit the mandatory on-campus-presence requirement to enhance learning outcomes, well publicised timetables be available to students before trimester begins (certainly before census date), a standardised academic week during trimester be set for all residential schools, encourage student feedback on the program, and apply a practice of uniformity and consistency in how the programme is managed, especially mandated student attendance. Our residential schools for off-campus-mode students have been running for over 10 years. We have found that the educational and social advantages to the student outweigh the disadvantages.





Geelong, Vic.

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Publication classification

E Conference publication, E1 Full written paper - refereed

Copyright notice

2015, AAEE


Oo A, Patil A, Hilditch T, Chandrasekaran S

Title of proceedings

AAEE 2015 : Blended design and project based learning. Proceedings of the 26th Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference


Australasian Association for Engineering Education. Conference (26th : 2015 : Geelong, Vic.)



Place of publication

Geelong, Vic.

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