The University of New England is leading a $3.5 million project that will engage the Australian tertiary education sector in discussion and collaborative research on the practice of distance education.
Funded by the Commonwealth Government and directed by UNE’s Professor Belinda Tynan, the project – named “DEHub: Innovation in Distance Learning” – aims to establish a central “hub” of research-based expertise at UNE and beyond to draw on information from around the world. The government funding for the project will continue through 2009, 2010 and 2011.
While UNE is the physical “hub” of the project, it hopes to collaborate with three other universities – Charles Sturt University, Central Queensland University, and the University of Southern Queensland – in establishing the research priorities for the project and conducting the research.
Earlier this month, representatives of these three universities – and of the academic networking company AARNet – travelled to Armidale for discussions with Professor Tynan and DEHub personnel at UNE, as well as UNE’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Graham Webb, and the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions, Professor Victor Minichiello.
The Acting Project Manager of DEHub, UNE’s Dr Nathan Wise, said that the project, based within the Faculty of The Professions, would ensure best practice and facilitate improved delivery of distance education across Australia’s higher education sector. “It will engage in national and global collaborations on evidence-based approaches to new teaching technologies,” he said, “and will promote innovative modes of learning and teaching that will strengthen the capacity of regional universities to meet the demands of their distance education students.”
Dr Wise said that the process of recruiting both research and support staff to the project was under way, and also the planning for an international conference on distance education to be held next year. The conference would be preceded by a workshop (or “colloquium”) involving 20 of the world’s most eminent authorities in the field, he said.
DEHub will focus on three key themes with an emphasis on tertiary and higher education contexts: Distance Education Learning and Teaching; Distance Education Community and Open Learning; Distance Education Research and Evaluation.
“For institutions, DEHub will mean additional opportunities for collaborative projects, and savings through the sharing of resources,” Dr Wise explained. “And both teachers and students will benefit from the research, which is aimed at enhancing the educational experience of the whole community.”
The image displayed here expands to a photograph taken in the recent DEHub meeting at UNE.