Author – Professor Yoni Ryan, Australian Catholic University

Yoni is Director of the Institute for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning at the Australian Catholic University, a six campus national university spread over the eastern states.

She has extensive experience in staff development as promoting ‘student-centredness’, hence her strong interest in the First Year Experience. Since she has had a long-term interest in the use of innovative educational technologies, she has also researched and published on Web 2.0 as an emerging platform for student learning in the 21st century. She has also contributed in a number of universities in Australia and the Pacific, as well as Sub-Saharan Africa to staff development in the area of curriculum design and development.

Her publications span these areas: ‘Teaching and learning in the global era’ in King, R. (ed) 2004 The University in the Global Era; ‘Borderless education and business prospects’, in Evans, T., Haughey, M. & Murphy, D. (2008) International Handbook of Distance Education; with Robert Fitzgerald, ‘Exploring the role of social software in higher education’ (in press). She has also presented at a number of the FYE Forums organised mainly through the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and their associated staff.

Further information is available from the Australian Catholic University.

First Year Curriculum Perspective

The Technology commentary (pdf 1.68MB) examines first year curriculum design and the case study exemplars from the perspective of the integration of new technologies in learning design and development to ensure the ‘seamless’ connection of ‘in-class’ and ‘out-of-class’ first year experiences. In her commentary, the author notes that universities appear to have been slow to recognise that some uses of new technologies can support both design and teaching practices. She draws on specific examples of design and practices that support learning using new technologies to consider whether these examples have wider applications outside the local context of the case. She asks – How can we use new technologies to increase the integration of student learning experiences within and outside class? – and suggests that this is one of the greatest challenges for the teachers of ‘new generation students’ who increasingly

  • are ‘detached’ from the campus,
  • have other social networks than their traditional ‘learning communities’, and
  • spend a high proportion of their lives in paid work.

Earlier research conducted by the author (with Dr Robert Fitzgerald, University of Canberra) has revealed that, while young students were avid users of Web 2.0 applications in their social lives, they perceived an increasing divide between the static technologies (Learning Management Systems employing content dissemination) and the dynamic applications they were using to construct and communicate with social networks. This situation deepens the divide between the ‘world’ and the ‘world of learning’ that students experience.

The commentary concludes that we are ‘still some way from a ‘seamless’ integration of in and out of class learning through newer forms of web technologies…[and from where] First Years can identify themselves as learners and researchers within a university program that recognises its students no longer operate in the ‘closed community’ of the medieval university, but instead are learners in the world’.