University Council

Teaching and Learning Quality Issues Related to the Multi-Campus Nature of the University of Tasmania

The University of Tasmania is multi-campus


Like many (if not most) Australian universities, the University of Tasmania is a multi-campus university.  That is, the University of Tasmania is one university operating on several sites.  While its main campuses are at Newnham and Sandy Bay, it also has several other Hobart and Launceston sites as well as a significant (and growing) operation in Burnie.

We also have significant (and growing) student numbers taught by the University of Tasmania at various off-shore campuses.

To add further complexity, our flexible teaching and learning developments mean that students will increasingly have more flexibility in their studies and be less tied to a single campus.  If attendance requirements and teaching approaches are flexible, there is no reason why students who live some distance away from a campus cannot study units offered at that campus as long as they are able to meet the unit/course requirements.   

Being multi-campus must, therefore, be an important factor in how we plan and carry out our teaching and learning activities as well as all of the services that support teaching and learning.  We need to make sure that being a multi-campus university is working effectively.  We need a mind-set that being a multi-campus university is an opportunity and a positive attribute, rather than an add-on, an inconvenience or a problem. 

If we do not take this approach, there is potential for a negative impact on the quality of our teaching and learning. 

In terms of standards and consistency of teaching and learning, a multi-campus university has some specific issues that must be addressed.  This paper deals specifically with these issues of standards and consistency, rather than focusing on particular teaching and learning approaches most suitable for multi-campus contexts.

A guiding principle for multi-campus operations


Within this multi-campus context, our guiding principle must be to ensure that all students and staff are treated equitably.

We need to define what it means in practice to treat our students and staff equitably, regardless of the campus at which they are located.  In terms of teaching and learning, we also need to ensure that standards are equivalent at each of our campuses.

Ensuring equity and ensuring equivalence of standards does not necessarily mean that all students at each campus have to be treated identically or that all programs at every campus have to be identical.  Nor does it mean that all programs will be offered at every campus.  However, it does mean that students must expect intended outcomes that are equivalent (not necessarily the same) regardless of the campus at which they are located.  There is an expectation that standards of our courses are equivalent, regardless of the campus at which a particular course or unit is taught.

It is essential that students do not feel like ‘second class citizens’ because of the campus at which they are located.

That is, in a teaching and learning context, treating students equitably is not about treating them identically but about ensuring intended outcomes are equivalent.

How might we do this in practice?

At the course level:

  • In our planning, we need to consider the best profile for courses offered at each of our campuses to ensure maximum access and equity for students at the same time as assuring quality.  Some courses will be offered at only one campus.  Others may be available at more than one campus, or even all campuses.  When a course is offered at more than one campus, different specialisations or majors may be offered at different campuses.  It is possible that students at a particular campus may have access to a restricted range of choices or majors in a course unless they are willing to travel to another campus or enrol in units offered flexibly from another campus.
  • Faculty and School planning should ensure that decisions are made strategically about the campuses at which courses are available. Such decisions are likely to be guided by load targets for each campus, student demand, staff expertise, resources, and availability of facilities.  Rather than duplicating what we do at each campus, it may be more strategic to make offerings at each campus more distinctive.   
  • If an award is available at more than one campus, the overall aims, course structure and intended outcomes for students must be equivalent wherever it is offered.  That is, two completely different courses with the same award title must not be offered at different campuses.
  • Information for students must clearly indicate the campus/es at which a course is available, the choices and options available and any restrictions within a course at each campus.
  • It should be possible for students to move without penalty from one campus to another if the same course is offered at both campuses.  Depending on the teaching arrangements and units available, students may not be able to transfer until the end of the semester or the end of the year.  Information to students should specify the options available for transferring between campuses and any restrictions that apply. 

At the unit level:

  • Units may be available at one or more campuses. Students cannot be excluded from taking a unit at another campus provided they fulfil the requirements for that unit and that the unit meets the course requirements.
  • Faculty and School planning should ensure that decisions about the campuses at which units are available are guided by student demand, maximising student choice, staff expertise, availability of facilities (especially library resources), and load targets for each campus.
  • Information for students must clearly indicate the campus/es at which a unit is available and provide details about the way in which the unit is taught at each campus
  • If a unit is taught at more than one campus, the intended outcomes for students must be equivalent wherever the unit is offered.  That is, units with the same title and code must not be offered with different assessment and intended learning outcomes.
  • A unit may be taught in different ways at different campuses, as long as the intended learning outcomes and assessment are equivalent.  That is, at every campus where a unit it available, it must lead to equivalent intended outcomes for students.  The rationale for the different teaching approaches should be explained to the students so that they understand that equivalent intended learning outcomes are being achieved.  Teaching approaches at different campuses should not be such that they advantage students at one campus over students at another campus.
  • When a unit is offered at more than one campus, the School must designate a Unit Co-ordinator who will provide oversight of the unit at all campuses at which it is offered.
  • The Unit Co-ordinator must ensure that, although there may be differences in teaching approach at different campuses, the intended learning outcomes for students at each campus are equivalent.  This can be achieved by ensuring that the objectives are the same and assessment tasks for the unit are equivalent.  The specific details of an assessment task might be varied if aspects are unsuitable for a site at which the unit is offered. For example, assessment details may be altered if students are required to undertake a project or task that relates to the local context.  Another example is where assessment tasks are altered to take into account language or cultural backgrounds of students.   In such cases, the Unit Co-ordinator must ensure that the standards expected and the intended learning outcomes being assessed remain the same.
  • The Unit Co-ordinator must ensure that there is moderation of assessment across the different campuses to determine that standards are equivalent.  This should involve one or more of the following strategies: the development of marking schemes and criteria that are applied across campuses; checking of marking standards and levels across campuses; double marking of samples of work; sharing marking so that one marker examines a section of work from all campuses; or using one maker for all campuses.

At the School level:

  • Students must have equitable access to academic and other support regardless of the campus at which they are located.
  • There must be a person at the campus whom students can approach for academic advice about the unit they are studying.  Ideally, this is a locally employed tutor or academic who teaches into the unit.  If academic staff who teach the unit are not located at the campus, students must be provided with clear advice about whom they should contact for assistance and how this should be done.  Tutors or other teaching staff must be schedule face-to-face consultation sessions for students who wish to seek advice outside class time.
  • Students must be informed about how they should contact the Head of School if the Head of School is not at the campus at which the student is located. 
  • Cross-campus Schools should nominate a Deputy Head of School or similar to deal with student and teaching issues at the campus where the Head of School is not located.  A Head of School should endeavour to visit all campuses at which students in that School are enrolled and make arrangements to be available for students if required.
  • Students must be informed about the School’s administrative contact for campus at which they enrolled.
  • Heads of School should ensure that teaching staff have received appropriate staff development and support for multi-campus (including off-shore) delivery of teaching when this is used.  Such programs are available through the Flexible Education Unit.

 

Approved by University Council 21 May 2004