Does Virtual Face-to-Face Communication Enhance the Learning Experience of Post-Graduate Students' Studying via a Flexible Delivery Mode?

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The Centre for International Health (CIH) at Curtin University delivers its postgraduate courses primarily via the flexible delivery mode. This study aims to determine the necessity, practicality and effectiveness of implementing virtual online face-to-face communication between students and their tutor. Two units were used as case exemplars for this study. Both units promoted virtual face-to-face communication through Skype or MSN throughout the teaching semester, in additional to email support. The tutor recorded her experience throughout the semester, including student details, duration of contact and difficulties encountered. Students’ experiences were assessed using two online surveys, with a hyperlink sent to students preferred email addresses. Demographic data were collated to allow for an investigation of its effect on student perception and uptake of services. The first survey explored student perception of current services and communication, and their experience of flexible delivery mode; and the second, their uptake of and experience of virtual online face-to-face communication. Preliminary results suggest most students are satisfied with email communication, but they believe additional support services and opportunities for communication would enhance their learning experience. The experience of those who have communicated through Skype has been generally positive, where higher level of engagement is being reported. There is support for further implementation, as the service will likely be utilised by a small proportion of students; those who feel isolated or are dissatisfied with email communication, resulting in a manageable increase in the tutor’s workload. For students located outside Australia, this provides a financially viable alternative to international telephone communication.

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Keywords: Postgraduate Student, Flexible Delivery, Skype, Computer Mediated Communication, Health Sciences, Exemplar Case Study
Stream: Technology in Education
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Virtual Face-to-Face Communication and the Learning Experience of Post-Graduate Students Studying via Flexible Delivery Mode

Kate Thomson

Learning and Teaching Centre, Macquarie University
North Ryde, NSW, Australia

Dr. Boon-Kiang Tan

Centre for International Health, Curtin University of Technology

A/Prof Christopher Brook

Office of Teaching and Learning, Curtin University of Technology

Ref: T09P0074