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Indoors out as Bond moves to studies under the sky

Bond University academics have taken ‘thinking outside the square’ to a whole new level with selected lectures and tutorials now being held outdoors instead  of in lecture theatres - and the feedback from students has been very positive.

Spearheaded by the Office of Learning and Teaching's Dr Sarah Long, the outdoor classes have seen a return to basics in many instances, with electronic whiteboards and LCD screens replaced by butcher’s paper and hand-held mini- whiteboards.

“It’s about continually re-visioning and re-thinking what learning and teaching looks like and how we can  give our students the best possible learning experience and educational outcomes,” said Dr Long.

“The campaign to expand our learning activities and teaching pedagogy to outdoor spaces has been overwhelmingly successful in its pilot phase this semester. It’s not necessarily about replacing indoor learning, but looking for opportunities to enhance and extend that learning into alternate places and spaces around our campus.

“Whilst many of our academics took advantage of the outdoor lessons to minimise reliance on technology and creatively deliver content, hand held mobile devices and laptops were still able to be effectively utilised in many classes due to our campus-wide WIFI connectivity.

Dr Long said Bond had run 80 individual outdoor classes and/or tutorial sessions involving more than 350 students to date.

“We’ve had pop-up outdoor restaurants to teach auditing, picnic table in the park sessions on animal law and classes on arbitrage in our outdoor amphitheatre – we’ve really tried to think outside the square," she said.

“The rationale for the trial was based on sound educational research and pedagogical principles. My own studies and experience in education, teaching and consulting, both in Australia and overseas clearly highlight that place and space are powerful elements in student learning.

"I hit the educational ‘jackpot’ in working at Bond as we have a very supportive and enthusiastic Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tim Brailsford.

“We had discussed how we could continue to provide transformational learning experiences for our students and be innovative and creative in our approach to learning and to teaching practice and that is how this came about.”

Dr Long said research from the initial pilot showed many students felt despite the informal and sometimes confronting aspect of learning outside, away from drop-down LCD screens, technology and the comforts of Bond’s state of the art indoor learning spaces, the experience benefited their learning, networking and collegiality with peers and teaching staff, and retention of academic content.

She said many of the academics involved taught subjects that were traditionally delivered in classroom lecture theatre style environments and they were outside their comfort zones and initially cautious about the benefits of moving outside the four walls of the classroom.

“However, they were sold on the experience and many report their students found it extremely rewarding with some even wanting to do it again outside of the pilot phase, “said Dr Long.

Bond University is now developing additional outdoor learning spaces on campus and working with the various faculties to support the development of robust learning activities for the outdoors that creatively complement existing course delivery and materials.

Dr Long said the exercise was perhaps best summed up through the many positive Bond University student survey comments, with one Law student stating: 'I can’t understand why we don’t do more of this. It was such a good way to get us all talking and discussing ideas'.

Another student, studying Business added: 'A great initiative. I really enjoyed the outdoor lesson…Give me more!’

Dr Long said the Gold Coast’s warm weather and the university’s attractive campus added to the success of the initiative.


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