‘Communication Skills Project’
CUTSD Staff Development Proposal 1999
The Communication Skills Project represents a collaboration of staff at 10
universities working1 to enhance students’ professional communication skills by
employing flexible delivery for staff development. Our project team proposes three,
integrated thrusts, to:
• Form networks of ‘early-adopter’ lecturers in a range of disciplines to test and
provide reviews of materials and teaching strategies to enhance students’ professional
• Modularise these communication skill materials and teaching strategies into ready-
to-use formats, tailored for specific disciplines and accompanied by reviews by
lecturers in those disciplines (as mentioned above); and
• Establish on the web a database, to contain these materials and strategies, that is
publicised via hot-links in broadcast e-mail messages and icons on lecturers’
The proposed project will begin with professional communication skills necessary
in groupwork and teamwork for lecturers in Commerce and Business and then expand
into other communication skill areas and other disciplines. The project integrates the
collaborators’ efforts on previous and current university-funded and CUTSD-funded
projects in related areas. Our approach of lecturer networks and flexible delivery could
be used as a model for aiding lecturers in taking a developmental approach to imbuing
students with other ‘graduate attributes’.
16/3/99 WR – commlecsCUTSD2 prop draft 5
1. Project Context and Rationale
The proposed staff development project aims to enhance graduate attributes in the
area of professional communication skills in the ten collaborating universities. The
project’s ultimate goal is to address five, broad skill areas employed across all
disciplines: (1) presentation skills; (2) facilitating teamwork, meetings, and
consultations; (3) producing professional documents; (4) handling media interviews and
addressing the public; and (5) producing videos, web sites, and other multimedia
products.1 We will begin with a narrow focus in Commerce and Business in
communication skill area (2), groupwork and teamwork. Materials and teaching strategies
tailored to each discipline within Commerce and Business will be mounted on a web site
in a modular format, such as that illustrated in Appendix 3. Use of the web site will be
promoted by both organisational and technological strategies:
• formation of networks of ‘early adopter’ lecturers;
• attaching reviews by these lecturers to all mounted materials (a strategy
recognised to boost adoption);
• broadcast e-mail with hot-links to the web site; and
• icons on lecturers’ computer screens linked to the web site.
The project goals, and the proposed approach to achieve them, are grounded in growing
attention to graduate attributes, increased experience with flexible delivery, and
recognition of the effectiveness of mutual support among lecturers in their teaching
Communication skills are ubiquitous in lists of university graduate attributes.
Curtin University’s Communication-in-Context policy, for example, promotes, ‘the
development of programs and practices which aim to provide all graduates with: a high
degree of oral, writing, graphical, interpersonal and negotiating skills.’ In business, the
Karpin Report (1995) calls for postgraduate and undergraduate curricula to provide
greater emphasis on communications and team building, concluding that managers need
improved ‘people skills’. Concern has been expressed that existing undergraduate
programs are not producing graduates with the kinds of professional skills (Australia.
NBEET, 1992; Australian Association of Graduate Employers, 1993; Business/Higher
Education Round Table, 1992; Harvey, 1993a, 1993b; Institute of Chartered Accountants
in Australia, 1994; The Association of Graduate Recruiters, 1995) and lifelong learning
skills (Candy & Crebert, 1991; Candy, Crebert, & O’Leary, 1994) that they need in order
to be successful in their professions. Furthermore, if they are to become ‘reflective
practitioners’, students must gain insight into how communication strategies affect the
construction of their professional identities and those of professionals in other fields
(Schoen, 1987; Rifkin with Martin, 1997).
Three years ago, a group of lecturers in the Learning and Teaching Research
Group at the University of Wollongong recognised that they all taught communication
albeit in different faculties and that they could benefit from sharing materials and
insights. They identified five areas of professional communication skills (listed above)
common to their disciplines and determined that communication skills are enhanced most
when addressed in a developmental fashion2 in both communication and non-
communication subjects. The group established the seed of the Communication Skills
Project and received $40,000 from the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) to develop pilot
modular materials, evaluate their transferability and effectiveness, find a way to make
them available to academics via a web site, seek collaboration with complementary
efforts at other universities, and do an audit of all subject outlines on campus as a needs
The audit of subject outlines at the University of Wollongong indicates that
groupwork, for example, is assessed in only 8% of 676 subjects across all faculties. 3 It is
assessed in only 2% of 209 subjects in Engineering, Science, and Informatics, 3% of
subjects in the Arts and Creative Arts, and 16% in the professions, Law, Commerce,
Education, and Health and Behavioural Sciences. Formal presentations and oral
participation in class are assessed in 48% of subjects. These results resonate with
findings from twenty, in-depth interviews of lecturers at the University of Wollongong
identified as ‘innovative’.4 Even these lecturers rarely open a communication textbook,
select a video on presentation skills, or compose a set of guidelines for their students on
facilitating a group project. Though lecturers are familiar with taking a developmental
approach to building students’ disciplinary knowledge, their practices indicate less
familiarity with embedding this approach to teaching communication skills in a
Extensive searches and consultations over the last two years reveal that there
exists no database such as the one proposed. However, case studies of use of particular
teaching strategies to enhance communication skills do exist5, commercially produced
videotapes are available, and communication lecturers each have their own cache of
relevant activity plans, handouts, and assignment guidelines. Dissemination of such
materials remains problematic among communication lecturers and particularly to non-
Efforts to develop lecturers’ abilities to enhance students’ professional skills,
communication skills, and graduate attributes have been under way at our collaborating
universities. Curtin University Business School received a $100,000 internal grant to
boost students’ professional skills. University of Queensland’s new Ipswich campus is a
pilot site for similar work, which will develop approaches to be transferred back to the
main, St. Lucia campus. University of New England has a CUTSD-funded project to
document how lecturers from a range of disciplines incorporate materials to enhance
graduate attributes (Muldoon, 1998). Flinders University and University of Adelaide
seek to extend previous CAUT/CUTSD-funded work on use of flexible delivery for staff
development in this area, with both recently launching interactive web sites for staff
development. RMIT is currently producing communication skills materials for all
entering students, both Higher Education and TAFE students, and for sale to industry.6
The desire now is to combine complementary aspects of these efforts with a three-
part thrust to facilitate staff development by fostering incorporation by lecturers in a
developmental way of professional communication skill materials and teaching strategies.
The three thrusts are, as noted in the Project Summary:
A. Forging of networks among ‘early adopter’ lecturers and staff development
officers within universities and across universities within disciplines;
B. Modularisation and tailoring of teaching and learning materials for specific
C. Developing the technological, flexible delivery mechanism using a web site,
broadcast e-mail, and icons on lecturers’ computer screens.
These three thrusts have been broken down into subtasks to be completed during
the project period, which are laid out in this proposal in Section 10 Project Timeframe.
These subtasks, some of which have begun already, range from establishing formats for
modularising useful materials in ways tailored for specific disciplines to developing
strategies for garnering lecturer adoption, adaptation, and feedback on these materials.
We intend to incorporate existing multi-media materials -- such as those produced
for entering students by RMIT, for presentation skills by QUT, and for generic skills for
third-year students in Anatomy and Human Biology at UWA -- as well as new materials
as they become available. Costs of producing such high-end materials will be left to
universities and commercial concerns. We will focus on evaluating what is available in
multi-media and print and adapt it for specific disciplines.7 We will work to obtain
university and industry support, in terms of dollars and/or recognition, for lecturers
willing to develop such materials, or simpler print materials, for our distribution
mechanism. The hope is that lecturers may also earn DETYA research ‘points’ for
refereed web contributions of modularised, print and multi-media materials.
We intend to make our efforts compatable with other efforts in the areas of basic
composition skills and other generic skills and tertiary literacies. We will be developing
organisational and technological mechanisms that can be used to foster adoption of these
materials and their developmental incorporation into curricula by lecturers.
We are preparing materials for flexible delivery to lecturers with a potential future
facility for delivery directly to students. Our web site will provide links steering lecturers
to web-based materials accessible to students. A useful spin off in the future would be a
Communication Skills site specifically for students.
The project will progress to cover a range of professional communication skills
and disciplines outside Commerce and Business as time and funding permit. As part of
their efforts for the proposed project, the Flinders University team, for example, wish to
extend materials for use in their Bachelor of Arts program, a program where no single
profession sets the standards or formats for professional communication. The
collaborator at UWA wishes to continue his work in Anatomy and Human Biology. QUT
has well-developed materials in presentation skills.
2. Literature and/or Current Practice Relating to Proposal
Examples of literature and practice are cited below in relation to key aspects of
the proposed project.
Policies to get lecturers to incorporate materials on professional
communication skills into the curriculum have been established at the collaborating
universities. In the Department of Commerce at the University of Adelaide, for example,
lecturers must nominate which communication skills they will address when doing course
and subject planning. However, there is little staff development offered on how students
might best learn these skills. Curtin Business School’s Professional Skills Project aims to
enhance the professional skills and employability of its graduates by embedding key
professional skills identified by employers into the 23 majors of their B.Com program.
Why tailor communication skills materials to each discipline? Research at the
University of Adelaide and elsewhere suggests that such generic skills are best learned in
the context of a discipline (Hattie, Biggs, & Purdie, 1996; Hadwin & Winne, 1996) and
that staff development enhances such learning (Ingleton and Wake, 1997). Thus,
groupwork in the management profession will differ, and needs to be learned differently,
from group research in a chemistry laboratory. Initial adaptation to context in our project
is via tailoring of materials and teaching strategies to each discipline. Further adaptation
occurs when the lecturer modifies these materials and strategies for her class. This
opportunity to modify should make materials more attractive and enhance lecturer
adoption. Adoption often requires external assistance, though, from staff development
officers and/or other lecturers. At the University of Wollongong, development of
lecturers’ ability to teach generic skills currently includes half-day workshops as well as
guest lectures in the target lecturer’s class and individual coaching of lecturers by
Learning Development staff (Ewan, 1998). The small numbers of lecturers receiving
individual assistance express enthusiasm, but resources to support such efforts are
Such economic forces and technological opportunities are fueling pushes toward
flexible delivery (Daniel, 1997; Georghagen, 1998). Flexible delivery to lecturers for
staff development has been tested by the University of Adelaide and Flinders University.8
Each is experimenting with its own interactive course for staff on the web, the University
of Adelaide using TopClass and Flinders using WebCT, as alternatives to face-to-face
courses for introducing new staff to university teaching. Flinders is also producing an
interactive tutorial on assessment for lecturer use. Such web-based delivery enables
lecturers to experience how web-based resources might be used in their own teaching
The web also plays a role in the networks of lecturers that already exist within
disciplines between universities, particularly in regard to research but also in regard to
teaching. 9 Such networks are supported by conferences and journals, but materials and
outlines of teaching strategies presented are usually not in a format ready for use.
Networks across disciplines but within one university for the purpose of enhancing
teaching tend to be more tenuous and in need of support. The University of Wollongong
has its Learning and Teaching Research Group, which draws forty-some innovative
lecturers from a wide range of disciplines as well as educational researchers. However,
the sharing of teaching materials within the group tends to be only via informal chatting
at meetings and at monthly seminars that focus on one lecturer’s method.
How do you get lecturers to adopt new materials not in their discipline? Start
small, and begin with the ‘right’ people. Lecturers, or members of any population, can be
categorised according to their willingness to adopt new ideas, ideas from outside their
traditional ‘community of practice’. Among these categories – (a) innovators, (b) early
adopters, (c) early majority, (d) late majority, and (e) laggards (see chart below; Rogers,
1995) -- our initial target group are the 10% of lecturers who could be classified as ‘early
adopters’. An early adopter is the type of lecturer who shows up repeatedly for staff
development activities and might mix there with lecturers from other disciplines. Studies
show (Rogers, 1995) that once early adopters adopt and demonstrate effectiveness, some
become ‘change agents’ and stir the ‘early majority’ to follow. We recently did a proof-
of-principle test where we e-mailed teaching tips on groupwork to all 105 Commerce
lecturers at the University of Wollongong. Within one working day, 10% responded
indicating that they found the tip useful. University-wide, that would be the equivalent of
one entire faculty. The test suggests that a certain fraction of lecturers in Accountancy,
Economics, Business Systems, and Marketing are willing to consider using
communication skills materials originally developed in Management.
A B C D E
How would you get lecturers to take time to contribute to the web site, either
adding materials and teaching strategies or adding reviews of existing materials? One
incentive for lecturers to contribute to the web site would be if such contributions could
count as ‘publications’ either for DETYA ‘points’ or merely for internal evaluation for
promotion and tenure. We would push for policies to acknowledge such contributions in
each university’s promotion and tenure processes or in other forms of institutional
support. Another strategy for gathering materials and teaching strategies has been pilot
tested by a team at the University of Wollongong during the last six months.
Postgraduate research assistants acted as ‘reporters’, interviewing twenty innovative
lecturers in depth (1-2 hours) to characterise their innovative assessment practices. The
interview scheme is set to be trialed on a larger scale this session with interviews of 140
lecturers to be conducted by teams of third-year, undergraduate students in Education as
part of their study of research methods. This effort parallels the work of one team
member, Muldoon, who is interviewing exemplary lecturers at UNE to garner insights
into how they incorporate graduate attributes/generic skills strategies into their teaching
(a CUTSD Individual project). The proposed project incorporates a budget item to
support hiring such ‘reporters’ to interview lecturers for materials, strategies, and
commentary to add to the database, where the interviews can be done in person or by
How will a collaborative effort among ten universities work? We are seeking
to employ strategies proven successful in existing consortia among Australian
universities. See Appendix 1.
3. Linkage to Institutional Plans and Priorities
The Communication Skills Project aligns with plans and priorities of the collaborating
universities in areas of staff development and student learning. The University of
Wollongong Strategic Plan (1997), for example, addresses as a priority provision of an
environment with opportunities for staff for professional development. It also delineates
desired attributes of a Wollongong graduate, a list where communication skills are
prominent (Office of the Vice Chancellor, 1997: p.5). The University appointed a
Tertiary Literacies Coordinator in 1996, and the Tertiary Literacies Committee has been
operating since 1994.
Each of the collaborating universities gives this project’s focus a similarly high
priority, as exemplified by their efforts mentioned in Section 1 of this proposal. Curtin
Business School has its $100,000 project for communication skills, which supports the
University’s Communication-in-Context Policy and its Teaching and Learning Plan
objectives. RMIT has a strategic investment project to develop communication skills
materials for all first-year students. QUT put $100,000 into a presentation skills CD-
ROM and has communication as a foundation subject in its popular, business major.
UNE lists Attributes of a UNE Graduate and provides institutional support for its
CUTSD project studying best practice by lecturers in this area. The University of
Queensland is investing significantly in communication skills development practices and
materials at its satellite campus in Ipswich, which is serving as a pilot for programs to be
instituted on its main campus. Web-based staff training is being undertaken at Flinders
University and the University of Adelaide. This project, then, provides a nexus for
existing plans and priorities and ongoing efforts to address thoses priorities.
4. Anticipated Outcomes
* A developmental approach to student learning of professional communication
skills -- Outcomes of this project experienced by the student will include more consistent
and more informed instruction, practice, and feedback in groupwork skills in classes in
Commerce and Business at the participating universities. The quality of student group
projects will be monitored both in target subjects and in subsequent subjects with the
hope that it will show improvement and that student reflections will reveal deeper
understanding of- and increased facility in- groupwork. Over two thousand graduates
each year will be affected at Curtin University Business School and the University of
Wollongong’s Faculty of Commerce alone.
* Web access to 250 ‘modules’ of materials and teaching strategies tailored to
specific disciplines -- Such materials will include, for example, previewed videotapes on
groupwork, a range of methods of dividing students into groups to enhance their learning,
peer evaluation techniques to foster student reflection on group practices, handouts to
help students to recognise phases that groups go through, and general guidelines for
group homework assignments and projects, with case study write ups by lecturers who
have used these assignments. One lecturer already has plans for fifty student activities
from his own business communication subject that can be mounted on the web site.
Another lecturer has brief reviews of 100 commercial videos from which she selected
five worth using. An initial goal will be 250 ‘modules’, each represented by an index-
card type summary on the web site (see Appendix 3 for examples).
* A network of 50 early-adopter lecturers established across the ten collaborating
universities10 -- By incorporating our materials into their teaching, these lecturers will be
learning about developing their students’ communication skills and about exploiting
flexibly-delivered materials to enhance students’ graduate attributes, in general.
* A model for lecturers of applying a developmental approach to student abilities
beyond disciplinary knowledge -- The hope is that, as a result of eventual take-up by
mainstream lecturers, curricula will shift to integrate more material and strategies to
enhance graduate attributes.
* A model for diffusion from staff developers to lecturers of materials, strategies,
and a developmental approach to building students’ generic skills and attributes --
The materials, flexible delivery mechanisms, and lecturer networks developed for sharing
groupwork materials in Commerce and Business can serve as an advancement in the state
of the art of staff development by flexible delivery to lecturers.
5. Needs Analysis and Software Feasibility Outline
Needs -- The proposed project reflects systematic needs analyses at participating
universities, which have been referred to earlier, as well as university policies stimulating
a need to help lecturers to boost students’ professional communication skills.
Curtin University Business School learned in a 1996 Course Experience
Questionnaire that one-third of their graduates did not believe that their degree had
improved their generic skills. A 1997 pilot, Graduate Attribute Survey showed that,
while employers rated Curtin graduates’ technical skills as good, more work needs to be
done on developing professional skills, such as decision making and leadership. Analysis
of subject outlines across the University of Wollongong campus8 referred to in Section 1
of this proposal shows that the target area of groupwork is assessed in roughly one-
quarter of Commerce subjects. Anecdotal evidence suggests that group activities that are
not assessed, such as small group discussion, may occur in twice as many subjects.
However, groupwork is often used to reduce a lecturer’s marking load, and small group
discussion is rarely followed by reflection on ‘process’. As a result, it is not clear how
often or how well lecturers give instruction or feedback on group processes per se.
Software Feasibility -- The proposed project will require a web-mounted database to be
established and an electronic mail scheme implemented to broadcast to lecturers short
notifications about materials available. The client Web page will be developed based on
HTML and Java Script.11 The page will be designed with user input to provide a simple
but effective interface, an interface that will be augmented with an online tutorial
function to aid searching the database. Video and audio streaming, where necessary, will
be provided by the Real Player server. The Web site’s database for the modular
communication skills materials will be developed using a commercial database package
called Oracle. The interface between the Web page and the data base will be developed
based on a server-side, cross-platform, HTML embedded scripting language called PHP
(or a suitable alternative). The latest version of this software, PHP3, is a powerful tool
for building dynamic, database-driven web sites. The Real Player server costs $2400;
Oracle costs $2100; PHP3 is free. The electronic mail system will employ existing,
commercial software (Eudora, Communicator, etc.). Current and planned, proof-of-
principle testing will establish suitable formats for messages, links to the web site, and
ways of getting web site materials requested by lecturers to them. Usage patterns for the
web site and for individual pages on the site will be monitored using commercial
software such as FunnelWeb. In sum, we are trying to employ as little as possible
beyond commercially available functionality, though areas of functionality may be in
combinations that are specially suited to how lecturers work.
6. Evidence of Sound Planning and Project Management Strategies
The proposed project will be run from the Centre for Educational Development and
Interactive Resources at the University of Wollongong. CEDIR has a record of
successfully managing major CAUT- and CUTSD-funded projects. The Lead Applicant
is a member of DETYA-funded enterprises, Impart CMC, and Propagate. Collaborating
staff at the universities involved in this project also have experience managing and
completing such projects on time and within budget. In addition, CEDIR and other
participating staff development offices -- Flinders University and University of Adelaide,
for example -- have experience organising inter-university collaborations for staff
development. The Project Director is collecting names of candidates to serve on the
Project Board to provide general advice and aid eventual diffusion. The Project Director
began his career twenty years ago as a project engineer and project manager in aerospace
research and development, being the lead in projects ranging in size from $50,000 to
$150,000. Over the past five years at the University of Wollongong, he has managed
numerous, internally-funded, teaching development projects in addition to lecturing in
communication and ethics and conducting research on organisational learning.
7. Evaluation – Formative and Summative
Formative evaluation has begun with the aforementioned surveys of graduates and
employers (Curtin), analysis of assessment tasks specified in subject outlines
(Wollongong), in-depth interviews of innovative lecturers (UNE and Wollongong),
proof-of-principle testing of e-mailed teaching tips (Wollongong), and evaluation of use
of pilot, modular materials (Wollongong). Ongoing lecturer review and commentary on
communication skill materials collected is an integral part of our database plan.
Summative evaluation will include: before-and-after sampling of student assessments;
interviews and surveys of lecturers, students, and employers of graduates (which is part
of Curtin’s ongoing effort); monitoring hit rates on the web site as a whole and on
individual items to determine usage patterns; monitoring lending records of relevant
library materials, and monitoring elective student enrolments in communication-related
subjects. We will also seek to employ best practice assessment methods, as they become
available, for evaluating graduate attributes.12
8. Dissemination Plans
Mounting materials on a web site facilitates but does not always lead to wide use.
That is why this project has the network of early-adopter lecturers in the various
Commerce and Business disciplines as integral to its implementation plan. We will also
need to develop an incentive scheme involving institutional and professional recognition
of the contributions of lecturers who supply and/or review materials.
Dissemination will involve broadcast electronic mail messages to notify lecturers of
teaching tips and associated new materials on the web site. We plan to have the web site
accessable by ‘clicking on’ a special icon on each lecturer’s computer screen.
Receptions and workshops for lecturers and presentations to departments to introduce
the project and/or new materials will be conducted as part of normal staff development
regimes. Project ‘reporters’ will raise consciousness through interviewing lecturers about
their materials and responses to our materials. Conference presentations, preparation of
publications (such as for teaching development journals like Overview), and informal
networking across the country will continue.
9. Detailed Budget and Estimation of Cost Effectiveness
The fact that there are 10 collaborating universities in this project increases
project cost but should also boost dissemination and adoption. Key tasks for this project
are already part of collaborating staffs’ ongoing duties. However, making the products of
those efforts useful to others, and being systematic in garnering lecturers’ participation
and feedback, requires time release from normal duties. The plan proposed below has
some time release funded by CUTSD and some funded by each university as well as jobs
to be performed by staff dedicated to the project on a part-time basis and tasks contracted
with programmers, designers, and print producers.
Production Manager and Editor – Due to the number of university teams and varied
dimensions of work involved, full-time equivalent oversight, coordination, and editing
will be required from soon after launch of the project. Functions to be performed include,
but are not limited to: coordinating efforts among core staff at each university, such as
establishment of protocols for modularising materials; supporting the networks of early
adopter lecturers; soliciting tenders for and overseeing web site programming, materials
loading, and maintenance; overseeing testing and evaluation of web site functionality;
and overseeing production of print-formatted materials. It may make sense to split this
job functionally and/or geographically and/or over time -- Option A: 21 months of one
person or Option B: 21 months of half-time coordination plus one 1/4-time, technical
oversight person and one 1/4-time editing and production person.
($62,594/year including on costs = 22 days per month; $109,540 total for 21 months.)
(in-kind: investments already by Curtin $100,000 and Wollongong $42,000.)
Project Launch Coordination – To enable hiring and orientation of dedicated project
staff, project launch coordination will be required. Time release for a core member of the
applicant team for three months should be sufficient.
(teaching relief for 1 session = $10,000)
Academic Editor(s) at Each University – Collaborating staff need release time at
various stages during the project to establish protocols for tailoring and mounting
materials, test and debate options for functionality of the web site, establish methods of
tailoring materials to disciplines, etc. This effort will be needed in spurts periodically
during the project, averaging out to 2 days per month for six months. This amount may
be distributed on the basis of need for funding and potential contribution.
(10 universities x 2 days per month for one person-equivalent at each university @ $240/
day x 6 months = $28,800).
Reporters – Research assistants to interview lecturers for formative assessment, to write
up lecturers’ evaluations of materials and strategies, and to gather from lecturers relevant
communication skills materials and descriptions of their use. Time estimate is based on
recent interview process: 0.5-hour planning/set up + 1-2 hours on site + 1.5-2.5 hours
(4 hours per interview x $30/hour x 100 interviews = $12,000.)
(in-kind: provision of interviews 100 by project staff and students = $12,000.)
Materials Development – Identifying, reviewing, and tailoring of communication skills
materials and teaching strategies by team members and associated staff. Assistance and
coordination in performing these tasks will be provided by the Production Manager and
(in-kind: 10 universities x 1-day per month for one person-equivalent at each university
@ $240/day x 24 months = $57,600; a pledge of $5000-$6000 by each university.)
Incentive to Participate -- Teaching relief for lecturers who contribute or evaluate
significant amounts of materials, to represent about 20% of above materials development
(2 lecturers for 1-day per month for two years @ $240/day approx. = $11,520)
Communication and Travel -- Costs of teleconferences and phone calls for ongoing
coordination will be absorbed by each member university. Four video conferences will
be conducted at crucial stages to review formats for materials and the web site. The team
will gather once to launch the project to synchronise efforts and once at about the project
mid-point to review initial feedback from lecturers and determine strategies for the
successful completion of the project. Travel by project coordinator to each collaborating
university once during the two years.
(in kind: telephone & teleconferences @ $20/month/uni x 10 uni’s x 24 months = $4800)
($300 per video conference x 4 conferences = $1200)
(10 universities x $1000 airfare/accom. per university X 2 trips = $20,000)
(coordinator travel, estimate based on trips just taken = $3000)
Web Site Development -- Web site design and programming and initial maintenance.
Prototype development paid for by collaborators.
(in-kind: $15,000 for interface design, conceptual design, graphic design, and prototype
programming; estimate as per current NCODE, CUTSD-funded staff development
project to develop a web site for sharing their consortium materials on distance learning.)
Maintenance, Year 1 launch, Year 2 evolution and redesign, and ongoing site
maintenance, during project, paid for by CUTSD.
(as per NCODE project estimate + 20% to facilitate extra functionality = $17,000)
Software paid for by CUTSD. (as described in software feasibility section = $4500)
Production Services – Formatting of edited and reviewed materials for web site pages
and for e-mailed handouts attached to web site; formatting of broadcast e-mails.
(1 hour per ‘page’ x 250 ‘pages’ x $55/hour = $13,750).
Total: $220,450 CUTSD Uni’s
Production manager & editor $109,540 $142,000+
Project launch coordination $10,000
Academic editors at each uni $28,800
Reporters/research assistance $12,000 $12,000
Materials development $ 0 $57,600
Teaching relief incentive $11,520
Communication & travel $24,200 $4,800
Web site development $21,500 $15,000
Production services + $13,750
TOTALS $231,310 $231,400+
10. Project Timeframe
Years 0 Year 1 Year 2 Years +
PROJECT TASKS AND SUBTASKS & Who pays: Uni’s / Shared / CUTSD ‘97-‘99 2000 2001 2002-
A. Establishing & Using Networks of ‘Early Adopter’ Lecturers
Identify and interview ‘early adopters’ Uni’s Shared
Hold workshops & receptions to build networks Uni’s Uni’s Uni’s
Garner reviews of collected materials & materials already tailored to disciplines Shared Shared Uni’s
Solicit additional materials from lecturers Uni’s Shared Shared Uni’s
Extend beyond ‘early adopters’ to reach ‘early majority’ lecturers & additional universities Uni’s
B. Materials & Strategies Collection & Tailoring for Disciplines
Contibute and catalogue existing materials and identify gaps Uni’s CUTSD
Establish formats to facilitate lecturer use Uni’s CUTSD
Search for additional materials (university- & commercially- produced) Shared Shared
Tailor materials to target disciplines, by academic editors with lecturer feedback, & mount on web Shared Shared Uni’s
Facilitate development of new materials (in-kind by universities) Uni’s Uni’s Uni’s Uni’s
C. Development of Web Site & Delivery Technologies
Assemble mock up of web site & do preliminary selection of software Uni’s
Version 1 of web site/database launch & use testing CUTSD
Develop & test e-mail delivery of tips & mounting of icons to stimulate use of web site CUTSD
Version 2 of web site/database launch & use testing CUTSD
Formative – interviews, surveys, focus groups, trial user feedback, … Uni’s Shared Shared Uni’s
Summative – use frequency, quality of student work, … CUTSD
Address additional, professional communication skills areas CUTSD Uni’s
Address disciplines beyond Commerce & universities beyond 10 collaborators Uni’s Shared Shared Uni’s
Use this ‘model’ of staff development for other graduate attributes areas Uni’s
11. Institutional Support
The support of the Vice Chancellors of the ten collaborating universities is indicated
on the attached proformas. The process of initiating and progressing this project at the
University of Wollongong, and complementary projects already under way at each of the
ten collaborating universities, has revealed strong support among staff development
officers, directors of staff development offices, top university administrators, and
innovative lecturers for the mission, strategy, and timeliness of this project.
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Training (1992). Higher Education: Achieving Quality. Canberra: Australian
Government Publishing Service.
Australian Association of Graduate Employers (1993). National Survey of Graduate
Bochner, D. (1994). ‘Students Helping Each Other’. In J. Pye & C. Rust (Eds.),
University Challenge. Oxford: Educational Methods Unit, Oxford Brookes University.
Bochner, D., Gibbs, G. and Wisker, G. (1995). Supporting More Students. Oxford:
Oxford Centre for Staff Development.
Business/Higher Education Round Table (1992). Education for Excellence.
Commissioned Report No. 2. Camberwell.
Candy, P. and Crebert, G. (1991). ‘Ivory Tower to Concrete Jungle’. Journal of Higher
Eduation, 62(5), 572-592.
Candy, P., Crebert, G. and O’Leary, J. (1994). Developing Lifelong Learners Through
Undergraduate Education. Report to the NBEET. Canberra: Australian Government
Daniel, J. (1997). ‘Why Universities Need Technology’, Strategies in Change, Vol.9,
Ewan, C. (1998). ‘Beyond the Grade: Assessing the Outcomes of Undergraduate
Education: The Wollongong Experience’. Canberra: Higher Education Council
Georghegan, W. (1998). Instructional Technology and the Mainstream: The Risks of
Success. In D. Oblinger and S. Rush (Eds.), The Future Compatable Campus, Bolton,
MA: Anker Publishing.
Hadwin, A. and Winne, P. (1996) ‘Study Strategies Have Meager Support: A Review
with Recommendations for Implementation’. Journal of Higher Education, 67(6), 1-17.
Harvey, L. (1993a). Employer Satisfaction: Interim Report. Coventry: Quality in Higher
Education, University of Warwick.
Harvey, L. (Ed.) (1993b). Employer Views of Higher Education. Proceedings of the
Second QHE 24-Hour Seminar. Birmingham: University of Central England.
Hattie, J., Biggs, J. and Purdie, N. (1996). ‘Effects of Learning Skills Interventions on
Student Learning: A Meta-Analysis’. Review of Educational Research, 66(2), 99-136.
Hay, I., Bochner, D., and Dungey, C. (1997). Making the Grade. Australia: Oxford
Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (1994). Chartered Accountants in the 21st
Karpin Commission (1995). Enterprising Nation: Renewing Australia’s Managers to
Meet the Challenge of the Asia-Pacific Century, Canberra: DEETYA.
Ingleton, C. and Wake, C. (1997). Literacy Matters. Adelaide: University of
Laurillard, D. (1993). Rethinking University Teaching: A Framework of Effective Use of
Educational Technology. London: Routledge.
Muldoon, R. (1998). Skills for the Future: Reflections of UNE Academics. Armidale:
Najar, R. (1999). Study Wise: Strategies for Academic Success. Adelaide: Flinders
Office of the Vice-Chancellor (1997). The University of Wollongong Strategic Plan:
Rifkin, W. with Martin, B. (1997). ‘Negotiating Expert Status: Who Gets Taken
Seriously’, Technology and Society (Spring), 30-39.
Rogers, E. (1995). Diffusion of Innovations, 4th Edition. New York: Free Press.
Schoen, D. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
The Association of Graduate Recruiters (1995). Skills for Graduates in the 21st Century.
Appendix 1: Collaboration Mechanism Details
Communication and coordination among team members at the collaborating universities
will be facilitated by :
• Teleconferences once each month.
• Coordinator visit (1x) at a critical phase for each university in gaining institutional or
• Two meetings of project team at launch and at about mid-point of project to evaluate
version one of web site and materials.
• Additional meetings planned for relevant conferences among those who can attend
(HERDSA, Australian Communication Skills Conf., Australian and New Zealand
Communication Association Conference, Teaching and Learning Forum, etc.).
• Establish lecturer networks across universities within disciplines potentially
employing existing linkages among colleagues.
• Support developer and lecturer networks with a listserv and web site.
• Tender among participating universities for technical and production work.
Assigning and articulating the efforts undertaken by the collaborating universities
will have to take into account their varying strengths and levels of internal funding
University of Wollongong – ongoing project for three years, moderate internal funding;
two core participating staff plus additional contributing staff; materials development and
lecturer interviewing are strengths; access to technical staff.
Curtin University of Technology – three-year project under way with internal funding,
two core participating staff, materials development and testing are strengths.
Flinders University – little internal funding but have materials to contribute and have
experience with flexible delivery for staff development; three core participating staff.
University of Queensland – healthy internal funding for developments at satellite
campus; two core participating staff with support staff assistance.
University of Adelaide – experience in area of graduate attributes and flexible delivery
for staff development; one core participating staff member.
RMIT – healthy internal funding with existing materials to contribute and ongoing
materials development; one core participating staff member.
University of New England – ongoing CUTSD-individual project on lecturer strategies
for developing graduate attributes; one core participating staff member plus the seed of a
lecturer special interest group.
Queensland University of Technology – interested in contributing materials and testing;
one core participating staff member with access to technical staff.
Swinburne University of Technology – interested in materials development and testing;
one core participating staff member and one representative of the student union.
University of Western Australia – ongoing efforts in materials development; one core
participating staff member with access to technical staff.
Each core collaboratoring staff member has access to additional lecturers who are
willing to contribute or test materials and teaching strategies.
The collaborating universities were selected by the team leaders at the University
of Wollongong in part for their reputations in relevant fields of staff development and in
part to give geographic distribution. We have ended up with two collaborating
universities in each of Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Brisbane with one university each
in country NSW and the Sydney area. Other universities will be included in this project
as they express interest.
Appendix 2: Results of Audit of Subject Outlines
[charts are to be pasted in below]
Appendix 3: Sample Modular Materials
‘Final Exam Questions on Day One’
1 Basic Idea: On Day 1 of session, ask students in succession:
(a) what career do you wish to have in 7 years?
(b) what communication skills would you need in doing that job?
(c) if this subject gave you those skills, what should be on the final exam?
1. Setting: Business Communication subject; undergraduate
1st year, 2nd year, and 3rd year students, mixed Commerce, Psych., Health
60/40 women/men; 30/70 International/local; 100 students; 2-hour lecture
2. Resources: 3 overheads attached; e-mail them?
Lesson plan for 2 hours of Day 1 activities is attached; e-mail it?
Activity plans for whole session are available -- http://uow.edu.au/
3. Tips for assessing: collect responses in writing and get other information you want
about students – name, major, year, first language, tutorial, … ;
Employ versions of ‘good’ questions on actual final exam.
4. Outcomes: students are intrigued and puzzled; like opportunity to write exam questions,
but few questions offered are compelling; it opens the dialogue on the construction of a
subject and its assessment.
5. Contact: Will_Rifkin@uow.edu.au; Jane_Smith@uwe.edu.au.
‘Learning from Project Group Problems’
1. Basic Idea: Give a percentage of project marks for student reflections on –
(a) how their group worked,
(b) what they would do differently in the future, and
(c) what class concepts related to collaborative processes seem clearer now.
2. Setting: Business Ethics and Law subject. MBA students
20/80 women/men; 20/80 International/local; 30 students; 3-hour weekly class
3. Resources: examples of project guidelines and evaluation sheets are attached;
e-mail them? Sample student write ups are available – http://uow.edu.au/
4. Tips for assessing: we assigned 10% of credit for project to the group process report.
5. Outcomes: reminds students to apply class concepts to help their group to work; when
trouble arose, students found comfort in documenting events for lecturer and earning
points, though actual analysis of those events is often weak.
6. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; Will_Rifkin@uow.edu.au.
Threads running through modularised materials in each area will address critical thinking, negotiation, and cross-cultural
A ‘developmental approach’ here means addressing communication skills development systematically, in a way that
increases with sophistication, from entry through graduation in an undergraduate or postgraduate course.
The results of this audit of subject outlines are charted, in Appendix 2 of this proposal, aggregated by faculty. Roughly
60% of outlines (676 outlines analysed) were collected for session 1, 1997. Assessment tasks for each subject were listed
and classified in terms of which of five communication skills areas, delineated by the interdisciplinary project team, were
These lecturers were identifed by reputation, awards, and grants or grant proposals. Interviews lasted one to two hours
each. They focussed on innovative assessment strategies employed by the lecturers but also explored where each lecturer
gets new ideas to improve her or his teaching.
See, for example, Muldoon’s forthcoming report on a CUTSD-individual project on how lecturers at UNE address
graduate attributes and Curtin University’s projects, Communication-in-Context and Good Practice in Teaching and
Learning, which produced print and web-mounted case studies of how lecturers in different disciplines develop students’
RMIT has this year implemented a University-wide orientation program whereby all first year students, TAFE and Higher
Education, receive CD-ROM and print-based tertiary literacy and information literacy materials designed to be
contextualised into coursework. This project was initiated at the level of the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Teaching and Learning.
Similarly, RMIT’s Faculty of Education, Language and Community Services, as a Strategic Investment Fund Project, has
produced a package of flexible, multi-purpose, multi-media communication skills teaching modules for sale to industry.
For example, participating staff at Flinders University have in print groupwork materials ready to adapt (Bochner, Gibbs,
and Wisker, 1995; Bochner, 1994; Hay, Bochner, and Dungey, 1997; and Najar, 1999).
The two universities, Adelaide and Flinders, participated in the CAUT-funded SATURN project in which modules that
addressed postgraduate research supervision were developed and trialed in 1997.
An example of such international sharing of disciplinary materials is the super-epi network for lecturers in epidemiology,
which originates from the University of Pittsburgh. It uses a peer review system, includes case descriptions of use of
materials, generates a wide range of materials, and incorporates e-mail distribution.
This estimate is based on indications of how many lecturers each project team member says she or he can get to test
Through testing, we are establishing requirements for web site functionality, such as a minimum number of ‘clicks’ to get
a basic overview of a ‘module’ plus the need for links to available resources on the web and in each campus library. The
web site will be made to accommodate user feedback, much like the book reviews that one can find on Amazon.com and
Curtin Business School is piloting one such approach, a Professional Skills Portfolio, to assess, document, and showcase
students’ professional skills development over the three-year undergraduate program.