The two core poultry units offered at the University of New England (UNE), PLTY 300/500 and PLTY 301/501, will be going completely online from the second semester of 2008.

The two units were created with funding from the Poultry CRC in 2005 and are very popular with the local industry as well as poultry producers overseas. Enrolment into the units had, however, been low due to the nature of delivery.

“Prior to this year, students were required to attend a mandatory 4-day residential school,” explained UNE’s Dr Paul Iji. “This did not go well with candidates employed in the industry and those based overseas, as they could not get time off to attend the residential school. This difficulty was communicated to the Poultry CRC, which stepped in to help again.”

An application for further funding was submitted to the Poultry CRC in 2007, enabling an external education expert, Dr Rob Sims, to be contracted to work with the two Coordinators, Dr Lene L. Mikkelsen (for PLTY 300/500) and Dr Paul A. Iji (for PLTY 301/501), to develop the units for complete online delivery. These three, along with UNE staff that teach into the units, worked with the Teaching and Learning Centre (TLC) to re-develop the units into a structure that will enable them to be delivered entirely online.

Dr Sims used some of the most modern techniques in education to keep up student interest. The first unit to be re-developed, PLTY 301/501, now consists of seven modules, to be run over a semester. Modules are of unequal length; while some can be completed within a week, others require activity spread over 2-3 weeks. Students will interact with their peers and with a staff member, acting as a moderator.

“The long-term plan is to develop a short course on poultry production, using the present units as backbone,” said Dr Iji. “The Australian industry had previously asked for such a course, to serve as a refresher for those already working in the industry, or those moving into the industry, with other experiences.”

“The impact of the online experience will be assessed by Dr Sims and the team, but so far the experience has been good. We have more enrolments this year than in previous year. Online discussion was initially slow but picked up from the third week of the semester. We believe that the momentum will be sustained and there will be improvement with each session.”

For more information, contact UNE’s Dr. Paul Iji on (02) 6773 2082 or email piji@une.edu.au