Abstract: Western Australia's Peel region, centred upon the town of Mandurah 70 km south of Perth, is gaining a branch campus based upon Peel Regional Campus of TAFE in collaboration with Murdoch University. This paper illustrates a holistic, modular approach to an open and flexible delivery system under circumstances conducive to strong links with the regional community. Funded by NPRF 96, the project  spans all aspects of infrastructure and services, including private microwave, Internet access, video conferencing, library infrastructure and open learning centre, design and support services for "online courses", and pilot units. Our case study suggests that in addition to functions in open and flexible delivery, information technology can be made to play a major role in catalysing the regional collaboration and participation which are essential for venturing into small scale branch campuses.
The population of the Peel Region is about 50,000, not large enough to justify a conventional university campus development. Furthermore, Murdoch University had planned a full commitment of our allocation of the Federal Government's branch campus funding, to the Rockingham  site, and therefore funds were not available for the inclusion of a Mandurah development. In these circumstances the University submitted the proposal "Innovative delivery methods for Murdoch University's South West Campuses" for consideration under the Federal Government's National Priority Reserve Fund 1996. The proposal (Atkinson and Sleep, 1996 ), prepared under the direction of Deputy Vice-Chancellor Jeff Gawthorne, gave a plan consistent with some important features of the context:
... the element of support for community access to the Internet would not be funded as this falls within the role of Open Net and other Internet access providers rather than the University.The question of "community access", that is Internet access and services provided to persons other than University staff and students, was and still is a point of contention. One area of concern is no longer relevant, because Open Net  has withdrawn from its role as an access provider. However, Internet access and services is a core aspect of plans for community services, described below.
|Module name and Manager||$||%|
|A.||Network infrastructure - Computing and Network Services||277,000||24.3%|
|B.||Internet access - Academic Services Unit and partners||29,000||2.5%|
|C.||Video conferencing - ASU||69,000||6.1%|
|D.||Network information services - Library||209,000||18.3%|
|E.||Open Learning Centre, Mandurah Campus - Library||167,000||14.6%|
|F.||Skills for innovative delivery - ASU||49,000||4.3%|
|G.||Production facilities, innovative delivery materials - ASU||49,000||4.3%|
|H.||Online units - pilots by several Schools, Library and ASU||257,000||22.6%|
|I.||Project administration and external evaluation||34,000||3.0%|
|Total all modules||$1,140,000||100.0%|
The reasons for adopting a modular design, and the anticipated advantages, are:
Selected units will demonstrate "innovativeness", assessed not simply by the intrinsic merit of any specific "tool" such a web publishing or computer conferencing, but by creative combinations of tools and techniques to achieve effective and economical teaching and learning outcomes in the context of a branch campus committed to alternative delivery [ie, face to face classes not available owing to small size and other factors].Module A, "Network infrastructure" provides a set of 2 Mb/s private microwave channels to carry PABX traffic, including video conferencing traffic, and ethernet data traffic, via an intermediate repeater station on the Darling Scarp. Module A's budget is integrated with expenditure on private microwave to the Rockingham site . Local area network services are budgeted via other modules. Module B, "Internet access" is concerned primarily with providing and promoting modem access , whilst on campus access is provided by the module "Open Learning Centre". We consider that it is highly important to provide both forms of access, because they complement each other, and that modem users should have a local telephone number for their connections.
"Video conferencing" in Module C will utilise an ISDN private link between existing PictureTel installations at Peel Regional Campus and at Murdoch. This module also gives scope for experimental trials with Internet based or "desktop" video conferencing, as we envisage that the main role for this medium will be small group tutorials, with little or no use for traditional lecture delivery . This view is based upon expectations about small class sizes, knowledge about academic staff preferences and workloads gained during preliminary planning, and feedback from students.
Figure 1: Peel Regional Campus, Mandurah. View of main building showing (top centre)
its "communications tower", awaiting the arrival of private microwave.
Modules A, B and C are concerned with infrastructure for services. Roles in delivery of end user services for teaching and learning are contained in other modules, beginning with the Library's two modules D and E. "Network information services" intends to provide a higher level of Library resources for student, TAFE and community users, by using network based resources, because an adequate, traditional stock of books and periodicals would take many years and high expenditure to develop at the Mandurah Campus. It contains the "acquisitions" aspect of Library services. The "Open Learning Centre" Module E contains the "reader services" aspect, which is consistent with a trend towards greater involvement of libraries in information technologies and associated services, such as user training in IT skills, user support and facilities management. Module E takes this trend a little further, as it is concerned also with students acquiring study skills to match more autonomous styles of learning, compared with learning via traditional face to face teaching.
In our context, this trend has been accelerated by the recent decision to restructure the Academic Services Unit into a Centre for Teaching and Learning which is to be a part of the Murdoch University Library .
Modules F "Skills for innovative delivery" is concerned with staff development activities to promote adoption of innovative delivery and open and flexible learning. In Module G "Production facilities, innovative delivery materials" we are developing capabilities and infrastructure such as web servers , listservers , image and video clip production , instructional design and consulting services. However, much of the production work, such as writing web pages for a unit, or planning for tutorials conducted via an email listserver, and many other activities will have to be undertaken by individual unit coordinators or unit teams comprising several academics. Thus staff development promoting a high degree of "do it yourself" work is critically important, because a fully comprehensive production service is not warranted in our context.
For Module H "Online units - pilots by schools" , a competitive application process similar to CAUT grants was conducted under the direction of the Chair of Academic Council and PVC (Academic), Liz Harman. We used a wide ranging specification of an "online unit", to permit Unit Coordinators to select the most appropriate set of innovative delivery "tools" to match circumstances for each particular unit. Work on these grants continues through 1997, intending to produce unit materials and techniques for a variety of circumstances, not confined specifically to the Mandurah campus. This feature is important because students who conduct part or all of their study without traditional face to face classes can benefit from a sense of integration with other students. Integration is facilitated by promoting wider implementation of innovative delivery, for example if similar use of email and web pages is adopted widely by main campus students who still attend conventional, scheduled classes.
Figure 2: Peel regional Campus has well designed, spacious computer laboratories
for multipurpose student and community use, including Murdoch student users.
The project envisages information technology as having a major role in catalysing regional collaboration and participation. Providing services such as private microwave transport, Internet gateway, local area network, modem pool and PABX connections is an obvious, essential contribution towards Murdoch's relationship with South Metropolitan College of TAFE and its Peel Regional Campus. Their staff and students become users. If we extend further and join plans for a "tripartite" public library conducted jointly by local government, TAFE and Murdoch University, or further and allow schools sector access, we will gather in many more users. However, being a provider of IT based services in a community oriented manner raises some uncertainties over use of Internet access and services by "non-university" persons. As noted earlier, we encountered some apprehension from DEETYA over community use of our planned IT infrastructure.
During AARNet's relatively short lifetime, we seem to have become accustomed to the idea that Internet access in any form via universities is only for university staff and students . Other sectors should look elsewhere. Nevertheless, in the context of branch campuses in small regional communities, it would be a substantial community benefit if universities were more proactive in resource sharing. For example, if we have network capacity and can cost share at prices lower than Telstra Internet, should we be inhibited about providing services for TAFE staff and students, or network services to a tripartite public library, or gateway services for local schools, or even services for locally based private providers of Internet services?
Whilst the principal purpose for this project is to provide innovative delivery solutions for Murdoch University students in the Mandurah region, it is important for community benefit reasons that we press forward in resolving questions of this kind about community links and university based information technologies.
South Metropolitan College of TAFE
Atkinson, R. and Sleep, S. (1996). Innovative delivery methods for Murdoch University's South West Campuses. National Priority Reserve Fund 1996 proposal.
Ipswich City, Queensland.
Community and local government examples
PARNet: Perth Academic and Regional Network.
Campus Review (1996). Virtual universities better than new campuses, says Murdoch VC. April 11.
Atkinson, R. and Brown, A. (1997). Online units: What infrastructure services are required? In Pospisil, R. and Willcoxson, L. (Eds), Learning Through Teaching, p6-11. Proceedings 6th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, Murdoch University, Feb 1997.
Online units and distance education
Module H - pilots by Schools
South West Campus Communications
ASU to become the Centre for Teaching and Learning, in the University Library
Multimedia, the web and teaching
Listservers in teaching
Image and video clip production
AVCC: Policy on Allowed Access to the Internet via AARNet Members, 11 Oct 1995
|Please cite as: Atkinson, R. (1997). Information technology and small branch campuses: A case study in Mandurah, WA. Proceedings, CAUSE in Australasia '97, Melbourne, 13-16 April, 1997, pp9-16. http://www.roger-atkinson.id.au/pubs/confs/cause97-atkinson.html
Author: Roger Atkinson, Senior Lecturer in Educational Technology