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Curtin University
Transforming Learning at Curtin

Curtin Online Architecture Team recognised in National Learning Excellence Award

25 June 2014

Curtin University has won the national 2014 NOVA Awards for Online Learning Excellence for its Architecture Studio, a design-based workshop created using collaboration and gaming technologies including Minecraft, Ning and Collaborate.

Winners of the biennial awards, sponsored by Open Universities Australia, were announced at the OUA Conference in Melbourne in May, with Online Academic Programs Coordinator Julie Brunner accepting the award on behalf of the School of Built Environment and her project colleagues Natalie Beard and Beth Strauss.

The NOVA is awarded based on the unit design principles of authentic, adaptive, personalised, collaborative and supported learning.

Curtin’s Bachelor of Applied Science (Architecture) is the first to be offered fully online by an Australian university. The Studio unit (BAS110 Architecture and Interior Architecture) is the cornerstone of its success.

Vice Chancellor Debra Terry said the online Architecture studio was a perfect illustration of Curtin’s plans to offer its high quality award courses to students anywhere in the world without compromising content or learning outcomes.

Architecture leads Curtin’s existing suite of more than 50 online courses.

Curtin is redesigning all its high demand courses for global distribution using a mix of face-to-face  high end video conferencing, challenge based gaming technology, and open online resources as well as on campus opportunities.

As part of the University’s plans to deliver Learning for Tomorrow, Curtin will also unbundle and repackage its award degree courses allowing learners to pick and mix units from multiple disciplines to design their own qualification.

Julie Brunner said the design studio replicated authentic collaborative learning in an online environment. “Architecture is collaborative in nature and students need to work in teams. In the internal, face-to-face learning environment, a discrete activity is conducted in the first year design studio unit to bring students together, so they learn to collaborate successfully.

“We replicated this authentic learning in the online environment, using the Minecraft gaming technology. It creates a sense of community with peers, sets expectations for future units and demonstrates the importance of learning from peers with the guidance of tutors.” 

Julie said Minecraft enables students to design constructions in 3-D using a system of textured cubes in a multi-player mode using player-hosted servers. It allows students to achieve common goals or resolution of a problem-based project.

“Using this gaming technology we aim to develop students’ higher order cognitive abilities such as problem-solving, thinking strategically, data gathering, self-motivation and critical thinking,” she said. “The Architecture studio unit also uses a number of other technologies to enable the learning of the methodologies associated with design-based learning, so necessary in the field of Architecture.”