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Pilbara nursing students beamed in to Perth lectures

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Nursing students in the Pilbara are moving a step closer to increasing their qualifications through “virtual” attendance at Curtin University’s Bentley Campus.

In a new initiative for Curtin, students in the Enrolled Nurse to Registered Nurse Stream in Port Hedland have been using high-end video technology to take part in lectures, tutorials and group learning exercises being conducted more than 1600 kilometres away in Perth as part of a two-year pilot project.

The innovative, “virtual classroom” project has been made possible by $692,000 in funding from the WA Government’s Royalties for Regions Program, through the Pilbara Development Commission’s Pilbara Education Partnership.

“This initiative within our BSc Nursing degree is the perfect illustration of the Curtin Converged concept, which aims to transform the traditional notion of the classroom, free from geographical bounds,” Curtin Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education Professor Jill Downie said.

“Until now Pilbara-based students could only participate as external students.

“Use of video conference and other online learning technologies in a collaborative learning environment means they can now participate in real-time, in-class activities with their fellow students in Perth.

“The benefit of this additional support and interaction creates an ‘on-campus’ learning experience not previously available to regional and remote students.”

A learning centre at the Pilbara Institute – the region’s TAFE – has been refurbished and equipped with video conferencing facilities with the Royalties for Regions funding, which will also be used to undertake an evaluation of the project in 2014.

The first learning session under the new “distributed” model was conducted successfully in the past fortnight and there are plans to increase student numbers for the course next year.

“This is the first time Curtin has used this model and I’m delighted by the positive reception so far,” Professor Downie said.

“Our goal is to make a Curtin education available to any student regardless of their geographic location.

“Innovations in this nursing course, plus our first Massive Open Online Course in astronomy, are evidence of Curtin’s commitment to being a recognised international leader in research and education.”

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