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Changing university learning and teaching from the outside in : the role of discussion forums in supporting student leadership in the STEPS external preparatory program
chapterposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Geoffrey DanaherGeoffrey Danaher, Jenny McDougallJenny McDougall, Phillipa SturgessPhillipa Sturgess, Violeta TodorovicVioleta Todorovic
The STEPS preparatory program within Central Queensland University (CQU) has, since 1986, been assisting interrupted adult learners from non-traditional backgrounds to access university studies. The program has aimed at instilling academic skills and building the resilience and confidence of its students so that they can go on to complete successfully undergraduate programs within the university. These students have played a significant part in changing learning and teaching practices at CQU, demonstrating that the life experiences and values of adult learners can play an important role in transforming their educational and career outcomes. Since 2006, STEPS has supplemented its internal classes on the Central Queensland campuses with an external program that has served over 300 students. Those students who choose to study STEPS in the external mode may be considered on ‘the outside’ in terms of both geographical location and academic experience. External study therefore has particular implications for the STEPS program, given that ongoing help and pastoral care from teachers and peers within a supportive background have been fundamental in creating a distinctive ethos within the on-campus programs, assisting students in cultivating the intellectual qualities, technological know-how and positive attitudes necessary for university. This chapter explores the role played by online discussion forums within the external program in facilitating a supportive environment for such learners and cultivating leadership roles among the students. Using discourse analysis and drawing on Berge’s (1995) model of leadership roles, it reports on a study of students’ contributions to the program’s online discussion boards as a means of understanding the significance of these engagements to their learning journeys.