Parkville Station

FlexAp rolls on: harnessing virtual infrastructure discussion forum

The Flexible Academic Programming (FlexAp) project is rolling on, with the “harnessing virtual infrastructure” workstream holding a discussion forum aimed “to initiate a broader dialogue with staff and students about technology in teaching and learning at the University”, advertised to staff.

The forum was hosted by Gregor Kennedy, the University’s Pro Vice Chancellor (Educational Innovation), who is in charge of both the wider FlexAp project but also the virtual infrastructure workstream that was the focus of the event.

The forum included a presentation of the preliminary results of staff “using technology in learning at teaching” survey — which revealed staff used the LMS a lot, loved YouTube, and otherwise technology use varied a lot. Probably not anything that’s especially surprising to your average class-attendin’ undergraduate student.

Following up on that, University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Education (Academic Affairs) Officer Paul Sakkal presented results from the joint UMSU and Chancellery survey of students about how they used technology in their studies.

Four students were invited to form a panel, and were grilled by the university staff present at the meeting to get a sense for how they used technology, how they felt about the University’s technology offering, and what they might like to see in the future.

Discussion in this section focused substantially on the use of Facebook as a means to communicate — the “discussion group” functionality built in to the LMS was roundly panned, and academics discussed the possibility of creating Facebook groups for their subjects.

The forum was wrapped up by a presentation by Deborah Jones, from the University’s Learning Environments unit, who walked attendees through a brief survey of the sorts of technologies used at other universities.

FlexAp, which has been derided by some student representatives while cautiously supported by others, is a University-run project aimed to consider the future of the University’s teaching methods.

It was contested territory—although not as contested as we might have hoped—in last week’s student elections. While some tickets were steadfast in total opposition to the changes associated with FlexAp, a lack of detail made it difficult for most candidates to say whether they were “for” or “against” it.

UMSU’s Education department is current running a campaign called Keep the Quality relating to the issues considered by FlexAp.

FlexAp’s mission statement is “to consider the challenges the University faces in designing and delivering the highest quality teaching and learning experiences for both staff and students in the 21st century”, and it is divided into eight workstreams, of which “harnessing virtual infrastructure” is one. As the name suggests, the workstream addresses questions about how technology should be used by the University in learning.

Do you have an opinion on the Uni’s use of technology, or what it should be? Want an opportunity to put forward an idea while having a bit of a rant about lecture capture? Email us at

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