Issue 32, July - December 2005

World-beating fire resource nets award

Winners of the ASCILITE Award

Winners of the ASCILITE Award: From left: Lesley Instone (CDU), Helen Rysavy (CDU) Penny Wurm (TS–CRC) and Kate Parr (Bushfire CRC/CSIRO)

UNIVERSITY students and Charles Darwin University’s Teaching and Learning experts joined forces with research partners in the Tropical Savannas Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), Bushfire CRC and CSIRO to develop a world-beating online educational resource, drawing on the latest fire research.

They have won a national award for "exemplary use of electronic technologies in teaching and learning in higher education."

The 'Fire Ecology & Management in Northern Australia' teaching and learning material has won a prize in the coveted 2005 National ASCILITE Award for Educational Design & Technology in Tertiary Education, announced in Brisbane in early December.

The collaboration has produced an online teaching resource on fire ecology and management for use as part of several graduate programs, with all the material tailored for the North’s unique conditions.

"This network of collaborators ensured the quality of the materials produced," CDU Educational Designer, Dr Lesley Instone said.

"It gives graduate students 'real world' problems and resources. They can tackle challenges faced annually in the Top End, and listen to interviews with fire fighters, researchers, land owners and other professionals actually working in the field today," said Lesley.

However, the fire unit has a whole-of-northern-Australia focus, bringing together case studies, research and references that bridge the Kimberley, Top End and northern Queensland.

“Fire management in the north is a culturally, ecologically and politically complex issue. Our graduates have to understand far more complex political issues than those down south,” said co-project leader Dr Penny Wurm, from the TS–CRC. The unit will form part of a Bachelor degree in Science or Environmental Science.

“These graduates work in situations where an understanding of the impact of fire on landscapes and the complex policy issues involved is crucial,” Penny explained.

“They need to work cooperatively with managers of adjacent lands and appreciate that different groups can have diverse fire management objectives,” she said.

While the new unit is fully integrated it can also be used as a set of resources. For example, a lecturer may just want some north Australian case studies, or to concentrate on fire science—the unit is set up so they can select the materials they wish.

The entry was sent to an international panel of eight judges from USA, UK, Australia, NZ and the Netherlands, who judged it an outstanding entry among the finalists. The entry won for its appropriateness to target audience, its appropriate and effective learning design, creativity, significant impact on teaching practice, and its overall quality.