New model to transform the Avondale experience; students to benefit

Students at the Lake Macquarie campus.

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Changes to the way students experience life at Avondale University are not just the latest markers but milestones on the university’s road map for sustainable transformation.

The announcement today of the Avondale Model will bring enhanced flexibility, academic excellence, affordability and fun to the university. “It’s a personalised approach for a new generation of students looking for an outstanding education with strong employment outcomes,” said Avondale vice-chancellor Professor Kevin Petrie, “and it’s our response to the significant challenges in higher education post-COVID.”

The model features:

  • Digitally enhanced study options that will see all courses offered in flexible face-to-face and online modes over a six-semester academic year;
  • Refreshed, digitally enabled learning spaces;
  • A new scholarship that will reduce tuition costs for eligible students beginning an undergraduate degree in business;
  • The return of directors in the men’s and women’s residences on the Lake Macquarie campus;
  • A new scholarship that will give eligible students fully-subsidised accommodation in the residences;
  • An expanded wellbeing program that builds student resilience through experiential learning; and
  • New-look plant-based meal options for students and members of the community.

The course and learning space renewal comes from a consultative collaboration with staff members and students in 2021.

The student engagement strategy addresses aspects of the student experience identified through the consultative collaboration. It is funded by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific in collaboration with Avondale University Partnerships Alliance, a company that raises money for Avondale.

“All of us—council members, administrators, academics and professional staff—want to see a transformation of the Avondale experience,” said Professor Petrie, “but it will be a transformation that maintains a targeted approach to our course and student life offerings.”

Renewal of course offerings and learning spaces

Building on outstanding results in the 2021 Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching survey about student experience, Avondale will draw on the expertise of its staff members and the lessons of COVID-19 to embed digitally enhanced learning across all courses. In-person, on-campus courses will continue, along with fully online and hybrid learning. The objectives? To make studying at Avondale accessible to even more students and to give existing students more flexibility with their studies.

The renewal begins with a digital transformation that will enable Avondale to break study units down into smaller modules. “We’ll bring teams together to work with lecturers and course convenors to develop quality digital learning resources to enhance the quality of face-to-face and fully online learning,” said Professor Kerri-Lee Krause, who initiated the renewal when she began her role as provost and senior deputy vice-chancellor this past year. “We know students learn more effectively in more compact blocks.”

Developing the modules will lead to the introduction of shorter semesters with fewer units in each— the plan is to implement a six-semester academic year with two units per semester by 2025. According to Professor Krause, this will give students a greater sense of motivation and momentum. “The evidence shows that greater focus on learning in more compact blocks contributes to stronger student outcomes, improved retention and enhanced student satisfaction.” She expects the focus on high-quality, modularised learning, personalised support and strong employment outcomes will attract more students. “This flexibility means we’ll be delivering fit-for-purpose learning to meet student and industry needs,” she added.

Supporting the course renewal in business is a scholarship that will reduce tuition costs by A$600 for every study unit. The scholarship is for new full-time students who begin a Bachelor of Business in 2023 and is available for each of the three years of the course. A limited number will be offered on the basis of merit.

Revitalisation of on-campus student experience

A deep understanding of how students learn best has informed plans for the redevelopment of learning spaces to encourage collaborative learning. In addition, a new residential scholarship, the expansion of a wellbeing program and a “significant” investment in the delivery of food services will “revitalise the experience for students on our Lake Macquarie campus,” said Professor Petrie.

The scholarship will offer a limited number of students fully subsidised accommodation in the residences for 18 months, beginning in 2023. First-year students who enrol full-time in an Avondale degree course will be eligible to apply.

All first-year students in the residences in 2023 will have the opportunity to participate in an expansion of a wellbeing program. The Avondale Character Experience Laboratory develops character through wholistic experiential learning. Evidence from a trial of the program this year shows significant improvement in “life satisfaction” scores reported by students. “The concept of living and learning environments has gained momentum over the past few years,” said Professor Petrie. “The value-add for residential students is a powerful motivator, so we’re keen to see whether rolling this program out to a wider range of students will work.”

A new approach to catering from an external contractor will give students more flexible meal packages and access to high-quality plant-based food aligned with Avondale’s emphasis on health. It will also further open the Lake Macquarie campus to members of the community.

The Avondale Model is a new way to experience Avondale “and one that strengthens our core,” said Professor Petrie. “Vibrant, face-to-face student experiences, both on campus and in digitally-enhanced environments, are an opportunity for even greater transformation.”

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