Monash medical dispensing wins teaching and learning excellence award

Monash University – MyDispense. A philanthropic web application that provides pharmacy students with virtual experience in the dispensary, MyDispense has been adopted by more than 200 universities and colleges worldwide, from the US to Malaysia to Zambia. Developed by Monash University, the award-winning MyDispense simulation includes an inventory of more than 1000 drugs along with virtual health professionals and patient profiles with various combinations of illnesses.

“Throw all those into the mix and you can create exercises, cases, scenarios for students to complete and then provide immediate feedback,” says MyDispense project manager Keith Sewell. “We need to be able to train students to recognise where there are issues. A patient might have a condition for which they are prescribed a drug, but something in their record might indicate the prescribed drug wouldn’t do them any good or might even do them harm because of another pre-existing condition.”

With MyDispense, students can practice dispensing drugs for a minimal cost and without risking the health of real patients. Universities which adopt MyDispense are provided with a finished product which is relatively simple to implement and which is hosted by Monash. “Medication error is a serious issue in healthcare,” Sewell adds. “There are some scary statistics on adverse effects and pharmacists are very much in that front line of medicine safety.”

MyDispense is primarily offered in English, but there are German, French and Swedish versions and Sewell says Monash is always willing to work with a local partner to translate the software. He and his colleagues constantly back up the site and keep the drug inventory up to date in collaboration with the user-base.

“We’ve built MyDispense to a fairly low technical specification,” he says. “We don’t use three-dimensional game engines and all the really fancy new technology you might see in other simulations. The environment itself, the dispensary or the hospital, is secondary to what we call psychological fidelity – the thinking you need to do to be a pharmacist.”

The relative simplicity of the program is intended to keep it as accessible as possible for users in a wide range of nations. “Someone in New York City can use it, but typically someone in Harare or Lusaka can use it as well,” Sewell says. “They might be on a lower specification PC; their bandwidth might not be as good, but they can still use MyDispense.”

Partnerships have arisen with the universities using MyDispense and there’s a reputational benefit for Monash but the app is essentially a philanthropic exercise; there’s no profit motive for Monash. “Sometimes we have to convince partner institutions that it’s free and always will be free, and there’s no catch,” Sewell says.

MyDispense in the winner of the Teaching and Learning Excellence award.

La Trobe University

Gone Bush field trip

Students learn about life on the land, the Aboriginal experience, and bush mythology in the four-day immersive learning Gone Bush field trip, part of a semester long elective history course. Course designer Jennifer Jones says students from various disciplines come from La Trobe campuses around Victoria, but primarily from Melbourne, to La Trobe’s Albury-Wodonga campus on Victoria-NSW border. Over four days they travel to the Man from Snowy River bush festival in the high country at Corryong, to Ned Kelly’s one-time stamping ground around Beechworth and to the historic Bonegilla migrant camp where migrants were received and trained in the post-WWII era.

Jones conferred with Aboriginal elders on the elements of the field trip that touch on the Aboriginal experience, which includes a visit to the rock art of Mudgegonga. A First Nations representative often accompanies the participants on the field trip.

“Contemporary students might have learned Banjo Patterson poems in their primary-school years but they don’t necessarily understand the significant role the bush has played,” Jones says. “We’ve been very urban for a long time, but it’s not necessarily part of our self-identity.”

Gone Bush students undertake a self-directed learning task on the field trip: considering their own position in Australia’s society and how that might connect with the complex rural life they see. “They follow their line of interest and students really take that to heart,” Jones says, adding they often produce illuminating work.

University of Queensland

Urban Design Challenge

Combining Lego blocks fun with multi-disciplinary teamwork, onsite scenarios and the spice of competition, the University of Queensland’s five-day Urban Design Challenge is an intensive “learning-by-doing” program, focused on designing neighbourhoods with sustainability in mind.

“For the last few years we have concentrated on precinct-scale developments, up to 5,000 people, 20-40 hectares, because it’s difficult scale for cities to innovate at,” says Challenge developer and University of Queensland water sustainability expert Steven Kenway.

The immersive program has evolved to feature much more digitisation, and it has become far more industry-driven, he says, featuring multi-disciplinary teamwork, communication and vision development.

Participants are taken to various sites to consider urban problems, such as erosion or a bikeway subsiding post-flood, or hospital grounds with no water absorption, and solutions, such as a water catchment constructed on a bend of a river to retain floodwater that can then be used to irrigate sports-grounds.

Mostly masters’ students, the Challenge participants then design and model sustainable neighbourhoods that incorporate water and energy sustainability, amenity, and the best of urban planning. Architecture, engineering and business students learn from specialists and industry professionals, and work together to come up with innovative designs, which they then present to fellow participants and the Challenge judges to receive rapid feedback, a suite of little prizes and – most importantly – recognition from their peers and educators.

They build the precincts in Lego blocks first, then digitise the designs and then present to their peers and the judges. “We’ve deliberately tried to make it fun and creative,” Kenway says.

Macquarie University

iLearn Insights

A tool that assists academics to monitor their students’ on-line progress, iLearn Insights proved invaluable during the pandemic, and it is still much-used. Developed by Macquarie University senior learning analytics advisor Shamim Joarder, and launched in 2018, the program gives academics an understanding of which students might be struggling, which have failed to take part in forums or access study resources and which might not be logging on at all.

Joarder says he developed the program in full consultation with academics and it can be used for every subject, from law to medicine, reducing the administration workload academics routinely shoulder. “I didn’t ask them to change their process,” he says. “Instead, I embedded their process into iLearn Insights and that was the biggest success.” In the first session of 2022, iLearn was used by 1,581 academics teaching 1,019 units, Joarder says.

He included a bulk emailing function in the program, so academics can send personalised emails to all their students, or certain students who are not logging on to give them a nudge to continue with their studies, and this option can be set to send the emails on a schedule.

Joarder has now developed a similar program, but for students, called MyLearn, which allows them to monitor their own progress in comparison with their fellow students; to determine, for instance, whether their mark for an assignment was below or above average that of their classmates.

RMIT University

An innovative Pedagogy for Teaching in a Disruptive Global Industry

A worldwide industry employing more than 60 million people globally, the fashion industry is beset with problems: the demand for unsustainable fast fashion has butted up against an increasing desire for sustainable products, and the pandemic rattled street retailers and led to a surge in online shopping.

To better prepare fashion students for an uncertain world, RMIT in 2020 introduced a bachelor of fashion (enterprise) degree, designed with substantial input from leading industry figures, alumni and the Australian Fashion Council.

RMIT lecturer Carolina Quintero Rodriguez says students appreciate the intensive industry focus of the course, and many are offered positions in the industry even before they graduate. “We include the industry in everything that we do,” she says. “Most of our courses are based on industry-partnered learning; work integrated and career development learning.”

Industry leaders are invited to address students, and students respond to briefs provided by fashion industry houses and retailers, Quintero Rodriguez says. One industry-partnered project is with Caprice Australia, a wholesaler for mass market retailers including Big W, Target and Kmart. Students learn the importance of teamwork, networking and presentation skills when they have to fulfill a brief and present to the industry.

The first year of the course gives students a taste of different areas of the industry, including entrepreneurship and consumer insights, Quintero Rodriguez says, adding they can then choose to specialise in areas such as marketing, retail or product development.

Australian Financial Review