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On-line discussion forum to support undergraduate mining student independent learning

27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016

Abstract: Context: Discussion modules are generally limited to student-to-student peer learning, with guided moderation by tutors and lecturers. This paper aims to establish that there can be valuable additional learning by using a similar approach, but involving industry professionals to provide mentoring and responses to students' questions in specific subject and/or topical areas. A real advantage of this approach is the translation of theory and technical knowledge into real world problems. The industry-based forum used in this trial resulted in students re-calibrating what they are being taught and what awaits them in the real world and was also invaluable to lecturers as it alerted them to the relevance of what is being taught during lectures/tutorials. Mining engineering was chosen as the focus for this study for two reasons. One was the background of the authors and the subjects they teach. The other is that, unlike most other engineering disciplines, mining engineering professionals are mainly located in regional and remote areas, which limits the ability for students to gain face-to-face access to these professionals across a wide range of commodities or processes.

Purpose: The advantages of student-industry professional on-line discussion forums can to assist undergraduate mining students translate classroom theory and technical knowledge into real world mining problems was evaluated using two subjects, covering Surface Mining and Mineral Processing.

Approach: Mining industry professionals from a diverse range of commodities and companies were invited to take part in a trial on-line discussion forums, to assist students in two subjects. The invitations were issued through both professional and industry associations. The professionals came from both production and technical services, as well as consultants. They had expertise in drilling/blasting/explosives, draglines, truck and shovel, excavators, related mobile equipment, mine planning and logistics and diverse processing techniques, as well as environmental/rehabilitation issues. The students either asked questions individually, or formed discussion groups to ask questions, or raise issues, related to lecture, practical, tutorial and project topics. The industry professionals provided advice on-line, or answered questions that students raised.

Results: Feedback from industry professionals demonstrated that they also highly valued the on-line discussion experience. In many cases, student questions elicited a range of responses and the industry professionals were able to compare their own responses to those from colleagues in other companies. The professionals highlighted that this significantly developed their own knowledge about possible problem solutions. Another highly valuable outcome from the on-line trial has been that often the industry professionals' responses re-enforced or enhanced material that the lecturer had presented and this added to the lecturer and subject credibility.

Conclusions; The subject assessment results demonstrated that the students found the inclusion of industry-based professionals in their discussion groups to be highly beneficial and they strongly recommended that the trial should be extended to all mining subjects. The trial developed strong linkages between the theory and technical knowledge gained from the university program and the real world problems faced by industry-based mining industry professionals. The exercise drew students' awareness to what they would be likely to experience in the real world.

To cite this article: Baafi, Ernest; Tolhurst, Ray and Marston, Kevin. On-line discussion forum to support undergraduate mining student independent learning [online]. In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 49-54. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=679002549845663;res=IELENG> ISBN: 9780994152039. [cited 26 Apr 17].

Personal Author: Baafi, Ernest; Tolhurst, Ray; Marston, Kevin; Source: In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 49-54. DOI: Document Type: Conference Paper ISBN: 9780994152039 Subject: Undergraduates; Mining schools and education; Engineering students; Mining engineering--Vocational guidance; Mining engineering--Technological innovations; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia, email: ebaafi@uow.edu.au
(2) Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
(3) Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia

Database: Engineering Collection