Reaching the hard places

Diana Quinn (Learning and Teaching Unit, University of South Australia, Mawson Lakes, Australia)

Interactive Technology and Smart Education

ISSN: 1741-5659

Publication date: 23 November 2010



The purpose of this paper is to examine current approaches to teaching used in academic development services and consider the diversity of their learners (academic faculty). Faculty engagement with teaching issues and innovations remains a concern for the higher education sector. The academic population contains large numbers of “hard to get at” people, struggling with workload and access issues.


An additional online resource for academic development, called In a nutshell, has been developed and trialed for three years in a variety of contexts. These resources incorporate voices into concise online presentations with links to further resources. Academic viewers can, in private, participate and make informed decisions about whether they need to learn more about a topic, or not.


A measurable improvement in faculty engagement with teaching issues and innovations has been detected that can be directly and indirectly attributed to this change in academic development approach. Usage data and user feedback supports the hypothesis that In a nutshells have had an impact on adult learners. Requests by faculty to collaborate on the production of new In a nutshells also indicate engagement. Positive changes in teaching and learning performance indicators are supportive.

Research limitations/implications

The study provides evidence to support the use of concise, flexible and asynchronous online approaches as components of a structured academic development program that provides mandated and non‐mandated learning opportunities for university faculty. The addition of this approach can increase the reach of academic development to include those who can be traditionally hard to reach such as sessional faculty, workplace supervisors and time‐poor, full‐time academics. The concept has recently been extended to create concise learning support that engages and empowers new students to develop new skills.

Practical implications

A streaming server and software is required. Multiple versions of the material are created to ensure accessibility. The time commitment required to invest in initial production of high‐quality product is high; however, this is counter‐balanced by the re‐usability and outreach of the approach.


Partial alignment of learning design and user feedback to an inclusive adult motivation framework indicates that although In a nutshells do meet most requirements of the framework, complementary activities that build the competence of faculty are needed to be linked to In a nutshells to ensure that all targeted adults are motivated to learn.



Quinn, D. (2010), "Reaching the hard places", Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 230-246.

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