Curious Citizens: Curriculum, Care and Social Good in Online Enabling Pathways Education

Evonne Irwin, Dr. Joel McGregor Swinburne, Dr. Iryna Khodos, Susie Wright, Dr. Jennifer Irwin, Dr. Valerie Djenidi & Dr. Sharon Cooper


Situated in the context of Widening Participation policy and practice and its resonances with the traditional ‘purpose’ of Higher Education as a civic duty and public good (Giroux, 2002), this article draws on a Collaborative Inquiry Project (CIP) in one Australian online/blended enabling pathways program. Enabling programs in Australia are designed to provide an alternative pathway to higher education studies for students who do not possess traditional entry requirements and are similar to Access education in the UK or community college education in North America. This article interrogates the curriculum of the Open Foundation (Online/Blended) enabling pathways program at the University of Newcastle in terms of its relationship to “what matters” for enabling educators. As part of the CIP project, an audit of key curriculum indicators (Assessment, Engagement, Academic Literacies and Pedagogies) was conducted along with a semi-structured group discussion amongst the enabling educator participants. This discussion revealed a deep engagement with curriculum design and with the philosophies underpinning Enabling Pathways education and Widening Participation (see Motta & Bennett, 2018; Bennett et al., 2016). Further, these philosophies were explicitly articulated by participant-group members in ways which revealed a commitment to citizenry and the founding features of Higher Education. Enabling Pathways education, despite its diversity across Australia (Pitman, 2017; Baker & Irwin, 2016), is a robust field with strong connections to undergraduate programs, but with a unique set of considerations in terms of curriculum design—especially in designing for diverse cohorts studying in online/blended modes. In this article we explore stories of success in online curriculum design as well as provide a view of an interdisciplinary whole-of-program approach to serving and supporting online Enabling Pathways students in becoming ‘curious citizens.’




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