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Collaboration Between Two Universities In Course Development

Higher Education Research and Development, vol. 3, no. 1, 1984: 71-79.

G. Gillard and S. Kemmis, Deakin University, L. Bartlett, University of Queensland


In 1981 it looked as though there could be collaboration between Deakin University and the University of Queensland in the co-development of courses leading to a Master of Education degree to be offered externally and by course work. It was hoped that there would be joint development of three courses - about half of the minimal degree program. In the event, only one of the three courses was produced by intensive co-development. The present study is an investigation of factors involved in the collaboration, and consequently of issues involved in any such enterprise. It is concluded that a collaborative venture is likely to succeed if it is based on a collegiate network, or on a good working relationship between academics who share research and teaching interests. It is also suggested that such collaboration can best be fostered by establishing a climate within and between institutions in which particular collaborative initiatives can be initiated and sustained. Finally, it is suggested that collaborative co-development and co-production and parallel provision of courses may offer a way out of the dilemma of collaboration for excellence in teaching versus institutional self-interest.

Garry Gillard is a Coordinator of Course Development at the University of the South Pacific. He formerly held a position in instructional design at Deakin University.

Stephen Kemmis is Associate Professor of Education at Deakin University. A graduate of Sydney University and Illinois (Urbana Champaign), he has held teaching and research positions at the Centre for Applied Research (UEA), and the Curriculum Development Centre, Canberra, before taking up his present position. He is the author of several books and has written extensively in the areas of research method, evaluation and curriculum.

Leo Bartlett is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Queensland. He has taught in primary and secondary schools in N.S.W. and Queensland before taking up a teaching position at Mt. Gravatt C.A.E. and thence his present position at University of Queensland. Current interests are in research method and evaluation of curricula.

Address for correspondence: L. Bartlett, Department of Education, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, 4067, Queensland, Australia.


This report is a critical documentary history of the collaboration from 1981 to the end of 1982. It is based on information gathered by two techniques.


Interviews were conducted by the evaluator (the first author) with people involved in the collaboration at both institutions. They included both academics who actually co-developed a course, others who negotiated co-development but did not proceed with it, and also administrators who had a range of relevant insights at the macro-level. Information gathered in this way has been edited and written up by the evaluator.


The evaluator of the present study was also the course developer (instructional designer) on the course which was fully co-developed, and also the course evaluator. As a member of the course team he had an opportunity to observe and was also a participant in most aspects of the development, production and evaluation of the course in Case study methods.


Negotiations began in 1981 between the University of Queensland and Deakin University to arrange co-development of courses leading to the M.Ed. degree. Although at that time there was very little evidence of co-operation of this kind, there were external pressures on institutions to consider such possibilities. Both the Universities Council and the Advanced Education Council had recommended a greater degree of collaboration between institutions, though the rhetoric of the Tertiary Education Commission has been more concerned with a rationalisation of programs, than with co-development at the level of courses. Thus there have been recommendations, by the Ralph Committee (1982) for example, for the centralisation of programs on a limited number of schools. There has not been, however, much advancement in the areas of course sharing, student sharing, or concurrent enrolment. CTEC has preferred to exert pressure on universities through its funding arrangements, and by setting up special committees like the one that produced the Ralph Report, and Professor Johnson's investigation into external studies. 1 There seems to be little overt concern with the possibilities of improving the quality of individual programs and modes of teaching, nor with increasing the range of possibilities for individual students, which would seem to be the basic academic arguments in favour of inter-institutional collaboration. The Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee has only very recently become interested in collaboration between universities in external studies (and this only under pressure from the Universities Council), an interest which is reflected in some aspects of 1985-7 triennial submissions.

At Deakin, there is a long-standing commitment to inter-institutional cooperation wherever this is in the interests of students. This climate of receptivity to co-operation has prompted a range of collaborative ventures, and provided a basis upon which the developments reported in this paper could be initiated and evaluated.


'Collaboration', as Moran and Charlesworth 2 have set out, ‚ can take a variety of forms, including:

. joint course development by two or more institutions, for use in each institution - e.g. a masters course in curriculum developed by Deakin University and University of Queensland.

. preparation of a course by one institution for use elsewhere - e.g. a Social Psychology course now available in Deakin's BA and in the Criminal Justice program at Phillip Institute of Technology.

. course development separately by two or more institutions to make up a coherent sequence or program - e.g. a Women's Studies sequence proposed by staff of Deakin, Murdoch and Queensland Universities.

. courses developed and sold by one institution to others here and overseas - e.g. as are some Open University courses. Discussions have been held between Deakin and several overseas institutions towards this end. 3

. sharing of production facilities to achieve improved quality and economies of scale - e.g. discussion now under way between Deakin University and RMIT . . courses prepared by Deakin employing external (Australian and overseas) consultants to write significant proportions - e.g. the MBA courses.

. provision for students to enrol concurrently in courses or electives from separate offerings of more than one institution.


The initiative for collaboration in the first collaborative venture of interest for the present study was provided by the academics themselves. Leo Bartlett, at the University of Queensland, and Stephen Kemmis, at Deakin, became aware in 1980 that each was setting up a course in case study in education and needed to organise teaching material especially for distance (or external) students. It seemed obvious to them that here was a possible collegiate relationship to promote co-development. This was a successful collaborative enterprise which gave rise to the Case study methods course, the development of which is detailed below. In the absence of precedents, they also thought that it would be a good idea to study the collaboration process and to seek institutional support for it, and so set up the research which led to the present report. Support for the research was requested from the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission, but, although informal interest was shown, a grant was not forthcoming. Financial support for the travel needed for the study was given by an internal research grant from both universities.

The second venture was in the area of social and administrative studies in education. In this case, preliminary talks were held between lecturers in the area, but co-development did not proceed, due to a lack of academic consensus. Although there was an initial openness to the notion of a collaborative team being built up, in the event the specific initiatives being undertaken at the two universities did not seem compatible. There were fundamental disagreements between the academics concerned about the character and content of courses in educational administration at the Master's level, perhaps even about the nature of educational administration itself. Moreover, there was some nervousness about the comparability in levels of work: Deakin's M.Ed. could be done in one year full-time, Queensland's degree is longer; and Queensland's M.Ed. apparently builds on a prior five years of academic study, while Deakin’s requires only four. The Queensland academic involved saw this as a barrier to offering collaboratively-developed courses at Queensland.

In the case of the third collaborative venture, in the area of teaching and learning processes, it was more a problem with timing than a lack of agreement. Professor Glen Evans, at Queensland, had been offering an M.Ed. course to internal classes in the area prior to 1981 when it was decided to offer the degree externally, including this course, with the relatively short lead-time of three months. -Deakin, meanwhile, had begun planning the course in The nature of teaching and learning for first offer in 1982. Professor Iain Wallace at Deakin was aware of a common research purpose with Professor Evans. When this became a common teaching objective, they thought that it might be possible to make some direct use of this research in teaching. Consequently, Professor Evans visited Deakin to work as a consultant with the course team there, bringing with him some of the reading material which he had developed with a colleague for possible inclusion in the Queensland off campus course. Some of this material was subsequently included in the Deakin course, but no further consultation has taken place to this time, although this remains quite possible.

The only successful intensive co-development to date has been the Case study methods course, and it is therefore this course which itself becomes the subject of a case study.


The development and production of the Case study methods course generally proceeded according to ‘the Deakin model’ which is similar in many ways to the Open University approach (though it is debatable whether the diverse approaches to course development at Deakin can be collected under a single rubric). The two academics, one from each university, formed a course team which met at Deakin for a period of intense activity in August 1981. Whereas it is normal procedure for a Deakin course team to meet over a period of a year or more, in this case the development period was only about six months, with a short burst of about one week of really intensive work, during which the team of two finalised the essential structure and content of the course. It is also unusual for the course team to be so small. This created problems at Deakin for the long-term maintenance of the course (i.e. teaching in subsequent years) in that the course team was effectively reduced to one whereas most Deakin off-campus courses have larger course teams and teaching staff.

Working on Stephen Kemmis' living-room floor in Geelong, the two made final selections of the readings to be included in the course. About one hundred and fifty potential items (articles, chapters, whole books) were considered for inclusion. Copies were spread out on the floor, other items marked by sheets giving their references. Nearly all were physically present. Much of the material collected was still 'fugitive': conference papers and others not yet published. Bibliographies (the collaborators’ own and other they had collected from colleagues in the field) were scrutinised for other potential items. The selection was ordered and reordered several times, and a final structure agreed. Around this structure, draft study guide material was written and assignments designed. Following the precepts and principles of the Case study methods course itself, a tape recording was made of almost all of the twenty hours of intensive work, and Leo Bartlett took a series of photographs of work as it proceeded.

There were several meetings prior to and after this intense development period, and a good deal of correspondence: it is clear that the two academics involved had closely parallel ideas about the likely substance and pedagogy of a course in the area. In part, this may be because both had worked fairly intensively (though at different times) at the Centre for Applied Research in Education, University of East Anglia, which is a recognised centre of excellence in the area of case study methods.

As this was a masters level course, it was decided to design an open-ended type of structure, with a large number of readings and a minimal degree of guidance to encourage self directed student learning. The open-ended type of structure was one of several principles of design in the development of the course. Another was based on the notion of issues structure. (An issue in case study methods is something about which we can or might disagree with within a given set of contextual conditions). Issues were grouped under four major headings, 'Epistemological Issues’, 'Evidentiary Issues’, ‘Issues in the Collection and Management of Data’ and ‘Political and Ethical Issues’. The readings were organized into seven booklets using this framework. It is probably significant that the original idea of an issues structure for course design was based on the scholarly activity of the authors and colleagues at the Centre for Applied Research at East Anglia. The idea was first trialled by Leo Bartlett in 1981 and thence developed extensively in the collaboration process. Perhaps the significant feature is that before the period of intense development, several major principles of course design were implicitly if not explicitly recognized by the co-developers.

Eight volumes, containing a total of fifty-six papers were planned, with a short study guide which contained directives about the course, sequencing of readings and learning activities and assignment work of a reflective and practical nature together with a wall chart to assist students to organise their study of the material. Although all of the readings were decided on in the initial period (based in part on draft material already in use at Queensland), the Deakin version of the study guide was completed by Stephen Kemmis with the assistance of the course developer assigned to the team (Garry Gillard), and sent to Queensland for Leo Bartlett's approval and adaptation. The latter adapted the study guide for the use of Queensland students, and this version was produced by his University. Any differences in the guides finally adopted by each institution were largely organizational and phenotypic rather than genotypic. Deakin's version was similarly printed in its own printery. The books of readings were designed by the Production Unit at Deakin The contents of the books were printed by the Deakin Printery and the covers and binding commissioned from an outside printer.

Thus, the two courses (at Deakin and Queensland) had a common core of readings, both used the wall chart, but study guides were adapted locally for the special needs of the two institutions (e.g. the Deakin course was a ‘short, fat’ course over one semester, while the Queensland course was a ‘long, thin’ course over a whole year, so the timing of assignments and readings needed to be varied in the two study guides).


Copyright was sought for all readings and payments made by Deakin University where charges were required. (It was not and is not current policy at the University of Queensland to seek permission to reprint copyright material other than to conform to regulations of the Copyright Act in relation to reproduction for the purposes of private study.) In 1984 this is still normal policy at Deakin, not only where there is a possibility of sales, as in the present case, but also for any course materials which reproduce material which is copyright. The Deakin policy is currently under consideration, however, and is likely to change.

Format and Production

Whereas the University of Queensland normally produces external course materials printed off-set from typescript masters and with a soft cover and stapled binding, Deakin has a large range of publishing styles, ranging from the large number of books which have been completely printed and bound outside the University to a smaller number which resemble those produced in the Queensland mode. In this case, Deakin took responsibility for the design and production of the readers, which were produced with glossy perfect-bound covers, although the contents were reproduced by the University Press, mostly from photocopied originals. The final materials are of fairly high production quality and are in a fairly flexible format (readings in volumes can be changed from year to year with fairly minor disruption). They are regarded highly by academics who teach in the area (copies were sent to a number both in Australia and overseas), and it is probable that further external sales of the material could have been achieved had they been printed in large numbers and widely publicised. (In 1983, two other institutions used the materials).


Under the conditions which usually apply for a development of this kind, Deakin University would have requested the services of Leo Bartlett as a consultant and paid him for his services at an agreed rate, and his travel, as appropriate. As this was to be a collaborative venture, the University of Queensland contributed Leo Bartlett's time and part travel costs in return for sets of the course materials. Deakin provided the costs of all other overhead: copyright payments, course developer (instructional designer) time, designer time, printing and binding, and mailing. Fifty sets of the course materials were despatched to the University of Queensland for the use of its internal and external students in 1982. It is thought that from 1983 on Queensland will buy sets at an agreed price. That is, the basis of the understanding is that the University of Queensland's contribution of Leo Bartlett's time was notionally equal to the cost of the fifty sets of material. In 1983, Deakin University Press sold copies of the eight readers for $26.96 per set.

Evaluation and Maintenance

It was decided that the Deakin course developer would also have a role to play in the evaluation of the course once offered. In 1982 two sets of data were collected. Students taking the Case Study course on campus at Queensland were asked to respond to a questionnaire to be read only by the evaluator and not by the lecturer teaching the course. The results from the questionnaire were written up as a report by the evaluator and then subsequently included in a newsletter which was sent to all off campus students at Deakin, with an invitation to respond to some further questions arising from the responses. Answers to this second questionnaire formed the material for the evaluator's final report which included recommendations as to such things as a restructuring of assessment procedures.


The course team communicated by letter with suggestions for changes to the course contents and then met briefly to finalise these details, again at Deakin (during a visit by Leo Bartlett to Deakin for another purpose). The revision of the course materials for 1983 will be carried out by the Deakin course developer and Production Unit. Deakin has budgeted for annual revision for this and all other M.Ed. courses, so the collaborative arrangements now requires only some academic consultation about revision of the reading collection in the materials; no collaboration in production is required since, in budgetary terms, Queensland is effectively a purchaser of the materials.


It seems clear, on the basis of this limited study, that collaboration of the kind described in this report is most likely to occur when there is a fundamental agreement between the academics involved about the nature of a field and about pedagogy appropriate to it. Given academic styles of working and expectations about teaching, it seems unlikely that policy makers within particular universities or at the level of state or Commonwealth higher education administration or the bureaucracy of distance education would be successful in compelling effective collaboration. A more appropriate policy would appear to be one of fostering and creating a congenial climate for the growth of general collaborative relationships from which collaboration in particular course developments may follow. The normal ideology of institutions of higher education leads to the adoption of a kind of apprenticeship model, according to which students must be acculturated in a mode specific to the given institution. This ideology works against collaboration in co-development, and in other areas (e.g. credit transfers). The alternative to this might be that a course leading to a degree at one place is seen as being perfectly equivalent to a course of equal weight taken at another.

Does collaboration make for better course offerings? Firstly, with regard to the range of possibilities, there are two possible outcomes. On the one hand, there would and perhaps should be a decrease in the number of courses offered. There is demonstrably no need, for example, for two separate but very similar courses in case study methods in education if arrangements can be made so that the same course may be taken by students at more than one institution. Currently, the number taking the course at both institutions is relatively high. At the University of Queensland it attracted a greater number of students than any other internal and external M.Ed. course unit in 1982 and external unit in 1983. On the other hand, if institutions were to begin to look seriously at the possibilities of cross-crediting, especially in distance education, the range of offerings available to a given student would greatly increase, and, if a national co-ordinating body were to be set up, could theoretically extend to any course offered in Australia. This situation could apply even without co-production.

Secondly, with regard to the quality of the courses, this limited study suggests that inter-institutional collaboration can only improve a course. Any available evidence suggests that the Deakin experience has in general already validated the course team procedure as well as the use of consultants, and collaboration between institutions simply extends the range and availability of critical friends and consultants. Evaluation of Case study methods has been carried out at two institutions. Student feedback suggests that it is a challenging course; academic opinion is that it conveniently brings together an unique and useful collocation of material concerned with the field.

Does collaboration cost more? The Case study methods course was relatively cheap by Deakin standards, as there was no need to employ consultants and because no typesetting was involved. The cost of travel and purchase of course materials borne by the University of Queensland would have to be set against largely hidden costs, like the production, administrative and copyright costs, and the large amount of time it would have taken for librarians to have serviced off campus students making their selection from the fifty-six readings recommended by the course.

Modes of collaboration range from the most informal co-development of a course (as with Case study methods) which remains within the prerogative of the teachers concerned, at one end, to procedures for credit transfer, where a greater institutional endorsement is required, at the other. It is worth noting, however, that credit transfer is in effect achieved by the co-development model through the device of offering the same course at two institutions. Clear procedures for credit transfer might avoid the situation which prevails at the moment in which institutions are not prepared to give full credit for work done elsewhere because it is not seen as being equivalent to their own courses. In this way students become the scapegoats for lack of a national system. Such a system might involve the creation of a national committee like the one recommended in the draft Johnson Report. Another system would involve an institution taking 'major’ responsibility while receiving 'minor' support from another one, as already happens in some cases. Whatever the mechanism may be, the fundamental aim should be to increase the quality and range of course offerings, and so provide the best possible service for students.

Intensive co-development did not occur in the area of teaching/learning processes mainly because of a mismatch in the timing of course development between the two universities. The process at Deakin is more industrialised and takes longer to gear up. However, some form of course sharing is still possible. If it goes ahead, it will be because of the commonality of research (and consequently teaching) interests of the principal course co-developers involved. Co-development did not proceed in the case of educational administration because this intellectual sympathy was lacking. With Case study methods the mutual interest and understanding between the academics was strong enough to overcome administrative problems and considerations about timing and resulted in the development and production of a shared course. Case study method as a form of social inquiry requires sensitive, intelligent judgement and democratic procedures. The character of the method is consistent with the best and most successful principles of course design.

Such co-operation is at present rare. But circumstances alter cases, and if the congenial climate mentioned above were to be created by the establishment of co-operative procedures, the possibility of co-development should increase. Such procedures could be developed not only in the areas of course development and production, but also in such administrative areas a enrolment, crediting, and the like. 5

It is quite common for academics in different institutions to collaborate in research projects. Often the success of research programs depends upon the pooling of expertise and resources by institutions. On the other hand, a pooling of resources and expertise for teaching purposes may be hampered by funding policies which are based on enrolments at institutions. The dilemma of collaboration (for excellence in teaching) versus institutional self-interest can be overcome by collaboration in co-development of courses with institutions offering co-developed courses in parallel. In this way, the academics involved achieve explicit recognition for their contributions to course development (acknowledgement of authorship, etc.) and for their contributions to teaching (students taking the course in their own institutions) Arrangements fostering co-development and parallel provision may thus contribute to a more rational and more cost-effective use of resources in tertiary education.


(1) See, for example: Report of the Inquiry into Management Education. (J.T. Ralph, Chairman), AGPS, Canberra, 1982; Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission, External studies in higher education : background paper for the Commission's review of external studies, Canberra, 1982; Richard Johnson, Evaluative studies program : academic development units in Australian universities and colleges of advanced education. CTEC, July 1982.

(2) Louise Moran, & Max Charlesworth, Position paper on distance education, Mimeo, Deakin University, 1982.

(3) Sales of parts of courses are a step toward this, and occur already on a fairly substantial scale.

(4) The reference is to Section 53(B) procedures as an alternative to permissions for reproduction of copyright materials.

(5) The issue of course co-development for on-campus courses has not been addressed in this paper which is concerned primarily with distance education. One of the authors at least (Bartlett) has used the readings and the course design structure with modifications for on-campus teaching. It would appear that interactive 'classroom’ learning raises many issues in relation to the course design and content, than might be described here.

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