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Associate Professor Helen Farley

Helen FarleyHelen is an Associate Professor (Digital Futures) and acknowledged leader in researching the affordances of educational technologies for learning and teaching in higher education. Her research interests have evolved to align along three central themes:

  • Digital learning without internet access: The Learning Management System (LMS) is almost always central to the e-learning landscape of a university. This reliance on the LMS presupposes access to ubiquitous connectivity. With some 61% of the world’s population without any access to the internet, this assumption can’t be made. Helen envisaged a version of the LMS that didn’t rely on an internet connection and has worked with colleagues to develop the USQ OffLine StudyDesk. This allows those people without internet access, access to the digital learning possibilities afforded by e-learning through the LMS. It is currently deployed in eight correctional centres across Australia.
  • Mobile learning: enables students to interact and learn at their own convenience and in a way that accommodates their lifestyles, work and other commitments. In order to increase participation of non-traditional cohorts in higher education, we must find ways for these students to fit study into their cramped lifestyles. These students are already using their mobile devices for keeping in touch. It becomes powerful when this knowledge can be leveraged for learning.
  • Virtual worlds: which allow access to the student cohort, lecturers and learning through engendering social presence for students studying at a distance and on campus. Virtual worlds can help alleviate the feelings of isolation felt by students studying at a distance. They can also provide opportunities for discussion, role-play or familiarisation with clinical or vocational contexts through simulation.

Helen is leading the $4.4 million Australian government-funded Making the Connection project which is taking digital technologies into correctional centres to increase access to higher education for Indigenous and non-Indigenous incarcerated students.