ICT in the Delivery of an International Program on Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of West Florida]On: 10 October 2014, At: 19:52Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office:Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    ICT in the Delivery of an InternationalProgram on Psychiatry of IntellectualDisabilityLen Webster a , Patricie Mertova a , Jenny Torr b , Rhian Parker c & MurrayCouch ba Monash University , Australiab Centre for Developmental Disability Health Victoria , Australiac University of Melbourne , AustraliaPublished online: 27 Apr 2007.

    To cite this article: Len Webster , Patricie Mertova , Jenny Torr , Rhian Parker & Murray Couch (2007)ICT in the Delivery of an International Program on Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability, Educational MediaInternational, 44:2, 155-166

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09523980701295166

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  • Educational Media InternationalVol. 44, No. 2, June 2007, pp. 155166

    ISSN 0952-3987 (print)/ISSN 1469-5790 (online)/07/02015512 2007 International Council for Educational MediaDOI: 10.1080/09523980701295166

    ICT in the Delivery of an International Program on Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability

    Len Webster

    a

    *

    , Patricie Mertova

    a

    , Jenny Torr

    b

    , Rhian Parker

    c

    and Murray Couch

    b

    a

    Monash University, Australia;

    b

    Centre for Developmental Disability Health Victoria

    1

    , Australia;

    c

    University of Melbourne, Australia

    Taylor and Francis LtdREMI_A_229420.sgm10.1080/09523980701295166Educational Media International0952-3987 (print)/1469-5790 (online)Original Article2007Taylor & Francis442000000June 2007LenWebsterlen.webster@law.monash.edu.au

    This paper describes a case of how ICT was employed in an international collaborative project between twohigher education institutions to develop an online international Psychiatry unit of study on IntellectualDisability. The paper also discusses the way in which the teaching and learning online environment served asa design and development tool, which allowed experts from dispersed locations around the world to contrib-ute, review, and develop their materials and activities. The aim of the unit is for participants to gain thefundamental knowledge and skills to be able to conduct psychiatric assessment of people with intellectualdisability and to develop and implement a management plan within their own cultural and service contexts.Based on the sensitivity to cultural and social diversity, the program will integrate international perspectives,relate to international sources of knowledge, build explicit links between principles and practice, and embedteaching and learning in the students clinical practice, local service systems and cultures.

    Les TICE et la diffusion dun programme international sur la psychitrie du handicap mental

    Le prsent article dcrit un cas montrant comment les TICE ont t employes dans un projet collaboratifinternational entre deux tablissements denseignement suprieur pour crer un groupe dtudespsychitriques internationals en ligne portant sur le handicap mental. Larticle tudie aussi comment lenvi-ronnement denseignement et dapprentissage a fourni un outil de conception et de dveloppement dont lebut tait de permettre des experts se trouvant dans des sites disperss travers le monde de prsenter,passer en revue et dvelopper leurs productions et leurs activits. Le but du groupe dtudes est de permettreaux participants dacqurir les connaissances et comptences fondamentales qui permettent deffectuer unevaluation psychitrique des personnes handicapes mentales et de mettre au point et dappliquer un plan degestion au sein de leur propre contexte culturel et administratif. En se fondant sur la conscience de ladiversit sociale et culturelle, ce programme va intgrer des perspectives internationales, se lier aux sources

    *

    Corresponding author. Educational Development and Flexible Learning Unit, Faculty of Law, MonashUniversity, CALT, PO Box 197, Caulfield East, VIC 3145, Australia. Email:len.webster@law.monash.edu.au

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    internationales de connaissance, construire des liens explicites entre les principes et la pratique et intgrerlenseignement et lapprentissage dans la pratique clinique des tudiants, et dans les structures de service etles cultures locales.

    Nutzung von IuK bei der Auslieferung eines internationalen Programms zur Psychiatrie Intellek-tueller Behinderungen

    Diese Arbeit beschreibt, wie IuK in einem Projekt internationaler Zusammenarbeit zwischen zwei hherenBildungseinrichtungen dazu eingesetzt wurde, eine internationale Psychologie-Studieneinheit zu Intellektu-ellen Behinderungen online zu entwickeln. In diesem Papier wird ebenfalls dargestellt, auf welche Weise dieOnline-Lehr- und Lernumgebung auch als Entwurfs- und Entwicklungswerkzeug diente, wodurch es denExperten mglich war, aus aller Welt ihre Beitrge, nderungen, Entwicklungsmaterialien und Aktivitteneinzubringen. Der Zweck dieser Einheit fr Teilnehmer ist, ihnen das fundamentale Rstzeug zu vermitteln,um sie zu befhigen, psychiatrische Bewertungen von Menschen mit intellektuellen Behinderungen zuerstellen und einen Behandlungsplan innerhalb ihres eigenen Kultur- und Servicekontextes zu entwickelnund einzufhren. Auf der Grundlage von Sensitivitt fr kulturelle und soziale Unterschiede wird dasProgramm internationale Perspektiven, bezogen ber internationale Wissensquellen, integrieren, explizitBrcken zwischen Theorie und Praxis aufbauen und Lehren und Lernen in die klinische Praxis derStudenten, der lokalen Servicesysteme und Kulturen einbetten.

    Las TICs en la difusin de un programa internacional sobre la siquiatra de un programa interna-cional sobre la discapacidad intelectual

    Este artculo describe un ejemplo de uso de las TICs dentro de un proyecto colaborativo internacionalentre dos instituciones de enseanza superior para desarrollar una unidad internacional siquiatrica de estu-dio de la discapacidad intelectual. El artculo describe tambien la manera en que el entorno de enseanza/aprendizaje en lnea, funcion como una herramienta de diseo y desarrollo, con el objetivo de permitir aexpertos situados en lugares dispersos del mundo de contribuir, resear y desarrollar sus materiales y activ-idades. La finalidad de esa unidad es ofrecer a los participantes la posibilidad de adquirir los conocimientosy competencias fundamentales para llevar a cabo evaluaciones siquitricas de personas con discapacidadesintelectuales y de desarrollar y aplicar un plan de gestin dentro de sus propios contextos culturales yadministrativos. Este programa se basa en una cierta sensibilidad hacia la diversidad social y cultural demodo a integrar perspectivas internacionales, relacionndose con fuentes internacionales de conocimiento,construyendo enlaces entre los principios bsicos y la prctica e implantando la enseanza y el aprendizajedentro de la prctica clnica de los estudiantes as como tambin en los respectivos sistemas administrativosy culturas.

    Introduction

    As part of an initiative of internationalisation of higher education Monash University,Australia, has developed collaborative partnerships with other overseas tertiary institutions,such as a collaborative partnership with Kings College, London, UK.

    2

    A project to developa program on Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability has stemmed out of this collaborativeinitiative. The program on Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability was developed by a team ofeducational developers from Monash University, University of Melbourne, Melbourne,Australia and Kings College, London, UK. The aim of the project is to combine the educa-tional expertise, world-renowned expertise in intellectual/learning disability psychiatry andalso professional links to major geographical areas in Europe, the Middle East and South-East Asia. In order to achieve this, the project has employed an online teaching and learningsoftware called Lex. Lex was used as a tool to design and develop the program, but will alsobe employed to deliver it.

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    Context of the Project

    In Australia there are few opportunities for training in the psychiatry of intellectual disabili-ties. With the exception of the United Kingdom, this is the situation worldwide. The numberof people with intellectual disabilities and additional mental health needs is estimated to beequivalent to the number of people with schizophrenia. It is well established that the mentalhealth needs of people with intellectual disabilities are not being adequately identified, whichhas resulted in the lack of appropriate treatment. This consequently causes substantialindividual suffering and carer burden.

    Individual general practitioners and psychiatrists as well as medical practitioners employedin public mental health programs are responsible for the diagnosis and medical treatment ofpsychiatric disorders. However, without training, medical practitioners do not have specificexpertise in the assessment and management of psychiatric disorders in people with intellec-tual disabilities. Surveys in Australia indicate that psychiatrists and trainees consider them-selves inadequately trained to provide psychiatric care to people with intellectual disabilities(Lennox & Chaplin, 1995, 1996).

    A Monash University team of experts in the area of psychiatry of intellectual disability haveresponded to the need by proposing a project to develop a program which would trainpsychiatrists and other medical practitioners in the area of psychiatry of intellectual disability.The proposal was successful, and thus an online international program on Psychiatry ofIntellectual Disability is being developed through a collaborative project between two highereducation institutions. The program is aimed at a dispersed international group of psychia-trists, senior mental health clinicians and other medical practitioners. A small-scale, locallydeveloped online software Lex was used as a design and development tool, and will also beused as a delivery tool. This is to allow greater flexibility in learning and interaction betweenstudents and staff.

    Outcomes for participants of the program include the exchange of the fundamental knowl-edge and skills to be able to conduct psychiatric assessment of people with intellectual disabil-ity and to develop and implement a management plan within their own cultural and servicecontexts. Based on the sensitivity to cultural and social diversity, the program will integrateinternational perspectives, and relate to international sources of knowledge; it will also buildexplicit links between principles and practice, and endeavour to embed teaching and learningin the students clinical practice, local service systems and cultures.

    The project development team combined a range of expertise. It was comprised of aproject leader (an expert in the area of intellectual disability psychiatry), a project managerwho as a sociologist focused on sociological and cultural issues of the program, an educa-tional developer covering the issues of teaching and learning, another educational developerfacilitating the learning environment, and associated intellectual disability psychiatry contentexperts.

    Trends in ICT Development that Influenced the Project

    This project has been impacted on by a number of dimensions in ICT development. In thispaper we have particularly focused on three of the most substantial of these, which were, inour opinion, discipline-based teaching and learning; the use of small-scale, custom-designed

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    online learning environments; and the role of narrative in developing reflective practiceamongst the course participants.

    Discipline-based Approach to Teaching and Learning

    Healey (2000) argued that in higher education there is a growing demand on the developmentof the scholarship of teaching according to the needs of the individual disciplines. He pointedout that the engagement of the teaching practice with the research into teaching and learn-ingcritical reflection on ones teaching practices, but also sharing information about onesdisciplinal teaching practices with practitioners from other disciplinesis important for thedevelopment of the scholarship of teaching. He perceived the core of the development ofsubject-based teaching in: application of the principles of good practice on disciplinal basis,development of the status of teaching, building interconnections between research andteaching, as well as research into the pedagogies of the individual disciplines.

    His disciplinal approach argument is supported by Boyer and Rice. Boyer (1990) arguedfor disciplinal approach as a key to fostering standards, rigour and respect for the teachingscholarship of the particular discipline. Likewise, Rice (1995) remarked that improvements toteaching of a particular discipline have to be rooted in the intellectual substance of thatparticular discipline.

    Small-scale vs Large-scale Management Systems

    Online learning has to a large degree been dominated, even constrained, by large-scale learn-ing management systems. Institutions in higher education have opted for the adoption of anetwork of learning management systems, often purchasing these on the assumptions ofsupportability, perceived efficiencies and market penetration. However, a risk inherent in thisdecision-making is that their use necessitates that teachers adapt their teaching to thefeatures and assumptions of the system, in turn shaping the very learning environment. Inso doing they then contradict a basic tenet of educational thoughtthat educationalapproaches should arise from an analysis of the learning need and a corresponding matchingof an appropriate solution.

    Hedberg (2003), in a keynote address on creating, designing and sustaining learningenvironments for the Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia, suggested thatcurrent learning management systems are immature and operate more in a mechanisticcontent management style rather than encouraging engagement of the learner. In support-ing this view he pointed to Lesgold (2002) who asserted that there is a mismatch betweenlearning strategies and learning management systems that are commonly based on contentmanagement. Hedberg (2003) highlighted the different theoretical orientations of situated-ness, authenticity and communities of practice that set complex design challenges for learn-ing environments and present challenges to teachers to devise approaches consistent to thetheoretical orientations outlined above.

    There is no doubt that most large learning management systems are not mature systems.A defining characteristic for a mature system by Lesgold (2002) is one that the teacher is ableto adapt and customise to meet the specific needs of the learners. This can also be equatedwith the teacher having greater choice and control over the type of interaction they wish their

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    learners to engage in, to have the capacity to allow the creative development of solutions tospecific learning needs, allowing the learning need to shape the learning environment and viceversa.

    Narrative as an Instructional Tool

    Narrative has recently gained momentum as a research method in a wide range of disciplines,and is also gaining impetus as an instructional tool. Narrative is well suited to address issuesof complexity, and cultural and human centredness in teaching and learning. It traces humanexperience through the construction and reconstruction of personal stories. It can alsoexplore the social context or culture in which this construction takes place. Narrative alsohas implications for educations view of the learner. A concern for the narrative brings to theforefront features of learners thinking and learning needs that may have been neglected inmore traditional types of educational development approaches.

    What makes narrative or stories of experience noteworthy in the context of research anddevelopment is their educational value. Unlike many of the stories we meet elsewhere, wemight assume that those stories we read and hear in the context of teaching/instruction orlearning are usually intended to help us learn. A second assumption is that through the storieswe read and hear from those participating in classes or instruction, we may learn more aboutthe human-centred issues or shortcomings of the teaching or instructional experiences. This isa fundamental link of narrative with teaching or instruction as human activities and therebywith research and development into teaching/instruction and learning.

    Impact of these Trends on the Program

    The project team have recognised the need for a discipline-based approach to teaching in aninternational program on psychiatry of intellectual disability, thus a number of psychiatrycontent experts have been involved in the development of the program. However, there wasalso a perception of the need for feedback of teaching practitioners from other fields ofhigher education. This was both for the complexity of issues involved in running an interna-tional program but also to get feedback on the teaching approaches and methods from otherdisciplines.

    The team have also recognised that large-scale management systems would be completelyunsuitable for addressing the combination of multiple and complex needs of the internationalprogram, therefore they decided to employ a small-scale, purpose-built teaching and learningsoftware called Lex. This software integrates communication tools, learning activities andresources within a single environment, which better assists the communication between thestudents and teacher/s, students themselves and also the ease of access of the learningactivities and resources for students.

    Further, it is anticipated that the narrative approach will be utilised within the project/program in at least three ways. Firstly, the program developers will be asked to write storiesof professional experience covering the issues they have encountered developing and imple-menting the program. It is hoped that this will assist in addressing similar issues when devel-oping and implementing other international distance learning programs. Secondly, theprogram participants will be asked to write stories of their respective professional practice as

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    a learning activity as a part of the program. This will be a form of reflection on their currentpractice, which is intended to help them improve their practice. Thirdly, the program partici-pants will be invited to write short reflective stories to provide feedback on the program. Thiswill help identify the issues the program developers need to address in future and thus assistthe quality improvement for future offerings of the program.

    The Small-Scale Open Source Learning Environment (SSOSLE) Software

    Critical to the development, facilitation and support of the international program was theonline learning environment that was used to design and develop the program, and that willalso be used to deliver it. The purpose-built online teaching and learning software Lex hasbeen used to develop and deliver a number of courses and units in the Faculty of Law ofMonash University, Australia, but, so far, the program on Psychiatry of Intellectual Disabilityis the first program of such mode of delivery developed for the Faculty of Medicine. Lex isdesigned to enhance interaction between the learners and the teachers and among the learnersin order to create shared knowledge and understanding. Its aim is to provide an integratedonline learning environment.

    An earlier version of this software, known as InterLearn, was developed by Dr. LenWebster and Dr. David Murphy in the then Centre of Higher Education and Develop-ment (CHED) at Monash University. InterLearn was further developed during 2001 and2002 through a partnership between the Faculties of Education, Law and Medicine/Science and the Universitys Information and Technology Services Division. It presentslearners with an integrated worksite which incorporates communication tools, activitiesand resources in a single environment. It is structured as a database enabling students torespond individually to an online activity, which then can be stored and viewed whenneeded.

    Lex is structured in a way that allows construction of a more holistic learning environ-ment, which encourages participants to engage, collaborate and reflect online. At the heartof Lex, and the features arguably most useful for developing reflective-type activities, arethe activity design and search features. Learners can participate in activities that can beshared at a number of levels. The levels of activity can be defined by the teacher as eithersharedthat is, available to all students; group-basedavailable to only a small groupof students; non-personal individualavailable only to the student and teacher; andfinally, personal individualonly available to the student for their own personal work.The activity design feature allows the teacher freedom to design online activities thatencourage learners to develop a response, view responses of others, modify their answersto represent their newer understanding, and reflect on prior responses to develop newunderstandings. This design also allows the use of online role playing and other groupactivities.

    The Lex worksite further incorporates a Contact page showing contact details of allunit participants, teachers and others (e.g. educational developers or guest speakers). Itcontains a Unit Discussion Forum, which enables both teachers and participants to readand post their comments. There is also a Notice Area where the teachers can post theirmessages, but the participants can only read from it. The students are individually able tolog on to a workstation and accomplish specific tasks.

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    Issues of Facilitation and Support of the Program: Stories of experience

    As has been pointed out above, stories of professional experience represent an alternativeapproach to dealing with complex and human-centred issues in a more holistic way. We haveindicated that narrative, or stories of experience, will be extracted from the project devel-opment team and unit participants. The ultimate aim of these stories is to improve profes-sional practice of both educational developers and psychiatry practitioners. The unit is notfully developed yet, and thus we have only been able to collect the stories of the programdevelopers so far. In this paper, we present the stories of the three main unit developers: theproject leader, the educational developer and the project manager. Each of them gives theirown perspective on the issues they perceived most crucial in the process of the developmentof the unit.

    Story of the Project Leader

    The aim of this project is to improve the mental health care of people with intellectual disabil-ities throughout the world by developing an internationalised, global, off-campus, flexiblelearning program in the psychiatry of intellectual disability. In the absence of specialistservices and training opportunities in intellectual disability psychiatry in Australia andinternationally, I considered the development of an academic course for psychiatry trainees,psychiatrists, other medical practitioners and senior mental health clinicians to be an impor-tant step in improving the situation. I did not anticipate a high demand for such a course. Iexpected that interest would be scattered throughout Australia and also internationally. Myview was that distance education would be an appropriate mode of delivery to a small,dispersed student group.

    I envisioned the program to be flexible in its mode of delivery, assessment, articulationwith other courses, and in terms of award and non-award structure. The educational designwas to be based on a constructivist approach, with an internationalised curriculum and afocus on teacherstudent, studentstudent and studentcommunityservice interactions indeveloping particular graduate skills and attributes. Learning activities would be designed sothat students would analyse and adapt fundamental principles of assessment and manage-ment into their own unique cultural and service circumstances. Students could exchangetheir perspectives and experiences. I expected students to engage with their communities,other professionals and service providers through various learning activities. I hoped theprogram would facilitate the development of an international networked community for peersupport, continuing education, and opportunities for further collaboration. In addition tofostering life-long independent, self-directed, reflective learning and a solid understanding ofthe assessment and management of psychiatric disorders in people with intellectual disabili-ties, the project aims to develop affective attributes of advocacy and a commitment toimproving the lives of, and an understanding of the social, cultural and historical factors thatimpact on, the care of people with intellectual disabilities.

    My experience with InterLearn influenced my idea of how to internationalise the proposededucational program. Fundamental information could be provided to the students, readingscould be sourced from around the world, and students would be asked to interpret and applythe fundamentals to their specific circumstances, including cultural context, health service

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    configuration, availability of treatments and other resources. During my studies for a graduatecertificate in higher education, I had experienced flexible online learning via InterLearn, aprecursor to Lex. I was impressed by the flow of InterLearn. InterLearn provided an over-view of the unit modules. Each module provided an introduction to the topic, links to read-ings and relevant websites and then learning activities. In traditional face-to-face learningenvironments students have the opportunity to talk with their fellow students and in doing sodevelop and clarify their understanding of the subject matter. As a student working in isola-tion from other students, I found the ability to view other students submissions invaluable. Inthat particular course, students were university academics from various disciplines rangingfrom mathematics to nursing. The learning activities were designed in such a way that it wasnot possible to cheat. We were always asked how some concept applied to our own practiceand to reflect upon our own practice and how we would apply new learning.

    I first met our KCL partners when I was working in learning disability psychiatry in London.We had agreed that, maybe, in the future we could work on a project together. This occurredat the time when Monash University was formalising a relationship with KCL. MonashUniversity offered KCL fellowships to Monash staff to explore and develop collaborativeopportunities between the two universities. My application was successful, and I spent fiveweeks at KCL developing the idea of a joint internationalised course in intellectual disabilitypsychiatry and forging the relationship. However, there was no pathway for the accreditationof joint awards, despite this being a stated goal of the partnership. With the support and assis-tance of project partners, an application was made for a Monash Strategic Innovation Fund(SIF) grant, which was successful. The project team included psychiatrists, psychologist,psychiatric nurse and an educational developer. The team had a variety of expertise of workingwith people with intellectual disabilities across the lifespan (from children to older people),specific disorders (pervasive developmental disorders, dementia), models of service provision,and educational development. The team also had links to Europe, the Middle East, South EastAsia and South Africa. Subsequently, a project manager, who was a sociologist, was engagedin the project.

    At the commencement of the program, the university had moved from InterLearn to aproprietary learning management system. This learning management system provided somefunctions not readily available in InterLearn, such as graphics, video, and quizzes. However,this learning management system did not provide a seamless learning environment nor a senseof flow. Rather than navigating via back and forth functions of a browser, this learningmanagement system required navigation using breadcrumbs. Teaching materials could notbe located in one space or in the same space as learning activities. As a developer, I feltforced to construct the unit in a disconnected, unintuitive manner. It did not suit the peda-gogy and did not guide the student through the learning process. Fortunately, we had theopportunity to use Lex for the project. Lex grew out of InterLearn, and it provided the onlinelearning environment that we were looking for, although it did not originally incorporategraphics and video. However, these issues have now been resolved.

    It also became apparent that the functionality of Lex provided an online collaborative envi-ronment. The unit development was coordinated by the Centre for Developmental DisabilityHealth Victoria (CDDHV) at Monash University. As the unit was being developed, thecollaborating partners could test the learning environment as students, using the learningactivity response boxes to make comments on learning objectives, unit contents and learning

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    activities etc. This enabled collaborators to share their thoughts with others, become familiarwith the environment, and experience the learning environment as a student.

    However, this potential was not fully realised in the project. There were many reasons forthis. Time was a critical factor: all partners in this project had to find time in already fullprofessional lives. An additional factor was a lack of ease with the online environment, whichcould be overcome with further training and familiarisation with its use.

    I looked into the issue of joint awards many times over the course of the project. Thisissue was just too complex, so the idea of joint awards was dropped in the early stages of theproject. With an eye to the future, we finally decided to develop a single subject based atMonash in the hope that we would eventually be able to develop a jointly delivered andawarded course. Much time was spent gaining accreditation for the subject. As the unit wasaimed at medical practitioners and senior mental health clinicians, it was deemed multi-disciplinal, which would raise some issues around which department would be the subjecthomebase etc. The unit was housed within the postgraduate psychiatry program, which iscurrently only open to medical practitioners providing mental health care.

    Unfortunately, unplanned delays have meant that there was insufficient funding for furtherongoing project management. Project management duties have been taken over by the projectleader. To date, the unit framework and learning objectives are well developed, some modulesare complete, but some modules still need substantial contents development. Admittedly, refin-ing the subject of psychiatry of intellectual disability into a single unit is quite challenging. Theother big challenge that we faced was internationalisation of the curriculum, in the sense thatwe have aimed the unit at developed and developing countries. Despite the difficulties, unitdevelopment continues. The issue of a jointly developed, delivered and awarded course has beenrevisited with substantial time and resource input from the project partners. Again, institutionalbarriers were encountered, so the development of a full course is currently on hold.

    Main Issues Perceived by the Project Leader

    The project leader has initiated development of a specialist program on intellectual disabilitypsychiatry, due to a critical lack of specialist training in the area in Australia and worldwide,with the exception of the UK. As she anticipated a relatively small number of students scat-tered throughout the world, she viewed distance education as the most appropriate mode. Shehad a previous highly positive experience with a small-scale, locally developed, online learningsoftware called InterLearn (later further developed into Lex) for the purposes of distanceeducation, and thus she proposed the use of this software also for the specialist course inpsychiatry of intellectual disability. She recognised Lex as particularly suitable for bridginga number of complex issues, which she anticipated in the teaching of a geographicallydispersed group of students of very different cultural backgrounds (incorporating developedand developing countries). She also perceived Lex as a much more integrated and intuitiveonline learning tool than other large-scale online learning systems. When developing andsetting up such an international program, the project leader has perceived several hindrances:first was the lack of time on the part of the dispersed group of discipline experts; second, andthis was possibly the most crucial issue she encountered, was the institutional resistance whenattempting to coordinate different institutional systems in administering/enabling such aninternational program. Addressing these issues was costly in terms of time and funding.

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    Story of the Educational Developer

    Unlike many projects of this kind, I, as educational developer, was brought in at the very begin-ning of the project. In fact, I was part of the team that applied for the Strategic Innovation Fundgrant to undertake the project. This grant was offered to develop links and projects with inter-national partners of the university, and our project aimed to do that. Although the developmentteam came from varying disciplinary backgrounds or academic tribes, we worked welltogether and felt that we could develop an innovative and important subject that would caterfor an international and cross-cultural audience. In particular, input was sought from sociolo-gists, psychiatrists, psychologists and other academics involved in intellectual disability. Thecore development team worked with educational design specialists from the university tofacilitate the delivery of the subject online. This team worked well together but, in retrospect,was constrained by the difficulty of obtaining input from contributors. However, the mostsignificant barrier to achieving the goal of developing a subject that could be taught in Australiaand the UK was experienced at the institutional level.

    Difficulty was encountered in the early stages of the project when accreditation of thesubject was sought from the university. The process of accreditation was devolved to faculties,and whilst we encountered helpful staff, we also experienced the challenges of the over-bureaucratisation of a simple process. We were relieved when the subject was eventuallyaccredited and believed that to get equal recognition from the UK partner would be a fairlystraightforward process.

    We had excellent relations and support from the UK academics at the institution andworked in a collegial manner with them. However, the institution itself did not seem keen onaccrediting a joint subject, and it was difficult to find any formal mechanisms for such accred-itation. Here, I believe, was where we experienced cross-institutional rivalry and a real misun-derstanding of what it takes to achieve globalisation in higher education. Such hurdles taketime and effort to overcome, and the conduits through which this can be achieved are notobvious to most academics. We were, therefore, stuck.

    The lessons from this experience are that with the best will and working relations in the world,academics with good ideas and a vision of cross-national collaboration are novice practitionerswhere institutional structures, interests and territories are concerned. Given the increasinglycompetitive environment that is now academia, the ability of academics across disciplines andinstitutions to work collaboratively and constructively together is reassuring. However, thecompetition and institutional barriers to achieving outcomes from such collaborations can befrustrating. If, as claimed by Becher and Trowler (2001), communication is central to theacademic enterprise, then the lack of communication between institutions about how they canwork together at an institutional level to achieve better cooperative outcomes needs to beaddressed. This was the hurdle at which this project finally stumbled. To be resurrected, atten-tion needs to be paid at a more senior level to structures and practices that erect such barriersand frustrate academic cooperation.

    Main Issues Perceived by the Educational Developer

    The educational developer appreciated the effective cooperation among the geographicallydispersed team of experts from a range of fields. She viewed the biggest constraints to the

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  • Study Unit on Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability

    165

    completion of the project to be at the institutional level. Here she reiterated the view of theproject leader that good collaborative efforts of a team of experts may sometimes not be suffi-cient to bridge certain cross-institutional difficulties and lack of a clear process to achieve truecross-institutional development, delivery and awarding of courses.

    Story of a Project Manager

    Two features which I remember particularly positively about my engagement with the devel-opment of this unit are: the way in which the online learning environment provided by Lexaligned with the pedagogic strategy being attempted; and the ways in which the team of devel-opers, as nave users of the environment, appreciated possibilities (regrettably unrealised) inits use to collaboratively generate the units material, and not merely to deliver it. The Lexenvironment became a third space, a zone of triangulation, in which the team of developersnegotiated ways forward.

    The pedagogic approach.

    Decisions about pedagogy were determined both by the nature ofthe state of knowledge in the field of the psychiatry of intellectual disability, and by the orien-tation to internationalisation that was being employed. This implied that emergent knowledgewould be generated by the students out of the specificities of their situation. The architectureof the pedagogy, then, rested on three points: (1) the current state of knowledge of the psychi-atry of intellectual disability; (2) the social, cultural, political and policy and service deliverycontext in which the student is set; and (3) the new knowledge generated out of the interac-tion of (1) and (2). The Lex environment, with its simulation of a tutorial context, providedan apt environment to achieve the aim through its capacity for teacherstudent and studentstudent reflection and interaction to deliver current knowledge and stimulate new knowledgethat takes account of context.

    Development and not delivery alone.

    One insight that the developers had was to see the poten-tial, by configuring contributors and commentators as students during the development of thesubject, to use Lex in developing and shaping content. This, however, proved ineffective.Even though the developers could appreciate this potential, it proved difficult to get contribu-tors and commentators to engage with the program. Perhaps the lesson here is that explana-tion is not enough, and the potential of Lex is understood only when there is hands-ondemonstration, which proved to be so when the members of the UK team were instructed onLex face-to-face, and they quickly understood its capacity.

    Main Issues Perceived by the Project Manager

    The project manager highlighted the suitability of the online learning environment for thepedagogical strategy of the project. He appreciated the effectiveness of Lex as both a develop-ment and a delivery tool, and he also perceived the sensitivity of this tool to aspects of interna-tionalisation (i.e. social, cultural and political diversity). He pointed out a possible problem inattempting to use Lex to engage the wider team of overseas experts. He suggested that thiscould be improved through hands-on, face-to-face demonstration of such a tool.

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  • 166

    L. Webster

    et al.

    Conclusion

    Developing an international program on Psychiatry of Intellectual Disability in collaborationbetween two international universities brought with it a lot of positive aspects: collegial goodwill, sharing of expertise, the use of more suitable and preferred technology, but eventually itwas those bureaucratic, cross-institutional processes beyond the control of the developmentgroup that conspired against the timely implementation of the project. All these issues camethrough the stories of the immediate team of project developers. The major developmentmilestones, such as the identification of the online learning environment, unit accreditation,unit framework, defining learning objectives and some modules are complete. The programteam will complete the remaining modules and are hopeful that the Unit on Psychiatry ofIntellectual Disability will be offered in 2007.

    The team also anticipates that after completion of the unit development and its successfuldelivery, attention can return to developing a full course, given that the complex and extensivenature of the subject as well as the significant cultural differences between developed anddeveloping countries cannot be sufficiently addressed within the scope of a single unit. Thefuture hurdles include ongoing resourcing for the project, addressing cross-institutionalbarriers and ensuring viability of the course.

    Notes

    1. Centre for Developmental Disability Health Victoria is a joint initiative of Monash University, Universityof Melbourne and Department of Human Services Victoria, Australia.

    2. Kings College, London later also referred to as KCL.

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