University Of Tasmania
118750 Osborne Dibben Transdisciplinary Units JOFDL 21 1 2017.pdf (393.87 kB)

Over the edge of the wild: lessons of discovery through developing transdisciplinary (breadth) units in blended courses

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 07:48 authored by Osborne, J, Dibben, M

Universities are increasingly recognising the need to broaden the experience and understanding of their students beyond a single disciplinary approach, to produce graduates more capable of solving the problems of a multidisciplinary world. At the University of Tasmania, a “breadth unit” programme is underway with the dual purpose of evidencing student experience in graduate attributes and developing transdisciplinary approaches for interpreting the complex challenges (or “wicked problems”) of the real world. All breadth units are developed by lecturers working in teams across multiple faculties, all units must be capable of being studied off campus, and several have on-campus options (meeting the University’s requirement for blended learning). Breadth units are being built into student study plans, with most students required to study at least two units as part of their undergraduate degree.

The initiative, which commenced in 2013, uncovered challenges in administrative and academic systems that might have been predictable, but were often surprisingly intractable. Administrative systems have had to adapt to university study moving out of faculty silos. One-year-on reviews of units following their introduction capture the delivery experience (from lecturer and student perspectives) and provide vital feedback on learning design for quality improvement. Teaching teams now confront how best to sustain the blended approach as enrolment numbers increase.

This paper raises some of the issues to be tackled and suggests indicators for the success of this initiative.


Publication title

Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning








DVC - Education


Distance Education Association of New Zealand

Place of publication

New Zealand

Rights statement

© 2017 The Authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment, development and evaluation of curriculum