25/06/2008 - 22:00

Mining engineering study to go online

25/06/2008 - 22:00

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Mining engineering students at Curtin University's Bentley campus and the Kalgoorlie-based Western Australian School of Mines may soon be able to access lectures remotely and course content from interstate universities, if a plan to roll out high bandwidt

Mining engineering students at Curtin University's Bentley campus and the Kalgoorlie-based Western Australian School of Mines may soon be able to access lectures remotely and course content from interstate universities, if a plan to roll out high bandwidth classrooms receives funding.

Curtin has applied for $500,000 in the current Department of Education, Science and Training funding round, which it hopes to put towards a $1 million project to make its mining engineering course available to external students.

While the program would initially be used internally for fourth year students at WASM's Kalgoorlie campus and Curtin's Bentley campus, the aim is to widen the project to include courses at the University of New South Wales and the University of Queensland.

These two universities are part of the Mining Education Australia alliance - of which Curtin is a member - which has a common curriculum for students in third and fourth year mining engineering courses.

WA School of Mines director Paul Dunn said ultimately, all of Curtin's mining engineering units, from first to fourth year, would be made available externally if the project was successful.

"The thinking is, why not extend the whole offering? It will enable us to really compete and access a regional and interstate cohort of students," Professor Dunn said.

He said the program would also help to address staff shortages by creating access to interstate and overseas staff.

"There's more money to be made with the mining companies than in mining academia at the moment, and while some people want a career in education, this will create a bigger pool [of staff], so we can replace skills," Professor Dunn said.

The project ties in with the memorandum of understanding that Curtin signed with the Chamber of Minerals and Energy in March this year, which aimed to increase student numbers in resources-related courses.

Also helping to boost enrolments is the Mining Education Australia alliance, which has gained momentum after the University of Adelaide joined the organisation for a trial phase.

Professor Dunn said the program was having a positive impact on first year enrolments, with the addition of a new player to strengthen it.

"Initially, it's going to be a one-way arrangement, with us helping them, but in the longer term we see the benefit of having another partner," he said.

Of the three original partner universities, WASM has the greatest share of mining engineering students in their fourth year of study this year, with 45 of the total 124 students.

First-year enrolments have grown from 157 in 2006 to 191 in 2008 across the three universities.

Members of the MEA share a common mining engineering curriculum for third and fourth year students.

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