This blog was co-authored by David Waller, Deborah Cotton and Christopher Bajada

The lockdown and the movement of classes online has significantly changed how we teach and interact at UTS. After a year of Zoom, the reactivation of the campus has meant the resumption of face-to-face interaction – not only between teachers and students, but also between the students themselves. 

This is of particular importance to the Indigenous students enrolled in the Bachelor of Business Administration. It is important in building a sense of belonging, not only with the university and course, but also with their cohort. 

The Bachelor of Business Administration is an “exciting course designed for Indigenous Australian professionals wishing to gain a degree qualification and maximise their career options”. The course is taught in Block mode, with students visiting the university three times during the semester from numerous states in Australia. For each block, students would travel to UTS from their home town to attend classes, meet fellow students, and work on individual and group assessments. 

Late March was the first time in 12 months that BBA students could attend face-to-face classes at UTS, and it was a wonderful experience. However, it was a reminder of the challenge of bringing students together from a wide range of ages, locations, education backgrounds, work situations, and skills and abilities, and making them feel a part of the course.

As the students come from as far away as Darwin, Perth and the Torres Strait, it is important to understand their personal situations and expectations with the study. A survey is distributed each year in one of the first year classes to get an understanding of the students’ attitudes to study in the BBA. From this survey, we could understand:

The main challenges of the course:

  • time management – balancing work/life/study 
  • returning to study mode after many years
  • travelling to Sydney, time off work, time away from family
  • teamwork with people outside their area
  • numbers/maths, academic writing/referencing, information overload
  • thinking theoretically, opposed to practically
  • applying the content to a community environment
  • language barrier (eg. English is their second language)
  • insecurity and self-doubt in capabilities

The main outcomes and benefits of the course for students in the future:

  • career advancement & promotion
  • an understanding of how a business operates
  • build skills and knowledge, confidence building
  • credibility in the business world
  • a sense of achievement
  • help the community 
  • train up future leaders in the business sector within my region

For teachers in the BBA, the awareness of issues and concerns from the students has been helpful in gauging the levels to pitch discussion on topics in the curriculum, and to introduce activities that tries to encourage a sense of belonging. Some of these include:

  • Making time to meet each other before starting the classes, to listen to other peoples’ background and develop relationships outside of the classroom, work on group assignments and projects
  • Being aware of different situations facing individuals which can influence study and timing of submitting work
  • Developing study guides and examples that help summarise topics, develop study habits, and build a sense of connection with other students, especially as for many this is the first time learning about these topics, using software programs (e.g. excel), doing referencing, library/online search, essays writing and business reports
  • Discussing time and stress management activities, particularly as openly talking about issues can make students not feel alone when there are stresses with deadlines
  • Using more indigenous business cases as examples and inspiration

I am a Leader, so I must lead by example – Education is the key to our successful indigenous future.

BBA student

By encouraging belonging to the course, the students are more willing to stick with it, even during the difficult times, which is a wonderful way that UTS can assist the Indigenous community now and in the future.

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