The treasure hunt: empowering first-year students to find the information they need through an innovative E-learning tool

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Watts, A, Witsel, M & Wilson, C 2018, 'The treasure hunt: empowering first-year students to find the information they need through an innovative E-learning tool', paper presented to Scholarship of Teaching Symposium, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW, 16 October.

Abstract available on Open Access


The online learning environment can be a daunting prospect for many first-year students new to university systems and culture. The vast arrays of information available in a university’s website, whether unit-specific content via the blackboard or the university’s library catalogue, are among the many online spaces that students are expected to master. This paper describes an online orientation exercise, The Treasure Hunt, that students complete as their first assignment in a large, common, first-year core unit. The Treasure Hunt is an online tool that has a dual purpose. Firstly, students progress through a five-step quiz that orients them to finding specific information within the university website; and secondly, it allows teaching staff to assess the level of each student’s engagement with the University’s online environment and early identification of ‘at risk’ students. The unit, Communication in Organisations, is delivered across ten locations including online and transnationally, in which students are asked to complete The Treasure Hunt across all modes and locations as an equitable and inclusive assessment that encourages students to take greater control of their learning (Carroll 2013). As an educational tool, The Treasure Hunt supports students to learn to be competent in their use of technologies, essential in facilitating their learning, and is a scaffolded assessment linked to the skills required in later assignments, such as locating peer-reviewed journal articles and other scholarly literature through the SCU Library catalogue. As a result, The Treasure Hunt supports a diverse cohort of first-year students in their transition to university culture as a useful and innovative e-learning tool, that both is pedagogically useful to teachers, and benefits students as they are introduced to the University’s range of technologies necessary to find the information they need for their studies.

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