Handbook needs review

Monday, 26 May, 2014

The University of Melbourne student handbook is under scrutiny after it has determined it needs a review.

On Tuesday 29 April, university academic leaders and the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) held about 15 focus groups to build student feedback and suggestions about the handbook.

The university may create a brand new handbook, with both design and content changes.

Thousands of students use the online handbook every year to find information about subjects and courses.

University of Melbourne Student Union UMSU Education (Academic) Officer Hana Dalton said students are looking for “something that’s a bit more aesthetically pleasing and easier to navigate.”

Dalton said students at the focus groups wanted to see subject entries in the handbook linked to timetable entries. That way they could see when classes took place when picking subjects.

She also noted that some of its design needs a change.

“Information that people take into account first and foremost—such as subject description and assessment—doesn’t appear close to the top,” she said.

The handbook’s content was generally praised by the focus groups.

The participants were shown handbooks from other universities. They said the University of Melbourne’s handbook was more detailed in comparison.

For example the RMIT handbook does not break down mark allocation for specific pieces of assessment.

However there are some issues in Melbourne’s handbook around prerequisite materials. Dalton and other students have found compulsory textbook and equipment listings are often missing.

Education Officer for the University of Melbourne Media and Communications Student Society Emily Gray says the handbook could be improved.

“I like the handbook because it’s an obvious bible for subject information—but the actual web layout I feel could be better,” she said.

The process for changing the handbook is currently unclear. Dalton believes it could take years. The university is currently undergoing a number of radical changes as part of its Business Improvement Program. The handbook is just one of them.

University Senior Vice-Principal Ian Marshman said university reforms would sweep through every level of academic support and information, including the handbook.

“A major program to revamp its services and support activities and to strengthen its learning and teaching and research,” Marshman said.