ASET logo
[ OLNT'90 contents ] [ EdTech Confs ]

Designing an open learning structure:
The TAFE Joondalup Campus

Kath White
North Metropolitan College of TAFE
Moira Watson
South Metropolitan College of TAFE


In Western Australia, the Department of Technical and Further Education (TAFE) is the major provider of post secondary education and training. It comprises a state wide network of 16 large campuses and more than 120 smaller centres, variously located throughout the metropolitan area and country regions. TAFE provides programmes in the para professional areas such as accounting, applied science, architectural drafting, computing and engineering, and in the technical areas such as bricklaying, electrical, hairdressing and plumbing. In addition, TAFE offers a large range of community education programmes.

TAFE provides over 550 formal courses, involving more than 4500 subjects. The attendance requirement for these courses may range in length from two hours in a short course, to five years in a full time programme. Every year TAFE also conducts about 500 additional short intensive courses of varying lengths, generally on a fee for service basis. These specially designed courses meet the particular needs of organisations and individuals, as well as a broad range of cultural enrichment, recreation and leisure programmes.

Currently, TAFE is facing many challenges arising out of the rapidly changing environment in which it is operating. Factors such as technological changes, industry and award restructuring, equity and access issues, and the changing demographic characteristics of the community, are requiring TAFE to re-evaluate what it does and how it does it. TAFE's clients are demanding not only flexible education and training, but skills formation programmes that are easily accessible and highly responsive to their needs. They are seeking learning opportunities that allow them to make optimum use of a range of alternative learning modes, technologies and resources at a time, place and pace to suit their circumstances.

As part of its response to this growing demand for high quality, integrated, skills formation programmes, TAFE has adopted some strategies recommended by Professor G W (Bill) Ford, a recognised authority on skills formation. Ford (1990) believes that, if Australia is to compete in the international marketplace and maintain a high standard of living, its workforce must develop a wider, more comprehensive skill base. To achieve this skill base, Australia must shift the emphases of its current education and training programmes. These shifts in emphases must be from

The TAFE Executive is committed to achieving these shifts in emphases. It sees the philosophy of open learning as a means through which the desired shifts can be made. This philosophy recognises the need to provide open access to resources, facilities and learning opportunities to meet the multidimensional demands of industries, organisations and individuals. The adoption of open learning is making an impact throughout the activities of TAFE. In particular, open learning is influencing the strategies used to design future TAFE campuses. No longer is it sufficient just to erect a building and then try to fit in the required programmes. Instead, the programmes are forming the design basis for all facilities. The bricks and mortar will no longer determine or limit the skills formation programmes required. TAFE campuses are now being purpose designed to facilitate relevant and rapid responses to individual, industrial and societal needs. The Joondalup Campus of the North Metropolitan College of TAFE is the prototype for future TAFE facilities. The entire planning, construction, management, staffing and operation of the campus will be a product of the educational programmes offered.

Demographic issues

The Joondalup Campus is located in the City of Wanneroo. This city is experiencing one of the State's most rapid population growth rates, with an anticipated increase of 116% over the next decade. Key characteristics of the population include a predominantly young family structure, with high proportions in the birth to 14 and 25 to 44 year old groups. There are also increasing proportions of 15 to 19 and 45 to 64 year olds. In addition, there are above state average proportions of single parent families, non English speaking migrants, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. The city is experiencing a high growth in employment, particularly within the clerical, trades, sales and personal services occupations. The self sufficiency index (the percentage of residents employed within the City of Wanneroo) is currently estimated at 24% and is expected to reach 90% within the next ten years. These changing demographic characteristics will make a significant impact on the future demand for TAFE services within the region.

With the population of the City of Wanneroo more than doubling by the year 2001, it is likely that the demand for training will increase and the type of training required will change. Initial skills formation programmes will be required to cater for the needs of the increasing proportions of 15 to 19 year olds. People re-entering the workforce will require programmes that enable them to update their skills or acquire new ones. Disadvantaged groups will require access to programmes that specifically meet their needs. As the self sufficiency index increases, programmes will need to be provided to support training for new or developing industries and to allow the diverse training needs of small business enterprises to be met.

Besides these local elements, the changes taking place nationally will affect the demand pattern for training. Factors such as the Training Guarantee legislation, job redesign, award restructuring and the need for workplace change will all have an impact. As governments, unions and industries recognise that skills formation is imperative if Australia is to reconstruct, TAFE will be called upon to provide the means to enable people to upgrade their skill levels. This will require an opening up of the learning options. To meet this demand for flexible courses, the Joondalup Campus will offer programmes that are client specific, readily adaptable to a diverse range of needs, offer a combination of strategies and resources, and provide clients with appropriate credit and facilitate articulation.

Development site

The Joondalup Campus will be established on a twelve hectare site close to the region's business and commercial districts. In combination with the campus of the WA College of Advanced Education, it will form an educational precinct intended to become the academic focus of the city. The building programme for the campus will be developed in three stages, to allow for the gradual development of the site as dictated by the availability of capital funding. Detailed planning for stage 1 is completed and construction of this stage is scheduled to commence in August 1990. Due to economies of scale, certain facilities will be temporarily incorporated in stage 1 but will be relocated appropriately in later stages. Stage 1 will include Later stages will make provision for additional programmes that are expected to include agriculture and horticulture, art, automotive and metal (trade and prevocational), community care, hairdressing, language studies and science.

Planning process

Stage 1 of the Joondalup Campus was designed by a specialist group of educators, educational administrators, and experts in space evaluation and interior design. This planning committee met on many occasions to formulate a brief that specified the design requirements for the new campus. In preparing the brief, the committee recognised that traditional bricks and mortar forms of education were unsuited to the client centred approaches required to meet the needs of the region's community. Thus, the committee focused on the design features necessary to provide an open learning environment. Dedicated facilities, resources and areas within the campus were seen to be incompatible with the need to provide optimum client access. The design had to be flexible enough to accommodate changing uses and patterns of demand, and be able to facilitate innovative approaches to education and training. In keeping with this requirement, the design of learning areas needed to be such that a change in usage could readily be accommodated.

The financial considerations that accompany most building projects were a constraint that affected the degree of flexibility attainable for each learning area. For example, a workshop fitted with a series of booths designed to allow techniques of spray painting to be learned is very difficult to adapt for multipurpose use. Attempting to adjust such a workshop for purposes other than spray painting would be counter productive, as the costs would increase dramatically. However, if the workshop were purpose designed, it could be utilised by people requiring skills in the spray painting techniques used in the automotive, furniture lacquering, fibreglass reinforced plastics or cultured marble industries. This type of multiple use could easily be facilitated without undue cost. An objective of the committee, therefore, was to identify those facilities that could be flexibly designed to accommodate a range of changing uses without reducing the utility or raising the cost to unacceptably high levels.

The temporary status of some facilities to be located in stage 1 was another consideration that the planning committee had to take into account when formulating the brief. It was recognised that, as subsequent stages of the campus were developed, the function of certain facilities would need to expand or change entirely. The committee thus focused on designing all facilities so that they were not only capable of fulfilling their initial functions but were also able to be expanded easily or converted to other uses in the future.

In developing the brief, consideration of client access to, and movement within, the campus was the paramount concern. Resources needed to be placed in such a way as to facilitate client use. Thus, the factors affecting space needs were first determined. Then, the relationship of the available space to the order and logic of the physical layout of the various functional areas was established. Finally, a functional relationship diagram illustrating the interrelationship of facilities and identifying the desirability for access between different areas was developed (see Appendix 1). This brief was then given to the architect to enable a master building plan to be designed for the Joondalup Campus. Some components of this brief are detailed below.

Reception and general administration

As reception is the initial contact point for clients, this facility will be located on the ground floor and provide ease of access for both able and disabled people. Functions to be carried out by reception staff will include The Reception Area will consist of a counter, large enough to accommodate at least three staff members carrying out required reception functions; behind counter storage provision for blank and processed enrolment forms and for other materials to be handed out to clients; and computer terminals, linked to an online information system. Currently, the Student Data System runs on a mainframe that connects all TAFE colleges and can only be accessed by staff. In the future, it will be replaced by a campus based online information system that will be able to be accessed by both staff and clients. Also located near the reception area will be a bookshop. This facility will be temporary and will be relocated into a later stage and its design and function expanded.

Associated with reception will be a foyer consisting of a waiting area fitted with tables and comfortable seating; an information area to accommodate fixed exhibits and displays of complimentary brochures and materials; and computer terminals, linked to Telecom's Discovery, which will provide clients with access to online course information. Unlike many other educational institutions, clients wishing to enrol in programmes offered through the Joondalup Campus will be able to do so all year. In the future, in common with all TAFE colleges, clients will be able to enrol by means of a telephone or through online computer terminals placed in strategic locations. They also will have the option of paying their fees through a range of credit cards.

Located next to reception will be an Advisory Service comprising career advisers and programme advisers. These advisers will be available to clients via telephone or a computer link, or by personal contact through an appointment procedure or on a drop in basis. The advisory service will provide individual and corporate clients with counselling and programme advice. Users of this service will generally fall into one of the following categories

The career advisers will be the source of advice for clients who do not have a clear idea of their learning requirements. Functions to be carried out by these staff will include The programme advisers will assist clients in their selection of appropriate programmes and learning options. Functions to be carried out by these staff will include The advisory service area will consist of a waiting area fitted with lounge chairs; offices for the career advisers and programme advisers, equipped with online computer terminals and storage provision for reference, course and enrolment information; small interview rooms to allow clients to talk privately with the advisers; and one small and one large testing room, capable of being partitioned off into two smaller rooms, to accommodate individual or group requirements for testing on demand.

Located across from the advisory service area will be the General Administration. As both on and off campus programmes will be available, provision will be made to ensure that the requirements of both forms of learning are met. Functions to be carried out by general administration staff in relation to clients will include

The general administration area will accommodate the Campus Manager, Registrar, switchboard operators, data entry operators, dispatch and mailing, clerical and word processing staff. The area will consist of separate offices equipped with online computer terminal facilities; an open plan office to accommodate a minimum of 12.5 staff; PABX switchboard and associated equipment; Student Data System terminals; dispatch and mailing area, including large mail sorting benches, assignment distribution boxes, storage areas for learning materials, large storage area for holding manual records and files, and access to a computer record system; and a duplicating area including a large photocopier, work benches and space for storing paper and other stationery.

The placement of these facilities will allow for a logical coherence in space layout (see Appendix 2). By siting the functional areas close to one another, it will be possible to provide clients with access to the campus through a "one stop shopping" approach.

Learning Resources Complex

The Learning Resources Complex is the single most important design feature, as all other learning facilities will key into it. It is the essential element in facilitating the quality of, and access to, educational programmes. The complex will include the Library Resource Centre, Computer Based Learning Centre and the Communication Skills Centre (see Appendix 3). Though these units are discrete operations, they logically fit together as components of a system that seeks to provide the learning resources required by the community. The functions of the complex will include The library resource centre will provide a learning environment to meet the needs of the campus clients and staff, and of the local community. Library staff will be available to help clients to gain required levels of competence and independence in their use of available resources. To enable clients to select a resource that is relevant to their needs, the library will offer a multimedia collection. This collection will reflect the range of programmes available on the campus and comprise books, periodicals, audio and visual resources, including various combinations of media, computer software and other communication technologies. There also will be a study room equipped with computer terminals and microcomputers. This facility will enable clients requiring computer access to work independently on projects or to utilise computer software available in the library. Also included will be an audiovisual seminar room that will facilitate staff use of library resources during directed class sessions; an audiovisual workroom and store that will allow a production officer to develop audiovisual resources, carry out equipment maintenance, and store required materials; display and storage areas for library holdings; and accommodation and workstations for library staff.

The computer based learning centre will support the educational programmes available on the campus. The centre will be equipped with microcomputers and terminals and will offer both CAL (computer aided learning) and CML (computer managed learning) systems. Clients will be able to use the computers to organise and measure their learning processes and to gain access to learning programmes available through a variety of media, including print, audio tape, video tape, videodisc, compact disc and computer disk.

The role of the communication skills centre will be to provide support for those clients inhibited in their progress because they lack the required literacy and numeracy levels. As the clients of this centre will generally be dependent learners, there will be provision for them to access specifically designed, individualised programmes that use a variety of resources. The centre will cater for the needs of the following four broad categories of people

Learning assistance facilities

An Office Skills Centre, Learning Areas and Computer Rooms will service the requirements of both large and small groups of clients. These resources will be designed to accommodate changing demand patterns and will offer a variety of learning environments. Clients will be able to choose appropriate learning modes from a range covering completely open, independent learning through to exclusively mediated class attendance. The functions of these learning assistance facilities will include The office skills centre will be set up to resemble offices found in today's business enterprises. Clients using this centre will have the opportunity to acquire and develop practical office skills through their operation of a variety of machines and equipment. To allow the maximum flexibility of use, the centre will be equipped with furniture, equipment and acoustic screens that are easily movable. Resources available in this centre will include microcomputers, audio typing facilities, duplicating and photocopying equipment, a fully operational PABX telephone system connected to the latest range of telephones, fax machines and other communication technologies.

The learning areas will comprise rooms of various sizes to enable the needs of individuals and both small and large groups to be met. Although most of the rooms will have a seating capacity for 30-36 people, certain rooms will have movable partitions to enable larger rooms to be created with a seating capacity for 70 people. Some rooms will be capable of being partitioned off into smaller rooms to enable interviews, tutorials or other small group activities to be carried out.

The computer rooms will be equipped with microcomputers or terminals and associated furniture. These facilities will be available to clients attending group classes, participating in assessment or undertaking self directed learning. The entrance to certain computer rooms will be fitted with a card access control system. By using specially issued, magnetic identification cards, clients will be able to gain twenty four hour access to the facilities on a drop in basis.

CML and CAL will figure prominently in many programmes offered on the campus. Clients will be able to access these computer based programmes at Joondalup through the Campus Network, at any TAFE college through the TAFE Network, and at their home or workplace through remote link personal microcomputers. This capacity to provide programmes through remote links also will enable TAFE to offer specifically tailored courses, on site, to business and industry. On the Joondalup Campus, the mainframe computer, linked to the TAFE Network, will be housed in a specially designed computer machine room (see Appendix 4) with a raised floor to permit easy access to the cabling. The space allocation will allow for any required future cabling expansion.

To ensure the greatest flexibility of use, these learning assistance facilities will not be dedicated to specific occupation, trade or study areas. Instead, all resources will be designated as general purpose. This means, for example, that clients learning word processing through office and secretarial studies, will do so using the same microcomputers as clients learning spreadsheeting through accounting. Special consideration will be given to the design of resources to facilitate their multiple use. In the case of tables for the microcomputers, these will be fitted with sliding drawer arrangements to allow audio cassette tapes and headphones to be stored. When the microcomputers are being used by clients learning audio typing, these drawers can be pulled out to allow access to the equipment and then pushed back under the table when they are no longer required. By purpose designing resources in this way, a range of changing uses will be accommodated.

Wired to communicate

The communication wiring for the Joondalup Campus is yet to be finalised. However, it was recognised that in order to achieve the desired flexibility of use, a major capital investment in cabling would be required. To ensure that issues such as risers and network topologies were considered, cable management formed part of the initial planning for the campus. It was acknowledged that, to be cost effective, all required wiring needed to be incorporated into facilities as they were constructed.

Stage 1 will be designed as an "intelligent" building. This will overcome the problems caused by vendor specific communication requirements, optimise the use of technology and provide for the integrated communication needs of future operations. The installation of saturation cabling will enable all campus operatives to have access to the communication system. The installed system will combine fibre optics and twisted pair cabling and will be flexible enough to allow communications, not only throughout the campus, but to remote sites as well.

The system will employ multifunction connection points that can cater for transmission of voice, data, video and text. This will allow for integration of telephone, various computer network implementations such as Ethernet, and connection of both asynchronous terminals and the IBM 3270 terminal type. Such a system also will enable the campus to take advantage of the research being conducted into interactive teaching sessions using a combination of video, text and voice from the one computer terminal. Schemes such as the Melbourne Institute of Technology's Athena Language Learning Project, which uses videodisc for language teaching, will have a major application in the programmes offered through the communication skills centre. The flexibility of the system also will allow the campus to offer skills formation programmes to local and remote clients through interactive video conferencing, using multipoint, two way, compressed video.

Changing roles

The advent of open learning will see a change in the role of lecturers. The teaching role will move from that of lecturer to that of learning designer and learning manager. Lecturers will no longer just deliver curricula designed elsewhere. Instead, as learning designers, they will work with clients and other educators to plan, develop, implement and evaluate specifically designed learning programmes and materials. As learning managers, they will provide continuing educational support, counselling and direction for on and off campus clients.

This change in role will be reflected in the design of resources and facilities within the Joondalup campus. Lecturers' accommodation will be provided as open plan offices. In addition, designated rooms will be available for use by lecturers requiring places to which they can retreat from the intrusions of day to day campus activities to concentrate on preparing learning materials. These rooms will be equipped with word processing facilities and extensive reference bases.

Reference material external to TAFE will be available via normal library channels. In the future, all TAFE learning materials will be accessible online. Programme developers will then be able to use appropriate search facilities to locate existing related material that may be adapted or appended for the new purpose. Besides textual information, graphical and diagrammatical data also will be retrievable online.

The Joondalup campus is not likely to have full scale material production facilities. Instead, the production centre at the TAFE External Studies College will be utilised. Currently being investigated is the feasibility of upgrading the facilities of this centre to enable it to provide word processing, document compilation, graphics, printing and binding services for the whole of TAFE. Consideration is also being given to the addition of facilities capable of producing non print materials such as audiovisual and CAL packages. In the future, through computer linkages, prepared material will be able to be sent from the Joondalup campus to the production centre for compilation and publishing.

Currently, most TAFE clients can only gain access to college programmes through attendance at scheduled classes and TAFE lecturers mainly carry out their duties on the site of the college to which they have been appointed. This will not be the situation in the future. TAFE programmes will no longer consist of long, formal and prescribed courses that require participants to conform to predetermined structures, strategies, content and pace to obtain an accredited credential. Instead, clients will be able to enrol in on or off campus programmes whose content, strategies, structures and pace reflect their needs. They will have access to a range of learning modules, resources and strategies from which they can choose combinations to form individualised programmes that provide appropriate credit and facilitate articulation. To enable TAFE to design, develop and deliver a wide range of client specific programmes, lecturers will need to become increasingly involved in learning design and learning management and they also will need to become more mobile. In effect, lecturers will be required to become Mohammed travelling to the mountain. In other words, they will need to provide learning assistance at a time, in a form and in a place convenient to the particular client.

Whilst the design and development of learning resources and delivery strategies will be coordinated across TAFE, local college input, responsibility and decision making will still be possible through a system of designated colleges. Mechanisms will be put in place to facilitate the identification and coordination of individuals who have the capacity to design, modify, write, produce and deliver appropriate materials. TAFE will be able to utilise the skills of these people through collaborative arrangements between TAFE colleges, other educational providers, government agencies and industry. At Joondalup, the management philosophy will enable lecturers to carry out their duties either on campus or on a range of client premises, foster an exchange arrangement between campus staff and staff in other organisations and actively encourage joint programmes between TAFE and client groups.

In the future, as the nature of learning requirements changes, greater interaction and cooperation between educational providers and the end users of educational programmes will be required. Inevitably, the effect of rapid changes in technologies will necessitate a large degree of liaison between these groups regarding access to plant and equipment. As the programme emphasis changes from that of initial learning in three or four year courses to that of more on the job training, interspersed with formal in house theory sessions, cooperative arrangements will be needed to establish credit and certification procedures that recognise skills and knowledge acquired by clients through other studies or through life and work experiences. The provision of such needs driven programmes will require optimum flexibility in curriculum and accreditation procedures and administrative and delivery arrangements. It will be vital for administration, record and certification systems to have the capacity to accommodate clients who come from a variety of backgrounds and who wish to enrol in a mix of modules, from a range of programmes, at different times of the year.


The factors currently shaping Australia are presenting TAFE with many challenges. If TAFE is to take a major lead in Australia's reconstruction, it needs to meet these challenges by proactively harnessing the changes that are occurring. TAFE's future success as the major provider of post secondary education and training will be dependent on its ability to forecast and plan, provide high quality, cost effective, skills formation programmes and make rapid and relevant responses to the demands of its clients. In addition, TAFE will no longer be able to assume that it has a captive audience for its programmes. As the number of training providers increases, TAFE will become just another competitor for both government and client dollars. Only by ensuring its organisational arrangements facilitate needs driven programmes, will TAFE effectively be able to respond to this competition and remain a viable force.

Provision of colleges designed, built, staffed and operated on the philosophy of open learning, will enable TAFE to offer skills formation programmes that are sufficiently broad and flexible enough to permit variations in response to change. These programmes will take advantage of available technological options and reflect the many different strategies and support mechanisms required to meet the needs and objectives of a range of clients in many different situations. Clients accessing these programmes will be able to acquire or update their skills and knowledge at a time, in a place, in a form and at a pace that suits their circumstances. Graduates of such skills formation programmes will be equipped with the levels of relevant, broadly based and transferable competencies required by a complex and changing society.

TAFE's commitment to open learning is clear in the planning for stage 1 of the Joondalup Campus. Future campuses at East Perth and Murdoch, and the further expansion of Joondalup, will build on what is learned by the experiences gained through the development of this first stage. To reap the most benefit from these experiences, TAFE will need to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of open learning on the Joondalup campus in providing the community with the skills formation programmes they require. Inevitably, as our concepts of learning and how it should take place changes, more efficient and effective means of offering learning opportunities to the community will emerge. Whatever the future, TAFE must position itself to take full advantage of the intelligence gained from designing an open learning structure at the TAFE Joondalup campus.


The authors acknowledge the assistance given by the Building Management Authority of Western Australia and Mr Fred van Andel of TAFE Technical Services Division.


Birch, Derek. &Latcham, Jack. (1985). Managing open learning. Blagdon: Further Education Staff College.

Confederation of Australian Industry National Employers' Industrial Council. (1988). Skills formation and structural change. Melbourne: The CAINEI Council.

Dixon, Ken. (1987). Implementing open learning in local authority institutions. London: Further Education Unit and Manpower Services Commission.

Ford, G. W. (Bill). (1987). Innovative approaches to work: Learning from others. Canberra: The Commission for the Future.

Ford, G. W. (Bill). (1990). Communication, skills formation and work: Organisation. A seminar presented to WA TAFE Senior Management in 1990. (Unpublished paper).

Watson, Moira et al. (1989). Designing colleges for open learning. Rockingham, WA: Rockingham College of TAFE.


Appendix 4: Functional relationship diagram

Appendix 4: Ground floor plan east

Appendix 4: First floor plan

Appendix 4: Ground floor plan west

Author: Kath White has a background in mathematics and computing. She has worked as a computer programmer and systems analyst, a technical writer and a computing lecturer. She currently holds the position of Assistant Director of the North Metropolitan College of TAFE, in charge of college services which includes responsibility for human, financial and capital resources.

Moira Watson is the Open Learning Coordinator, South Metropolitan College of TAFE. As Executive Officer for two TAFE planning committees, she has helped determine the physical resources and support services required for open learning. She has a long list of sudio-visual publications and is currently completing an MEd degree with a focus on open learning in TAFE.

Please cite as: White, K. and Watson, M. (1990). Designing an open learning structure: The TAFE Joondalup Campus. In R. Atkinson and C. McBeath (Eds.), Open Learning and New Technology: Conference proceedings, 330-346. Perth: Australian Society for Educational Technology WA Chapter.

[ OLNT'90 contents ] [ EdTech Confs ] [ ASET Home ]
This URL:
© 1990 The author and ASET WA Chapter.
Last revised: 30 Apr 2003. HTML editor: Roger Atkinson
Previous URL 20 Jul 1998 to 30 Sep 2003: