Postgraduate professional education

Veterinary Public Health Management is a distance education program with short 3-5 day residential sessions. The program is designed to deliver high quality education to students who are working full time and are able to apply their learning in real time.

Technical and Managerial Learning

The program allocates equal credit points to technical and managerial learning in the first year of the program, demonstrating the importance of skill development in both areas.

Managerial capabilities are a central, unique attribute of our graduates and core units in leadership and project management feature in each award course. The leadership units have been purpose designed from existing course materials used in the Executive Masters of Business Administration degree program to identify linkages between veterinary contexts and organisational behaviour, management and leadership perspectives. They are taught by staff of the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) via residential workshops and online.

The project management unit, also taught via a residential workshop and online class with emphasis on veterinary applications, was modelled on units in the highly successful online Master of Project Management offered through the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney.

Distance education, but also interactive learning

VPHMgt student learning is developed through interaction, engagement with one another and with authentic learning activities. In this sense, students engage in situated learning, characterised by the use of new knowledge in a real-life context, including authentic activities, access to expert modeling of process, multiple perspectives and actively collaborating to construct knowledge (Herrington & Oliver 1995).

This is achieved in VPHMgt by providing students with access to:

  • a wide range of externally contracted facilitators – suitably qualified experts working in the area in which they teach
  • online spaces for discussion in every unit of study, in which students participate in a range of activities that scaffold their social and learning interactions
  • clear expectations and processes, including provision of clear, relevant learning outcomes, clear assessment expectations, rapid feedback on work, quality teaching materials and learning and assessment tasks that reflect the activities they will complete in the workplace
  • a requirement to work together – a challenging experience that can involve several time zones, cultural backgrounds, work and study habits, learning styles, disciplinary backgrounds and software expertise

Riel & Polin (2004) have suggested that this collaborative process is enhanced when students identify as a member of a group and understand their role within that group. Providing early opportunities for face-to-face interaction and socialisation assists and accelerates the development of this process online (Schrumm, 2002). VPHMgt has developed short residential sessions to achieve this.

Developing a learning community – the value of residentials

Face to face study at short residential sessions enables deep, experiential learning in management/leadership and also provides valuable opportunities for networking and socialising amongst fellow students, external industry experts and Faculty staff.

Flexibility and Progression

To aid student progression through the award courses, students can choose to complete a degree in the minimum time required (for example, 2 years for the Masters) or to stagger unit enrolment in line with work and personal commitments. Non-award enrolment in individual units is also encouraged for professionals who need to gain skills in a particular area but do not wish to complete a full degree.

Learner Support

Orientation and support for these students is given high priority in the program. Induction sessions are conducted at residential workshops as well as collaborative and enjoyable orientation activities online. These are specifically designed to ensure students are supplied with the key skills necessary for postgraduate distance study (Bozarth et al., 2000). These include skills in time management and technology, ensuring students have clear expectations about the program, know how to manage group work and are clear about what to do if they need help.

Quality Design & Content

The VPHMgt program ensured quality curriculum design and content by:

  • development of graduate attributes in consultation with industry and the profession
  • contract of an Educational Design consultant (RL Learning Designs) to assure alignment of curriculum and sound learning materials and activities
  • consultation and collaboration with educational experts across the University of Sydney
  • contract of respected academic reviewers in each field of study to provide feedback and advice on the content of every unit of study
  • in areas outside Faculty expertise (such as Leadership & Management), consultation with educational providers with high levels of expertise and sound reputation
  • thorough surveys of students in every unit of study and across the program to ensure the program meets its educational goals and continues to improve


Bozarth, J, Chapman, D & LaMonica, L (2004). Preparing for Distance Learning: Designing An Online Student Orientation Course. Educational Technology & Society 7 (1), 87-106

Jan Herrington and Ron Oliver (1995). Critical Characteristics of Situated Learning: Implications for the Instructional Design of Multimedia Proceedings of the Annual Conference of the Australian Society for Computers in Learning in tertiary Education,

Riel, M & Polin, L (2004). Online Learning Comunities. Barab, S, Kling, R & Gray, J (eds). Designing for Virtual Communities in the Service of Learning. Cambridge University Press

Schrumm, L (2002). Dimensions and strategies for online success: Voices from experienced educators. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 6(1), 57-67