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Educator spotlight: Great South Land: Introducing Australian History with University of Newcastle Australia

Great South Land: Introducing Australian History ran on FutureLearn for the first time in late February 2019. It is among the first courses to be offered as part of the University of Newcastle’s Bachelor of Arts Online. The University of Newcastle is the first partner to offer an undergraduate degree on FutureLearn.

Kate Ariotti, Lecturer in History at the University of Newcastle explains ‘the open course provides an overview of Australian history from the earliest known human occupation of the continent – the 60,000+ years of what is called “deep time” Aboriginal history – to the early days of British settlement. It covers pre-contact Aboriginal society through to the arrival and subsequent occupation of the land by British convicts and colonists from 1788 onwards’.

It’s far more than a course about dates and places and names. Great South Land tackles some big historical questions and issues, such as the extent to which Aboriginal peoples cultivated the land, the legitimacy of British claims to ‘discovery’ of the continent, and whether the convicts sent to the new colonies were victims of economic disenfranchisement or hardened, immoral criminals.

Kate describes her experience running the course for the first time. ‘The course is challenging, and in some respects confronting. It can be difficult to learn that there is no one “truthful” history of a nation, and unsettling to be exposed to lesser-known, and perhaps less comforting, aspects of a nation’s past. Facilitating this open course has been such a rewarding experience as it has taught me how to present content through a variety of means to engage students of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. I’ve enjoyed watching how the discussions, activities and posts have stimulated shared learning and fostered new interests among learners. I know that the course has definitely had an impact on the way participants think about the history of Australia, and that’s what it’s all about for me!’

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