Bernie Goldie

EnRoLE masked ball – not your standard academic staff development seminar!

A ‘masked mall’ event was held on 24 April in the Tyree Room, Scientia, at UNSW to show off the results of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC)-sponsored Project EnRoLE.

Project EnRoLE is funded by ALTC building an Australian community of university clusters, state networks and international partnerships to assist dissemination of the teaching technique of online role play in university education.

The project leader is UOW’s Director of the Centre for Educational Development and Interactive Resources (CEDIR), Professor Sandra Wills.

The ball allowed project participants to meet people who have developed, or are developing, online role plays.

Professor Wills said that the potential anonymity of online social interaction was often seen as risky.

“But it has some educational advantages. Role play is an excellent way of learning by experience about complex social contexts – serious and fun at the same time. Online, students can interact in role without the distraction of knowing who the other players really are,” Professor Wills said.

In role play learning, students can:

    • put themselves in someone else's situation

    • do authentic tasks in an authentic context

    • collaborate, negotiate or debate around complex messy problems

    • interact with students in other universities and in other countries.

Online role plays are being used in discipline areas such as engineering, international relations, media, journalism, public relations, communications, business, environment, health, law, language, economics, history, politics, education and geography.

The masked ball celebrated a collaboration among Australian universities that has produced a large number of online role play designs, inspired by sharing. Online role plays can be re-used and adapted – which can save a lot of academic time.

There were several different online role play ‘families’ on display including some debutantes.

Professor Wills said that learning can be fun for academic staff too.

“So instead of running a standard academic staff development seminar, the Project EnRoLE team dressed up and had a ball. There was music, afternoon tea and drinks . . . and, of course, masks. Participants were introduced to some of the best online role play families.”

The project website is located at