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Deakin University Optometry School Opens

mivision | 26 March 2012
Representatives from the entire optical profession gathered with first year students to mark the opening of the Deakin Optometry Course.

The celebrations, which took place at Deakin University in Geelong Victoria on Wednesday 29 February, provided the opportunity to outline the course structure in greater detail while also introducing students to the many opportunities that a career in optometry presents.

Professor Harry Weisinger, Foundation Director and Chair in Optometry at Deakin, said the School is “all about innovation”.

“This is the first accelerated optometry program I know about… the program is 10 x 12 week trimesters – it’s not that we have reduced the amount of tuition, we’ve just compressed it.”

He said the program is an “authentic backward designed curriculum”: the students start with the vision of what an optometrist knows, thinks, and does, then they work their way back with measurable outcomes to be achieved before graduation.

He described the teaching style at Deakin Optometry as a ‘novel game show method’ that focuses on team based learning. “This is one of the hottest new techniques being used to teach medicine… it’s about student engagement and consolidation,” he said.

In their first year of study, students will undertake three brand new optometry units as well as nine ‘off-the-shelf’ units already being delivered by the University in health science, accounting and management.

On day one of year two, they will commence their clinical skills curriculum, which will continue right through to the end of their course. Additionally, he said, students will experience extended residential clinical placements. “We take the view that we would like to put our students where the optometry occurs – so we’re not going to start a clinic here in the Uni – we’ll put students… in private practice, hospital settings, and community health centres,” he said.

While the Optometry School has opened, its permanent home is still under construction. Prof. Weisinger said the Reach Building is on schedule to be completed in October and the academic and student teams will be in by the end of the year.

The School will have one dedicated floor with eight problem based learning tutorial rooms, each furnished and equipped with hand-held equipment. “Students tend to use these rooms as their home rooms – so they’ll be able to play around with equipment used in a practice on a daily basis,” said Prof. Weisinger.

Additionally the school will have a fully equipped, fully functional optometry practice with everything from retail displays, point-of-sale and a grading room. Students will undertake part of their clinical skills curriculum and team based learning in the School’s 400sqm clinical skills laboratory and a mock optometry practice with a “fully kitted out” consulting room, pre-test room and retail space will be wired for sound and vision. This will enable academics to observe and record students as they practice or simulate examinations.

Terri Smith, President of the Victorian branch of the Optometrists Association of Australia (OAA) attended the launch and spoke to students about the benefits of establishing a long-term relationship with the Association.

“It was great to be there and to see the enthusiasm of the student group and teaching staff,” Ms. Smith told mivision. “It was exciting to think that among the 70 future members in the room, there may well have been a future Association President there. She added that “the opening of Deakin University’s optometry school has been a long time in the planning, and it was pleasing to see that the day was really well supported by industry.”

' This is the first accelerated optometry program I know about… the program is 10 x 12 week trimesters – it’s not that we have reduced the amount of tuition, we’ve just compressed it. '