Why you'll end up choosing online study

Open Universities Australia shares insights into digital education

Opening up eduaction

Opening up eduaction

Higher education is taking a lead with investments in online teaching. To succeed in this space, you need to be digitally-savvy player, says Open Universities Australia.

This feature offers insights from Open Universities Australia.

You've almost certainly noticed that tertiary education is moving online. And you've quite possibly questioned the trend. That's totally understandable given that there's a very good chance most, if not all, of your formal learning to date has been in a classroom, a lecture theatre or a tute room.

But it is happening, and it's a trend that's moving fast.

Figures from the Australian Government's Department of Education and Training show that between 2009 and 2013 online university-level enrolments grew by 33.5 per cent. That's more than twice the rate of total on-campus higher education enrolments, which increased by 15.8 per cent over the same period.

This rise in interest from students is, as you'd expect, leading to a rapidly expanding sector. Research by IbisWorld shows that since 2005 the number of online education providers in Australia has grown by more than 400%, from 257 in 2005-06 to 1052 in 2014-15.

As Open Universities Australia CEO Paul Wappett says, this shift to online was always going to happen.

"Over the last 20 years, technology has transformed the way people communicate and access information. It's only logical that it would transform and benefit education as well. Both educators and students are positively exploiting these technological advancements," Wappett says. What's behind this shift?

Before we answer, consider this: demand for postgraduate degrees is expected to double by 2020. We only mention it because of all students, postgraduate students are notoriously selective and discerning. And with good reason.

Flexible study load

They're generally already working, so they're looking for education that they can complete outside 'business hours'. They often have a family or significant social commitments so they're looking for an extremely flexible study load. And they've already studied at tertiary level, so they know what good-quality higher education looks like.

Online education delivers on each of these three points, and it does so more comprehensively and consistently than it ever has before.

"Only a decade ago smartphones, tablets and ultra-thin laptops weren't mainstream devices. Now they're mature technology and students aren't just comfortable using them - they expect to have them central to their education. And just as the technology has matured, so has online education," Wappett says.

"This maturity means that people no longer have to sacrifice their lifestyle or personal commitments to work towards a high-quality degree. MBAs and industry specific Master's degrees are increasingly being offered online by leading Australian universities."

The choice of extremely reliable undergraduate and postgraduate degrees that can be studied entirely online has significantly expanded.

Lifestyle choices

"Students can continue to work while studying and opt in and out of their course to suit their lifestyle. And they can do so knowing that they're working towards what is ostensibly the same qualification as their on-campus peers. For most online students, the common denominator is the desire for flexibility, but the speed of the shift from on-campus towards online comes down to quality," Wappett says.

In 2013 nearly a quarter of all Australian university students chose to study wholly or partially online. That proportion is only set to become larger.

So, while you might question the sanity of the trend towards online study, if and when you choose to add another degree to your CV (and your Linkedin account, of course), we can safely say you'll probably end up choosing online study.

Open Universities Australia members are Australian Catholic University, Charles Darwin University, Curtin University, Griffith University, La Trobe University, Macquarie University, Murdoch University, RMIT University, Swinburne University, University of New England, University of South Australia and the University of Western Australia.

More details at the members web site.

Tags digital educationOpen learningCloudsocial mediaOpen Universities AustraliaBlended learning

More about Australian Catholic UniversityCharles Darwin UniversityCurtin UniversityGriffith UniversityLa Trobe UniversityMacquarie UniversityMurdoch UniversityOpen Universities AustraliaRMITRMIT UniversitySwinburne UniversityUniversity of New EnglandUniversity of South AustraliaUniversity of Western Australia

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