Friday, August 2, 2013

The sky is the limit for distance ed

CQUniversity has long been a provider of distance education within the Australian higher education Sector. We have been doing it for decades (almost 40 years to be precise) and I’d like to think we’ve made plenty of advancements since then.

People choose distance education for many different reasons – flexibility being number one. Many students realise that external study is the most convenient way for them to combine study with personal commitments, as they work towards a post graduate qualification, or seek to change their career path.  

The demand for distance places and programs is most certainly increasing, with many Australian universities now realising this need. Notably those that have not previously had a presence in the space are now moving towards delivering courses and or programs via distance mode.

Aside from flexibility, it goes without saying that technology, particularly mobile technology is the key driver in the uptake of distance programs. Rapid developments in technology are changing the way we learn and retrieve information, and most importantly changing expectations. Ten years ago many of our students were still receiving hardcopy learning materials in the post and weren't able to take advantage of the lectures and tutorials that on-campus students could. Now they can receive learning resources instantaneously in the palm of their hand and attend classes just by following a link.

As well as contributing to a more interactive learning experience for students, technology is also allowing universities to expand distance program offerings. In fact one of the most exciting programs being offered by CQUniversity, via distance education is paramedic science. In this instance technology has made all the difference in being able to effectively deliver this program, to hundreds of student’s right across Australia.

I’m sure there will be many cynics out there that can’t possibly see how such a hands-on discipline could be studied by distance. In response I can only say that the program recently received glowing feedback from the Council of Ambulance Authorities (CAA) at a site evaluation. 

Paramedic Science educators with representatives from the CAA

CAA members themselves, admitted to be sceptical about how effective the delivery of this program would be via distance, but left CQUniversity convinced that this was a way forward for education. What’s more they commented that CQUniversity was leading the way.

Of course we don’t completely rely on the online delivery of courses for distance education, with many of our distance programs having a residential school component. The schools allow our distance students to come together in realistic settings to gain hands on practical experience.

I have absolutely no doubt that in the next few years distance education will take off as both demand grows and new learning technologies emerge. It is a very exciting time for not just CQUniversity, but for students and the higher education sector as a whole. 

On the topic of distance education our Cairns Distance Education Study Centre (DESC) is celebrating its first year in operation this month. It’s a great facility that has been well utilised by our students in Far North Queensland. We’ve since opened centres at our metro campuses as well. If you are a distance student and want to know more click here.

Distance students in Cairns celebrating the 1st Birthday of the Carins DESC

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