Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Online Learning Will Change Universities by Degrees

E-learning short courses
E-learning short courses (Photo credit: London College of Fashion short courses)
by Professor Margaret Gardner, Vice-Chancellor at RMIT University, The Conversation: http://theconversation.edu.au

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: We continue our series on the rise of online and blended learning and how free online courses are set to transform the higher education sector. 

Today RMIT’s Vice Chancellor, Margaret Gardner looks at how online education will affect different parts of higher education.

New technologies and online learning are set to transform universities bringing an era of great change.

But as we struggle to understand exactly what and how much disruption we will experience - and how soon - we need to also understand that change won’t be uniform across the sector.

With so many different sectors in tertiary education, the challenge created by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) - free online courses offered by prestigious universities - will be more immediately important for some more than others.

Real disruption

The debate to date has mades it seem that the large-scale online free courses known as MOOCs, will affect every element of what universities offer. And underlying this debate is fear. Will there be fewer universities as we now know them? Undoubtedly, yes.

These fears about online learning and recognising their potential have been around for a while, but have reignited since we added “massive” and “open” to online learning. When enrolments started to be measured in the tens of thousands and the courses offered at Harvard, MIT and Stanford were available for free, online education enhanced its reputation and increased its scale.

The discussions between supporters of an online learning future and sceptics are often working on the assumption that the traditional university degree will be the most affected. But I expect that this will not be the major market in which online will make greatest inroads first. I propose three areas where online will change the game quickly.

The first is the short vocational qualification; particularly where there is a need to demonstrate mastery for compliance purposes. Demand here is for the accredited qualification (not a whole learning or career-defining experience).

The second is the comparatively short (12 months or so) postgraduate qualification. Postgraduate students are often time poor, challenged by the demands of their job and/or family circumstances. Being able to be on campus and in class is their challenge.

For many postgraduate qualifications, they are often looking for specific learning outcomes or a career change. And with this group, flexibility is as important as quality. Online has the capacity to deliver a flexible, quality, reliable educational program in a way that many on-campus programs cannot.

The third area is the taster or short course. This enables all types of people to dabble in a particular subject for interest or when they are looking to study in this field. Most enrolments in MOOCs are of this third type, which is why few people complete a subject or seek assessment or accreditation.

To read further, go to: http://theconversation.edu.au/online-learning-will-change-universities-by-degrees-9804?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+16+October+2012&utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+16+October+2012+CID_49f181b63d19f89e5b3e62fac3e752a8&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Online%20learning%20will%20change%20universities%20by%20degrees
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