Open Universities Australia offers diverse options for Australian and international students – from completing bridging courses with national universities to graduating with a degree by distance study. The organisation allows people to study courses from anywhere, in their own time.
As a Student Advisor, Blake assists OUA students to make the best decisions for their needs and situations.
My job involves responding to student enquiries via phone and email. The questions relate to diverse issues – anything from assisting with enrolment and unit selection to degree advice.
There was a lot of intensive training. The first two weeks involved purely systems training on the software that we use. I was also trained in product knowledge, including our large range of qualifications and units, displayed on our website.
OUA is a consortium of seven universities – Monash, Curtin, Macquarie, UniSA, Swinburne, RMIT and Griffith – but we have other providers as well, such as Murdoch University.
It depends on students’ needs. I always ask, ‘what is it you would like to study?’ This is because OUA offers over 60 qualifications and over 900 units. For instance, a student can directly do a Master’s in Business Administration or they could just do one unit to enhance their essay-writing skills.
There are many reasons why studying with OUA works for people. Some students need to gain accreditation for accounting organisations, like CA or CPA, so they use a couple of units from us as a bridging course. If they want to get into an on-campus university desperately, they can complete a couple of units with us and then take those units on-campus to enhance their application for that particular university.
International students who want an Australian degree can also complete a whole degree from overseas.
In addition, full-time employees in the workforce may not have sufficient time to attend classes on campus. This is where OUA allows students the flexibility to study in their own time from anywhere. We are an open entry so it’s accessible for basically anyone.
Classes are primarily done online. If a student enrols in one of our units, they would use OUA’s website for administrative tasks, and also have access to the provider university’s website – for example, Swinburne University. Students are able to find all academic coursework, assignment details, and contact details for their tutor on the provider university’s website.
Two units per study period is classified as full time and we have many full-time students.
There are general discussion boards on the OUA website and also boards for most individual subjects, and sometimes even live messaging, so you can have direct contact with other students. Students can also opt in to a contact list for their unit, allowing them to have direct email correspondence with other students in their unit, and to bounce questions and ideas off each other.
We set up a support network to compensate for the face-to-face interaction that people studying by distance miss out on. OUA’s support staff deal with everything that we offer and there are also support staff at each particular university that just handle OUA students. Students can call us for general or enrolment information and they can call the university for assignment-specific information, exam dates and things like that.
All Australian citizens studying OUA units are eligible for FEE-HELP to help cover the cost of the unit. FEE-HELP is a loan given to eligible fee-paying students to help pay part or all of their tuition fees. Around eighty per cent of our students use FEE-HELP.
As a rough estimate, in the last two study periods, we enrolled students in around 21 000 units. We are Australia’s biggest online education service.
The first thing is to ascertain what level a student is at – whether a student is required to complete a foundation unit to enhance their essay-writing skills, directly enrol into the core units or apply for a post-graduate program. Once the course level is determined, the next focus in on time. A student can study one unit with OUA at a time or they can study up to four units. Each unit has an average workload of 10 hours per week. So our job is to ascertain how much time and motivation a student has and offer them a program with the right study load and academic level.