Distance education comes closer
Posted October 13, 2011, by Mike Kermode
Here’s the scene: an academic stands at a lectern, speaking loudly to a theatre full of students while they hurriedly scribble on notepads.
Until recently, this kind of image was still synonymous with university – a real bricks-and-mortar education. But the way people learn is changing. With the growth of technologies such as high-speed Internet, web seminars and social media, and with millions of web-literate users, education is now mobile and a whole lot more accessible.
A large part of this shift is due to online education, for which the demand in the past three years has skyrocketed. Globally, online education is now a $34 billion business, worth close to $4 billion in Australia – and growing. Institutions are scrambling to keep up with burgeoning demand for online courses, be it undergraduate, postgraduate, vocational certificate and diploma or short course qualifications.
More and more education providers are offering their courses by distance, so their students can enjoy the utmost in flexibility with both time and geography. The list of courses being adapted to this virtual format is constantly growing and is set to continue expanding as Commonwealth-supported university places are uncapped next year to boost Australian degree holders, enabling more subsidised online degrees.
So why study by distance? The appeal is obvious – it gives you the freedom and flexibility to study when you want, where you want. It means that you can fit study in when getting to campus is just not a practical thing to do. To make things even easier, the growth of technologies like videoconferencing, social media and live streaming – all thanks to high speed Internet – enables distance education students to communicate with peers and tutors in unprecedented ways.
With this unequalled ease of access, more students than ever are taking advantage of virtual education– but it’s not just uni students who are leading the charge. Part of the growth in studying by distance can be attributed to working adults and Baby Boomers seeking to upskill while working to be better prepared for uncertain economic times, or to pursue an area of interest, like a second language or massage or beauty therapy, without being constrained to an on-campus schedule.
This movement away from on-campus study runs in parallel with a similar projected shift in workplace practices, as people move away from traditional offices to remote work locations, or ‘flexible work environments’. A recent global survey found that more than half of 600 surveyed executives believed that the office would become ‘only a place of occasional use’, while a Cisco report found that only 43 per cent of surveyed Australian workers felt it was necessary for them to be in the office to make decisions. A whopping 73 per cent of respondents said they would take a pay cut in exchange for more flexible working conditions, making it obvious that flexibility is what people want.
If flexibility is what you’re after, check out our range of distance education courses to see how you can upskill or gain a qualification when you want, where you want.