Just as the internet is transforming media, retail and music, it will transform the way students learn, connect and get qualified.
This will be challenging to our existing higher education institutions, but online learning has the potential to deliver higher quality, more affordable education to more people – if we get the policy settings right.
Tony Abbott has established a Coalition Future of Online Higher Education Working Group which will examine how Australia can capture the benefits of the digital revolution including significantly increasing our education exports into Asia through online services. I have been appointed Chairman.
For hundreds of years, the university model has been largely the same, organised around the timetable of lecturer and classroom availability across a 26 week academic year. The internet changes this. Online learning can occur anywhere at any time at potentially a fraction of the cost.
The most immediate impact is likely to be the decline of large, passive lecture-style learning, as the Vice-Chancellor of ANU has pointed out.
The power of the online environment is from personalised, interactive content which students can watch, re-watch, slow down or speed up at a time and location of their choice.
As Nobel Laureate Prof Brian Schmidt says, “this is not about delivering courses to the masses cheaply. It’s actually about teaching better.”
Thirty-two percent of United States college students already do at least one online course. It is growing faster than Facebook. The Asian market is huge and growing.
Australia cannot afford to be left behind and we cannot afford to get this wrong.
The Coalition will carefully consider the future of online higher education to ensure that we are ready for what one Vice Chancellor referred to as “the biggest challenge in 800 years.”
Assisting me on the Working Group will be Deputy Chair, Karen Andrews MP and Senator Fiona Nash, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Education, Senator Stephen Parry, Nola Marino MP and Rowan Ramsey MP
Submissions to the Working Group are invited from universities, academics, students, relevant organisations and the public with submissions closing on 30 March 2013.
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