Home' Link : Learn Issue No. 1 Contents About 50 years ago the world was buzzing with
excitement about the Space Race -- who would be
the global leader in space travel -- now it seems
information technology has become the 21st
century's great pursuit; and online education is one event
where Australia is keen to take the lead.
Online education developer Colin Beer says Australia
is gaining momentum in its use of online learning
technologies, surpassing Canada and the US while gaining
on the European leaders. He believes online courses are
gradually becoming the choice way of learning in the
In 2009, the Australian online education sector achieved
$2.7 billion in revenue and has since continued to boom.
In fact, Open Universities Australia -- a company owned
by seven Australian universities and a leader in this space
-- reported a 36% increase in enrolments in 2010 compared
to the previous year, four times the enrolments five years
prior, while in 2011, more than half of CQUniversity's
students were studying at least part of their degree online.
Along with this surge in online students, the
technologies that make it all happen have seen huge
advancements. Colin, a CQUniversity expert in online
course technologies, said online learning began its life on
centralised servers and students used the Internet to access
resources hosted in this realm. However now he believes
the strings are being loosened and online education is
becoming more decentralised. He says online education is
reaching new heights and is heading into the clouds -- that
is cloud technology. "This relatively new way of computing
is changing how students access courses and connect with
their peers and lecturers," says Colin.
Cloud computing is a structure that allows people to
access the web from variety of devices, including desktop
computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones. It also
enables you to store files without taking up valuable space
on personal hard drives and makes these files accessible
from just about anywhere you can access the Internet.
Colin says Web 2.0 has also transformed online learning,
while applications like Skype (video chatting) and Scopia
(video conferencing) along with Wikis, blogs, discussion
forums and online chats are making online learning more
interactive than face-to-face learning. "Online learning is a
more interactive approach to learning. It gives students the
chance to liaise with each other and their lecturers much
"Online courses require vastly different technologies
than face-to-face," says Colin, who believes matching
technologies to the subject matter, the students and the
lecturer are the key ingredients for a successful online
learning course. "We work on this two-pronged approach
and we also ensure that lecturers are given a lot of
professional development in new online elements."
While the boundaries for online learning are becoming
wider, educators are increasingly looking for innovative,
niche ways to deliver authentic experiences; and some are
turning to virtual worlds to make this happen. "Virtual
worlds are loosely defined as internet-based, simulated
environments where users can interact via avatars," says
Colin. "Virtual worlds are immersive and give users the
ability to carry out tasks that are not possible or practical in
the real world."
He says virtual worlds can really shine in an education
environment as it removes some of the real world
constraints such as cost, location and scheduling. The
downside is that these environments are often quite
complex in terms of navigation and the user interface, "so
it's a trade-off between their educational value, usability
and the time it takes to learn how to use the software".
CQUniversity accounting lecturer Jenny Kofoed has
been an advocate of this technology and has been using
Machinimas, or computer-generated movies, in an online
virtual world manager called Second-life to engage her
students in accounting courses.
"We've used a Machinima to present a case study on
ethics and legal liability in which the students were
required to analyse. Instead of reading the case study the
students got to view it as a video clip. We've also used it to
scaffold learning over a number of weeks through a role-
play experience where students work for a mock audit firm.
"It's amazing how much richer the learning experience is
for these students -- and so much more interesting."
Bundaberg based education developer Helen Keen
Dyer believes online learning is in the midst of its
own 'education revolution' with many interesting
developments in the pipeline. "Perhaps one of the most
exciting developments at the moment is the trial of a
virtual classroom. This platform can bring students from
all corners of the globe together for collaborative, real
time learning. For those students who study via distance
education, this opens a world of possibilities."
13 | Learn
Links Archive Link Issue2 Learn Issue 2 Navigation Previous Page Next Page