Open Universities Australia: The Evolution of Open Access and Online Education Opportunities

Open Universities Australia: The Evolution of Open Access and Online Education Opportunities

Michael Crock, Janet Baker, Skye Turner-Walker
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3978-2.ch006
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This chapter analyses the history of, and future directions for, higher education studies undertaken through Open Universities Australia (OUA), Australia’s unique higher education conduit. Founded to provide open access to units that allow individuals to undertake individual units or achieve qualifications from leading Australian universities, and supported by a federal government student loans scheme, OUA’s experience and future plans provide significant insight into the potential and pitfalls of the technological innovation in both higher education distance, and increasingly, on-campus, teaching and learning. The need for an ongoing emphasis on innovation, adaptability, and cooperation in an extraordinarily rapidly changing environment is highlighted.
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The Oua Model

With only a few exceptions, most of Open Universities Australia (OUA)'s students study off-campus. There are no prerequisites for enrolment in OUA's first-year undergraduate units. Undergraduate level units, when successfully completed, are credited towards a range of qualifications (i.e., Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Behavioural Studies, Certificate of Journalism, Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Nursing, Bachelor of Technology, Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Bachelor of Science). Each undergraduate degree is made up of twenty-four units. Students who complete the required units for a particular qualification are able to apply to take out a degree and, if they wish, formally graduate with other students at their awarding university. Postgraduate offerings generally comprise units from a single provider and include a range of qualifications from the Graduate Diploma in Extractive Metallurgy, Master of International Relations, Master of Information Technology Project Management, Graduate Diploma of Education, MBA, Graduate Certificate in Linguistics, among others. Students are able to study from all around Australia, as well as internationally—including places as far flung as Antarctica, Timor Leste, the United Kingdom or South America. Many OUA students are in full-time work and consequently have conflicting demands on their time. Roughly two-thirds of the students are female and the majority of students are in the 18–29 age group taking the arts and social science courses, while business and education courses also have significant cohorts.

Students may be in prisons, have special needs, or be studying through special arrangements with their employers, additionally, students may also study through scholarship schemes, such as refugees from Burma living on the Thai–Burma border a scheme which won the 'Best International Collaboration in Education and Training' at the 2008 Business/Higher Education Round Table Awards. Such a diversity of needs, constraints and backgrounds means that OUA students possess a wide range of characteristics and motivations for studying—ranging from those pursuing career enhancement or full qualifications, to individual development.

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