There is more to online education than 'flicking a switch'

Degrees designed to be online can prove successful.

Despite many education professionals predicting that online learning would never completely replace face to face education, and that most educational institutions would not be able to offer online learning until 2030^, the recent health crisis caused by COVID-19 has meant that many institutions have had to think on their feet and deliver online education overnight.

Dr Sue Brown, Director of International Sport Management at Federation University Australia – ranked number one for teaching quality in the state of Victoria, Australia – says designing a course specifically for online learning is not an easy feat and although many institutions have switched their study to online, there is a big difference between learning online and a well-planned and delicately delivered 100% online degree.

“Higher education has been turned on its head over the last few months. Universities and colleges have embraced technology to turn courses into a remote learning format to ensure student continuity. It has been exciting to see what’s possible and to watch how the education industry has adapted to the challenge.”

But Dr Brown warns that although institutions have risen to the challenge, the mechanics of delivering a purpose-built, online degree are far more complicated than flicking the switch to online from a traditional degree format.

Dr Brown and her team at Federation University have been working on the build and delivery of a bespoke 100% online Bachelor of International Sport Management degree for months.

“We’ve been planning and building our 100% online degree for almost a year now, and although as a university we are used to delivering some modules or degree elements online, this degree is the first of its kind, designed to be 100% online from the beginning.”

This ‘first-of-its-kind’ degree has been possible due to the partnership of the University with the World Academy of Sport. As the education partner to the world’s sport industry, the World Academy of Sport have access to industry leaders and specialists to help enrich the students’ study with real life case studies, lectures from industry experts and unique work placement opportunities delivered in their local country.

“Designing a degree for 100% online delivery is very different to how we would normally build a degree. Every decision must ensure that we are not only considering the content but the learning style and wellbeing of students in a virtual environment.”

A 100% online delivery format means that the degree is available globally and is specifically designed with internationally applicable content so graduates will have a globally recognised qualification and opportunities to work in the sport industry anywhere in the world.

The benefits of online delivery are multiple for students and lecturers, including added flexibility and techniques that are more adaptable to student’s learning styles and pace. It is particularly appealing for mature age students, who can work and study at the same time, and Federation University’s degree has also been designed with professional athletes in mind giving them the flexibility to study around their training and competing timetables.

Dr Brown says understandably the hardest part of building a 100% online degree is finding innovative ways for students to build relationships with each other and with their lecturers.

“We are designing engaging online learning content and activities to enable student interaction. We actually have the ability to provide more tailored and one to one student support than you would normally have in a traditional face to face degree.”

“One of the key advantages of an online degree is the opportunity for students to connect globally, build international relationships and contacts and to learn from each other.” Dr Sue Brown

While the education industry continues to adapt to online learning the opportunities in designing fit for purpose online education continue to grow. Students who embrace the opportunity to study this way learn 21st century skills for working and living in a global society.


^ Times Higher Education website - Will coronavirus make online education go viral?

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