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Thursday, October 18 • 11:20am - 12:05pm
Enabling Student Success in Open Education - the Australian Experience

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As a consortium of 21 Australian educational providers Open Universities Australia (OUA) has, since 1993, enrolled more than 200,000 students and continues to provide access to over 1400 units and 170 qualifications. During the past five years OUA has experienced an annual enrolment growth in excess of 25% resulting in the organisation becoming the Australian leader in quality online tertiary education. By allowing potential candidates to make application to study without the provision of an entry score or previous study history, OUA endeavours to remove many of the barriers to university education such as distance, time and entry requirements.

One thing is clear; online education has enabled much greater participation and the trend will continue. Students who previously were unable or unlikely to take up tertiary education now have opportunities that were inconceivable not that long ago.

Last year over 55,000 students accessed online education through OUA from 89 different global locations. The top five international countries where OUA students were based in 2011 were the UK, USA, China, Singapore and Japan.

Since there are no entry requirements for any first-year undergraduate unit at OUA the resulting access scheme attracts a broad cohort of students with varying characteristics which can be identified as:

•Traditional students who access courses to continue educational pathways;
•Non-traditional students who may be part-time, mature-aged, of a language background other than English (LBOTE);
•High risk students with weak academic backgrounds and limited understanding of tertiary education expectations;
•Professionals wishing to upgrade skills in certain fields of vocational interest;
•Career changers who take up study to facilitate an entry point into a different profession;
•Mature-aged students who take up courses for personal interest; and
•International students of a language background other than English (LBOTE).

Fully online courses are constantly under the microscope and often scrutinized for their ‘equivalence’ to on-campus education. However, there is power in quality regardless of mode of delivery and any online organisation is only going to survive and thrive if they offer the best courses, from the best providers, supported by the best staff. That is one driver for OUA in establishing the Centre for Online Learning Excellence which focuses on high quality learning engagement to improve student retention, satisfaction and progression.

Equally critical is the support provided throughout the students’ lifecycle. A number of initiatives have been designed to improve access of an increasing diverse student population in higher education programs. This includes supporting students academically prior and during their study through a range of accredited and non-accredited Enabling Units, an online 24 hour Tutor support service for students and an early alert and intervention system for students at risk academically. OUA also provides professional development opportunities and webinars for tutors and course coordinators to facilitate collaboration and support.

The purpose of this session is to outline processes that Open Universities Australia has developed and evaluated to improve student participation and success in online learning. This presentation and discussion with participants will highlight the learning analytics, techniques and strategies for understanding how the design and facilitation of online education impacts student engagement and satisfaction. Outcomes will be shared from research undertaken and include understanding student characteristics in online and on campus learning environments, fostering inclusivity in large enrolment classes, improving student retention and progression along with evaluations of different technologies for online learning.


Darien Rossiter

Executive Director, Online Learning Excellence\nOpen Universities Australia\n \nDarien’s diverse career, has spanned higher education, government and industry working as a senior manager, media producer, educational designer, learning technologist, librarian

Thursday October 18, 2012 11:20am - 12:05pm PDT

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