Last updated: 04.10.12

Traditional university teaching 'a risk to online learning' article

The development of online learning in Australia faces obstruction from traditional educational practices, according to one vice-chancellor.

Jim Barber from the University of New England (UNE) in Australia has challenged the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA), criticising its implementation of a "uniform and now outdated model of education", the Australian reports.

At a broadband and higher education conference in Melbourne, he said the country may be at risk of surrendering its domestic market to international online providers if quality and teaching is not "urgently modernised".

Don Russell, head of the federal tertiary education department, defended TEQSA, suggesting structural changes for education were already under investigation.

He added that, as a new regulator, the board is still processing its relationships within the education sector but a number of systems are due to receive analysis, feedback and renewal.

According to Professor Barber, new and improved educational facilities can provide students with richer and more individualised opportunities than seminars or lectures.

Smartphones and other devices have contributed to widening student access to open-source, high-quality content and encourage a shift away from traditional exchanges between teachers and pupils.

At the conference, Professor Barber called for an investigation into the role of broadband in the future of higher education.

He noted certain "risk indicators" that would counter the emerging trends in online learning and enforce a backwards-looking view of higher education.

These included low capital spending on classrooms, libraries, laboratories and student facilities, which could be overcome by the provision of online delivery resources such as iLabs.

Obstacles standing in the way of online education must be found and removed, while regulators adopt an approach that looks at "outputs and not inputs", he added.

A spokesman for the TEQSA was quoted as stating: "Regulatory decisions are guided by our principles of necessity, proportionality and reflecting risk."

Professor Barber's efforts to make the UNE one of the leading institutions in online education are mirrored elsewhere across the nation.

The University of Queensland is also looking to develop its online learning facilities, after recently announcing plans to launch massive open online courses.