Last updated: 06.10.12

University of Western Australia to launch online courses

The University of Western Australia (UWA) will offer distance learners three free online learning course at the beginning of next year.

In a partnership with Stanford University in the US, the institution will join the massive open online courses (MOOCs) movement through its open-source Class2Go software, the Conversation reports.

David Glance, director of UWA’s centre for software practice, commented that Stanford's move - as an early innovator of online learning - to openly source its e-learning platform influenced the UWA's decision to work alongside it.

He was quoted as saying: "The collaboration on the platform is a big thing so we’re working with them to produce a mobile platform to go with it and that will be unique."

As a member of the Group of 8 - Australia's board of leading higher education institutions which includes the universities of Sydney and Queensland - Mr Glance stated the UWA's primary consideration was to collaborate.

One of the online courses due to become available to students is Australian studies, chosen by the institution to determine whether there is a global interest in the programme.

The university is also in the process of discussing the role of online courses with various members of its staff as it looks for the best ways to expand its virtual offerings.

According to Mr Glance, the recent decision made by the University of Melbourne to join online course provider Coursera is a key local issue.

People have failed to recognise that Melbourne educators will be teaching students of Australia's National University through its online services, he added, highlighting the threat of local institutions over international ones.

Professors at the UWA have suggested the new e-learning collaboration will create more opportunities for students worldwide.

History professor Jeremy Adelman stated: "It's less time anchored in a lecture hall and more opportunities for face time with me and interactions with people around the world."

Sociology professor Mitchell Duneier also claimed to have received more feedback on his ideas within three weeks of teaching an online programme than he had throughout his career of face-to-face teaching.

E-learning is being embraced by more establishments around the world and earlier this week, professor at the University of New England Jim Barber criticised an Australian educational standards agency over the implementation of traditional and outdated teaching methods at a conference in Melbourne.