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Date published: 22 November 2011

For education providers, the national broadband network can't come soon enough.

As the Federal Government continues to struggle to sell the perceived advantages of the National Broadband Network, the Opposition and the media are having a field day. Unfortunately, this cacophony is beginning to drown out reasoned argument and one of the NBN's greatest advocates, the education sector, is not really being heard.

According to Open Universities Australia's executive director of academic products and services, Dr Michael Crock, the potential of the NBN is enormous for education providers. He suggests students across the nation and the region will have the opportunity to tap into virtual lab experiments, streaming TV and cloud libraries, and greater access to higher-definition broadband will allow people to explore virtual reality and recreate scenarios through digital media.

For Griffith University's deputy vice chancellor (academic), Professor Sue Spence, the NBN will enable tertiary institutions to deliver a lot more sophisticated online-enabled technology to students across the nation. She says distance education plays a key role in the university's offering and OUA forms a significant part of its online strategy.

Being one of 18 universities offering courses through OUA allows the university to make their online courses more viable, Spence says. "We are attracting students from across the nation and because of the fact OUA's offering is so broad, we can offer a much more sophisticated online program."

One of the great advantages of OUA is the close relationship that has developed between the providers, Dr Crock says. "It means the time to market for a new degree can be greatly enhanced by working together as the degree needs to be approved by all providers. It means institutions can focus on their core strengths as all partners have agreed to cross-accredit students, which allows students to pick and choose any of the providers as they work towards their degree."

Professor Spence cites Griffith's Bachelor of Arts course, which is cross-accredited with Macquarie University and their Bachelor of Business, which will be cross-accredited with Swinburne University of Technology and ACU. Both degrees allow students to pick up subjects from other universities.

Dr Crock says a major reason for OUA's continued attraction is the fact it's not just about getting a degree online. It's also for those who want to dip in and out of study. "Individuals at the very beginning of a journey who want to get a taste of tertiary education can enrol with OUA because it's less threatening than enrolling in a whole degree," he says.

Professor Spence says OUA is a wonderful way to bring people into the education system. "It ties in nicely with the Federal Government's push to bring students from lower socio-economic backgrounds into bachelor degrees because we're bringing people into education and giving them a start."

She says people from all over the nation partake of Griffith's QUA offering. "We've turned the whole nation into your campus and classroom."

Date: Saturday 25 June 2011
Publication: Weekend Australian
Title: NBN potential 'enormous'