Media centre

Date published: 17 November 2011

How would you like to get some perspective on media crime stories? Do you need an MBA to increase your chances for promotion? Would you like to learn Hindi? Or would you just love to teach but never had the opportunity to train? Open Universities Australia (OUA) caters for approximately 50,000 students a year, enrolled in 150,000 units. Many study a few units to suit their interests: others are working towards a professional degree in business, IT, education or nursing, or undertaking postgraduate studies. But OUA is not just one university it is at least 20.

"We have been around since 1992 when the government of the day decided to open up opportunities for Australians who couldn't normally get to university," says Dr Michael Crock, executive director, academic products and services at OUA. "We are unique in the world in that universities around Australia with exceptional programs, take on the responsibility for teaching subjects or degrees online through our system. You can teach almost anything online broadband makes science and maths as visual as a lecture. If students embrace the advanced technology they can do very well."

The most popular degrees are in education and business. Griffith University's Bachelor in Criminology and Criminal Justice has 1200 off-campus enrolments, compared with 400 on campus. Many OUA students just enjoy the introductory units, and there are great success stories. A number of OUA students are incarcerated, and one of these completed both a bachelors and masters in criminology during her time.

OUA students can be anywhere in the world: in the defence forces, on tankers, cattle stations, or on the Thai-Burma border where the OUA universities support 25 students in teaching degrees. A majority are people working in normal full time jobs, determined to become qualified for their dream career. Others study from home caring for young families. The OUA enables them to take on degrees which they can use when their children start school.

A few of the courses require some face-to-face attendance including the Executive MBA during which students fly in from around the world. Nursing and education courses need placements. Computer courses require students to strip computers as part of their exam.

"The world of higher education is changing globally," says Dr Crock. We have the capacity to work with education providers to create wider ranges of opportunities for the people of Australia to better themselves. What Copyright Agency Ltd (CAL) licensed copy we have now is only the beginning."

Although all first year undergraduate subjects are open entry, it is advisable for people who have been away from study for some time to begin with one of OUA's general enabling units. There are specific enabling courses such the University of South Australia's Human Health, for students hoping to undertake nursing.

Through OUA, Murdoch University provides Learning to Learn in Business: the smart way to start your business course at university. They also do Rocket Science Learning to Learn in Science. You may as well start your degree with a solid foundation which pays dividends in the end.

E-learning, including chat rooms with fellow students, is a great way to do tertiary study. You can actually see your DNA model swing slowly around as often as necessary. The lecturer can repeat his lecture before and after dinner. You can see how detergents clean clothes, watch economics models and maths equations, or view history videos.

OUA makes tertiary education possible for students with disadvantages of time, distance, and socioeconomic factors.

Date: Monday 8 August 2011
Publication: The Age
Title: Learning for fun or your future