In this first edition of Reach, we highlight the different nature of OUA students; we outline a new way OUA is recognising teaching excellence; and we provide information on our forthcoming Higher Education Market Opportunities Overview.

 

As Australia’s leading marketplace for online higher education, OUA’s portfolio of partner universities represents a unique network of online practitioners, expertise and innovation. Through this newsletter we hope to increase awareness and enhance access to opportunities available via this network.

 

We invite you to provide feedback and have your say on what we should include in future editions of Reach. Complete the feedback form, or simply contact us at academic@open.edu.au.

 

 

Bringing a different demographic

 

While the majority of students studying on-campus tend to be school leavers, OUA students are different.

The demographic is older, with almost half being in full-time employment and 70% in some form of active employment.

 

 

Graph: Comparison of OUA and on-campus students by age

Source: ABS 2014 and OUA Data Warehouse

 

 

Table 1: Employment Status of OUA students
Source: Data extracted from OUA Data Warehouse

 

This picture varies when we look at OUA student data by broad field of study. For instance, when filtered by Management and Commerce, the proportion of students who reported being in full-time employment increases from 44% to 60%.

 

Table 2: Employment Status of OUA students undertaking Units  classified by Field of Education as Management and Commerce
Source: Data extracted from OUA Data Warehouse

 

Despite their older age and high levels of active employment, the vast majority of OUA students (92%) are studying at the undergraduate level. This contrasts with universities on-campus experience, where the majority of undergraduate students are regarded as school leavers, and older students with higher levels of employment are often associated with undertaking postgraduate study.

 

While OUA students can bring a rich source of life experience to their online studies, being older and having high levels of employment responsibility means they are likely to face greater family and work pressure. As one academic staff member noted at a recent meeting, when you are teaching and interacting with students on-campus, it can be difficult to remember that students studying online can be different and have very different needs.

 

Whether it be scheduling a synchronous online discussion or the design of subject assessment, understanding the needs of students studying online remains a developing challenge for practitioners and university operations dominated by on-campus study.

 

In future editions of Reach, we hope to share further information about the different demographics of OUA students.

 

 

Recognising Excellence

 

OUA has introduced a new initiative to recognise staff who demonstrate excellence in the teaching of students studying online.

 

Using Student Satisfaction data, OUA is able to rank course units across a range of categories at the end of each study term. The data is assessed against additional criteria and key performance requirements agreed to with partner universities to finalise selection.

 

Using results from the first study term in 2017, we have now written to the partner university’s Deputy-Vice-Chancellors, and the staff who achieved the top performing units to congratulate and recognise these outstanding results.

 

We understand that the effective engagement and teaching of students studying fully online requires a different set of skills and approach to traditional forms of on-campus teaching. With universities offering more and more of their courses online and in blended form, the skills needed to effectively engage students in an online learning environment are becoming increasingly important.

 

By providing Letters of Recognition, OUA hopes to:

  • acknowledge and highlight levels of excellence being achieved
  • encourage and support the engagement of students studying online
  • complement university processes for recognising excellence in online teaching.

 

We congratulate the following universities for having the top ranked units by Student Satisfaction in the first teaching period in 2017.

  • Curtin University
  • Griffith University
  • La Trobe University
  • Murdoch University
  • Swinburne University of Technology
  • University of South Australia
  • RMIT University

 

We look forward to profiling some of the top performing units in future editions of Reach.

 

 

Rapid Development Fund

 

OUA recently launched the Rapid Development Fund (RDF) to help universities develop and deliver new programs into the OUA portfolio. The RDF provides grants and loans of up to $135k to fast track the offering of new and high demand programs by all university working with OUA.

 

Funding is intended to support the design, development and project management costs associated with preparing programs or units to be offered fully online to OUA students.

 

OUA’s ‘open portfolio’ approach encourages university partners to offer any of their units or programs online and the RDF is already helping universities to broaden their online offering across popular areas of study including teacher education, business and communications.

 

Funding is limited and institutions keen to expand their portfolio of online programs are actively taking up this opportunity. If you would like more information, you can access the brochure here.

 

 

Sharing more information

 

We are excited to announce the first edition the Higher Education Market Opportunities Overview. OUA is unique in the Australian higher education market in that it is the only network of universities in Australia collaborating to offer online programs.

 

By virtue of its pioneering role in online education and its very nature and structure, OUA delivers a unique set of benefits including collated data and insights to assist universities in making decisions and monitoring performance.

 

This annual document will share insights into what prospective students want from universities, how they make their choices about what to study and priorities for growing the OUA portfolio. Insights are based on information gathered from a range of sources including OUA’s own lead and enrolment data, our annual survey of 1300 current and prospective students, and government data sources.

If you would like to receive an advance copy please email academic@open.edu.au

 

 

Contact our University Relationships team

 

OUA’s University Relationships team works with our university partners to grow and enhance the choice of programs and units available to students through OUA’s digital marketplace.

 

The team’s activities include:

  • Portfolio Operations (including Catalogue Management, Portfolio Management Committee)
  • Academic Partnership Management
  • Academic Engagement (includes administration of the Rapid Development Fund, Continuous Improvement, Student Satisfaction Surveys, Provider Insights and knowledge sharing initiatives)
  • Education Programs Marketing

 

Please provide feedback and tell us what you would like to see in future editions of Reach. We invite you to submit comments below or contact us at academic@open.edu.au.