Been thinking of doing a course online? You’re not alone. In 2011, it was estimated that about $35.6 billion was spent on self-paced online learning across the globe. Today, online learning is a truly massive worldwide trend, and numbers of people studying online will could double by 2015[i].
The Australian Bureau of Statistics says, “Online learning environments allow more people access to education, as well as granting flexibility that traditional educational institutions may not.”
But what’s it really like to study online? Do you need to be a technological whiz? What sort of equipment will you need and what do you do if you get stuck? If you’ve been considering online study but have reservations about technology, this online learning myth-bust is for you!
Some statistics on technology in Australia
- Australia had 12,358,000 internet subscribers – not including mobile handsets – at the end of June 2013, showing a 3% annual increase.
- In 2012–13, 46% of older persons were internet users and 44% accessed the internet from home in the previous 12 months.
- More people are now connected to their studies via their devices; their tablets and smartphones. Between December 2012 and June 2013, the number of mobile handset internet subscribers grew by 13%.
- We’re downloading more data too! The total volume of data downloaded via mobile handsets between April and June 2013 was 19,636 terabytes, which is a 43% increase from the previous period[ii].
Real life proof: students Jason & Maluh
Jason is an online learner in his 30s
Does online learning take discipline?
Jason says, “Of course it does. You are self-directed. If you are already in the workforce that discipline translates to your course. Make sure your study is relevant to your life.” Jason continues, “It’s important to find the work/study rhythm.”
What’s the best thing about learning online?
Jason says, “Being able to take control of your learning: you can drive it, you can think for yourself, you can be more pro-active, you learn better employability skills.”
What sort of person makes a good online learner?
Jason says, “People who learn online are good at multi-tasking. Online learning makes you independent and proactive, so the best thing is how independent it makes you.
…but age is no barrier when it comes to studying online!
Maluh is an online learner in her 80s
How did you find the online component of your course?
Maluh says, “I found the online part of the course alright!”
How would you rate your basic computer skills?
Maluh says, “Most of the study and the online parts I can easily manage on my own. I have, once in a while, asked for help.”
What do you do if you get stuck?
Maluh says, “I am not really that efficient on the computer, but I get by with the help of one of my grandkids if I get stuck. I used to be better but as I get older I find that I am less efficient but I still cope easily.”
Studying online with Open Colleges
What basic knowledge will I need?
Studying online only requires a reasonably basic knowledge of IT skills such as word processing, saving, uploading and printing documents, online navigation and communication skills, and general computer use. Students studying online with Open Colleges have a very varied range of experience; from beginners to advanced.
What hardware and software will I need?
The specific hardware and software requirements for your course are outlined on the course page on the Open Colleges website. This is also where you will find the computing skill requirements. Some courses require more computing skills than others – so simply check under the ‘requirements’ tab.
Who do I contact if I need support?
If you need any IT assistance during your studies, contact the student support team through OpenSpace or by phone. You can even arrange a one-on-one phone counselling session and get advice on what’s best for you.
What if I lack basic skills?
If it’s a more specific skill you are after, we have Open Colleges Skill Builder courses in Word, Excel and computer fundamentals. You can even do courses in keyboarding and navigating the internet. More information on our skill builder courses can be found on page 8 of the Student Handbook.
5 minutes with an Open Colleges Learning Support team leader, Melissa Moss
What percentage of enquires are to do with technology questions?
“About 25% of students we speak to mention they feel a little overwhelmed by technology. We find that some students are hesitant at the start of the conversation but once we start running through things with them over the phone, they gain confidence, and occasionally, they realise they knew more than they thought.”
Are you there to help if a student gets stuck?
“Absolutely. We understand that doing an online course doesn’t come naturally to everyone. We guide them through the online classroom, with our aim being to get them comfortable. We are also constantly improving our approach and we are looking at implementing some basic computer skills training down the track as part of our portfolio of Learning Support assistance.”
What’s the silliest question you’ve had? Did you put the student’s mind at rest?
“Well firstly, there are no silly questions! And yes, we have been asked pretty much everything you could think of from how do I turn my computer, and students not realising they needed the internet for an online course. We’re happy to clarify even the most basic of concerns, and put them at ease. We work to empower the student to gain the confidence needed to complete their course.”
Do you deal with students from many levels of technology?
“The students we speak to are highly varied in their exposure and confidence with technology. We speak to students who live by technology; they use smartphones and are always on the internet. We also see students who occasionally use the internet for research and then all the way through to students who have never had any exposure to the internet and the concept of online learning.”
Still have questions about studying online?
Open Colleges has a dedicated team of support staff that you can reach by email or phone. Our website also has lots of information and resources you can search through.
- This page tells you what to expect when studying online.
- This video talks about the online study experience.
- This page talks about OpenSpace, Open Colleges’ customised learning platform.
Got more questions? Contact an Open Colleges Enrolment Consultant on 1300 306 595.