You might think there’s no one you can ask for help, because studying online means you’re on your own, right? Wrong!
According to an independent survey, in 2012, more than 60% of colleges in the US offered complete degrees though online and distance education – something unimaginable a decade ago.
Online study is just as popular in Australia and the number of online students graduating from all levels of VET (vocational education and training) and higher education courses grows every year.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that nearly 150,000 students are studying online or “off-campus” in higher education alone – and that number is much higher when you include VET students.
Is there a benefit to studying online?
As an online student you may have to juggle work, study and family – but for many, the opportunity to learn new skills and create new opportunities makes online study the best option. Not everyone has the time to get to a campus several times a week.
Online study – compared to on-campus or face-to-face learning – has a lot of benefits. If you’re shy, for example, speaking up during a class or talking to new people can be a bit confronting. If you’re working it can be difficult to meet with your trainer during ‘office hours’. Sometimes life gets away from us – a new project at work, a sick relative or personal illness – or we just need to take a break from our hectic schedules to rest and relax.
If you study online all of these issues are easy to overcome. In an online learning environment everybody has a voice and you don’t have to shout over anybody to be heard. If you like to think before you speak, studying online means you can take some time to contribute to the discussion without worrying about getting to your next class or your trainer leaving for theirs.
Five levels of real support
Online trainers generally don’t have ‘office hours’, and they are located in almost every state and territory of Australia. You can contact them at a time that suits you and can expect a response within a reasonable time frame, usually within 72 hours or less. Online study is flexible, so if you need to reduce your study load to focus on other things, or take time off for a break, you can do that; you can study all year round or increase your study load when life quietens down, and finish your course in a time frame that suits you.
Another benefit? You get to study in your pyjamas and listen to your favourite music while gaining the new skills you need to get ahead in your career.
Of course, all of this is only possible with a great support team, and Open Colleges provides exactly that with our five levels of support.
From the get-go, the Enrolment Consultant will help you pick the best course for you and your goals. Student support is there to help you with any administration, technical or IT support you need. Then there is learning support, for all the other issues you might have; goal setting, study skills and motivation.
In fact, when you study online, you are never alone
You might think that studying online means you’re on your own, but at Open Colleges there is always somebody to help. Learning support can assist you with creating a study plan. If you need help with literacy or numeracy, there is a learning support specialist you can make an appointment with via your course coordinator. Open Colleges’ learning support is there to help you succeed and make the most of your study.
Studying online doesn’t mean you miss out on talking to other students, either. Sometimes the best support is peer support and Open Colleges gives you that with OpenSpace.
OpenSpace is a ‘virtual campus’ where you can meet and talk to your fellow students. The study buddy system helps you team up with another student so you can help each other stay motivated while you learn. You can meet other local students or people with similar work and family lives, hobbies and other interests. It’s the best of campus life – without the expensive parking or needing a GPS to find your classroom!
Real life proof: Glenn and Antonio
Meet Glenn: store manager and online student
Glenn Hellyer from Boronia, Victoria is an Open Colleges student who knows just how much difference a good support team can make while you study. Glenn had already completed business studies at Open Colleges but he decided to return and enrol in the SIS30310 Certificate III in Fitness. When he made the decision to go back to study, Glenn was a busy guy with a lot on his plate, and he didn’t want to sacrifice his study or his life.
“During the past 12 months, I was juggling the responsibilities and challenges of managing a large electronics store, organising a wedding and planning a two-year trip overseas; in addition, I was chasing up non-responsive builders about new building defects, all the while completing work experience at my local gym.”
So how did Glenn find the process of studying online?
“Studying online can be such an easy task to undertake. In most cases, all you need is a computer that can connect to the internet and motivation. I studied Business Management alongside my army training, through multiple house moves and even full time work. One of the benefits of online training is that it is flexible and that allows you to study when and where you like.”
“After I enrolled, I was provided with all of the required textbooks for the Business Management course. However, I selected to complete my fitness studies predominantly online and therefore I was able to download the PDF files onto my iPad. The courses were divided into numerous units that I studied in chronological order by completing various questions, tests, assessments and projects.
When you need assistance in your studies
As you can imagine, sometimes things didn’t go to plan and Glenn needed assistance from learning support, particularly as he was preparing to go overseas with his partner, Caitlin. He contacted his trainers and assessors when he was struggling and they were there to help.
“I really underestimated the level of support that Open Colleges provide,” says Glenn. “If I ever came unstuck or had issues completing my assessments, there was fantastic support from the team: Donna, Rosemary, Cheree and Antonio. Most of the time, I had an answer within a very short time frame!”
He also needed assistance with some administration. “With only two weeks before heading overseas for an extended period of time,” Glenn explains, “student support assisted in getting my certificate posted to me in a speedy manner.”
Meet Antonio from Open Colleges’ Learning Support team
“Because I come from a professional fitness background, I aim to get results and I take a stern and disciplined approach,” Antonio says. “I am always positive and I let the students know: ‘We’ll get there!’”
He works with students like Glenn every day who are struggling, and helps them set goals, create study plans, understand their course materials, and stay motivated while they learn.
Antonio says the biggest issue for students is procrastination. “It’s easy to get distracted by work or home and think, “I’ll study later”; then before they know it, it’s a lot later than they planned and students need help getting back on track.”
Asking Antonio for help starts with a simple phone call.
How do the students contact you?
Students can book in via their trainers. A student might be experiencing difficulties and ask their trainer to refer them to Learning Support. The trainer can send the referral through for the student, but usually it’s better if the student contacts us so they know that they can book a time that suits them.
How exactly does it work?
We suggest some times and the student picks their preference for a day and time and makes a booking. We lock in a time that’s suitable for them and then we send a follow-up email to confirm the time. It’s important that they are available and ready to go on OpenSpace at the correct time. That way, we can look at things “live” at the same time with them.
When the student has made a booking we are there for them for that 30 minutes. It’s one-on-one, personal time: 100% focus, no interruptions. It’s a locked in appointment – we have dedicated that time to them.
What skills does your team have?
One of our support workers is a Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) expert. She’s really good at managing everything to do with LLN. Everyone on the team can handle LLN enquiries, but that is her speciality.
We have other support workers who are really good at organising students and getting them moving with their studies. We have also had staff members who are former teachers; they are good for students who need guidance with setting study guidelines and boundaries.
What advice would you give to a student who is about to start studying online at Open Colleges?
Make a Learning Support booking! We will take you through the journey of what you actually need. If you make a good start on your course, then you will begin with a great attitude. If you make the appointment early, we can tell you upfront what needs to be done, how it’s structured, how to create a study plan, how to study efficiency and effectively.
Then you will go into your course with a feeling of clarity and momentum and you will have a smoother journey to achieving your qualification.
Often it’s a better idea to get support early, not wait until you hit a roadblock that you need to undo! It’s OK – we like undoing roadblocks in Learning Support! But we would rather see a student that is saying, “I am ready and rearing to go, tell me exactly what I need to do,” and send them off completely set up.
This immediately sets the student up for success, because they know precisely and clearly what they need to achieve.
When you study online with Open Colleges you are never on your own
Few things feel better than crossing the finish line. It doesn’t matter if you think studying online is a sprint or a marathon, you’re going to need a support team to help you finish the race.
Open Colleges has support teams ready to cheer you on as you go, and help you get up again if you fall down.
If you need support with your online learning, you can find more information here: