STUDY HOME COM­FORTS

Any­one can study al­most any­thing on­line, writes Lauren Ah­wan

The Courier-Mail - Career One - - Front Page -

De­mand for flex­i­ble learn­ing has meant many more ca­reers can be stud­ied on­line.

ON­LINE study is rapidly gain­ing mo­men­tum as people re­alise the ben­e­fits of study­ing at hours that suit them.

Such is the in­ter­est in learn­ing on­line that course of­fer­ings have ex­panded to in­clude more prac­ti­cal dis­ci­plines such as sci­ence, en­gi­neer­ing and nurs­ing.

It is only a mat­ter of years be­fore de­grees in medicine and per­form­ing arts – the re­main­ing do­mains of on-cam­pus study – are also on­line, be­lieves Open Uni­ver­si­ties Aus­tralia chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul Wappett.

About 60,000 stu­dents were en­rolled in 190 de­gree pro­grams at the on­line and dis­tance learn­ing provider last year, mak­ing it Aus­tralia’s sec­ond largest ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tion be­hind Mel­bourne’s Monash Univer­sity.

Wappett says the flex­i­bil­ity of on­line learn­ing ap­peals to full-time work­ers, par­ents of young chil­dren and those liv­ing in re­mote and re­gional ar­eas.

“We’ve had a large rise in people do­ing sci­ence cour­ses that in­volve lab­o­ra­tory work – they use vir­tual labs with sim­u­la­tions or there are re­mote labs around the world where a ro­bot some­where will carry out the ex­per­i­ment,” he says.

Gold Coast In­sti­tute of TAFE re­ports en­rol­ments in its on­line nurs­ing di­ploma have tripled since it be­came the first Aus­tralian in­sti­tu­tion to of­fer the course on­line in 2012.

The TAFE’s con­tin­u­ing high en­rol­ments – about 260 stu­dents this year – show the grow­ing need for on­line study.

“We have stu­dents who face a range of chal­lenges that pre­vent them from at­tend­ing on-site train­ing,’’ says chief ex­ec­u­tive Aaron Devine.

“This in­cludes full-time work­ers, in­clud­ing work­ing moth­ers, par­ents who are car­ing for a child with a disability, people liv­ing hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres out of town and oth­ers who are not in a fi­nan­cial po­si­tion to stop work­ing to study.”

Bris­bane mother and for­mer hair­dresser Kristy Shel­ton, 27, ex­pects to fin­ish her on­line nurs­ing di­ploma – which in­volves 400 hours of clin­i­cal place­ment – next month and hopes to con­tinue her nurse train­ing with the Royal Aus­tralian Air Force. She has com­bined study with work­ing at an in­de­pen­dent liv­ing fa­cil­ity.

“If I’m on af­ter­noon shifts then I will study in the morn­ings but if I’m work­ing in the morn­ing I will study late into the night,’’ Shel­ton says.

“I did look at some class­room op­tions but I found it was too hard to man­age with work. This way, ev­ery­thing is ac­ces­si­ble on­line, seven days a week so I can do things at my own pace.’’

Pic­ture: ADAM ARM­STRONG

FLEX­I­BIL­ITY: Kristy Shel­ton is study­ing a nurs­ing di­ploma on­line while look­ing af­ter daugh­ter Zoe.

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