STUDY HOME COMFORTS
Anyone can study almost anything online, writes Lauren Ahwan
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.’’
FLEXIBILITY: Kristy Shelton is studying a nursing diploma online while looking after daughter Zoe.