We’re in the midst of a digital revolution; that’s a given. It’s
all changing, and ever so dramatically. Among many other establishments, tertiary institutions are using the internet in ways that couldn’t have been fathomed just years ago. The movement toward online learning appears to be of growing interest for universities, but there are many grey areas – leaving some skeptical. Professor Leigh Wood from the Faculty of Business and Economics at Macquarie University speaks about the importance of reaching out universally, particularly to those who don’t have direct access to university education. She said it’s a fabulous opportunity for those who don’t have the luxury of universities within close proximity to get educated. “There are a lot of people around the world who don’t have access to university education. It’s pure and simple dissemination,” she said.
Studying online can be kind to our hip pocket, too – there are many online courses that are entirely free of charge. Professor Wood said it’s a “feel good thing to do”, a movement she’s excited to be part of.
It can be seen as an “experiment” and a means of “research” to find alternative ways of teaching. “We [academics] always take punts. Of course, they’re educated punts,” she said. However, there are many questions to be asked about the credibility and functionality of online study, which juxtapose its positive aspects. In terms of official credentials, Professor Wood admits “it’s a bit of an unknown”. Although you may not get the credentials, “you get the knowledge,” she said. When asked whether the future of the learning experience at universities will consist of an online dominant platform, Professor Wood wasn’t certain. “To be frank, I don’t know,” she said. “As an academic, I like to try crazy things.”
Professor Wood believes as technology continues to evolve it will compliment the online learning experience. “Our knowledge of student learning will improve,” she said. Wood added that finding what works and what doesn’t will be integral to the improvement of online study. “It’s a bold move, I think,” she said. The movement from conventional methods of study to new, flexible, digital platforms is growing. While the digital wave of the 21st century continues to inundate our lifestyles, online study has risen as a viable means of education. There are many unanswered questions surrounding e-learning – leaving many unsure of its effectiveness – that can’t necessarily be answered until it becomes omnipresent.