The University has taken the first steps towards “establishing the capacity to develop, deliver and maintain a suite of high quality, online, graduate-level courses”.
The Graduate Online – Melbourne Initiative is currently focusing on offering online degrees in two fields of study, evaluation and ageing. The online courses range from specialist certificates to masters degrees.
“It’s a really exciting time for us because it enables us to build on the strengths of our graduate schools, bringing the opportunity of our graduate programs to a much wider audience, both here and around the world,” said Provost Margaret Sheil.
Online courses have been a big topic of debate for several years.
Several other Australian universities, such as Curtin and RMIT, have begun offering courses in a range of specialities completely online. Open distance education has provided students from rural areas the opportunity to gain an education without the financial burden of long-distance commutes or inner city accommodation.
Many private education and training institutions also offer qualifications ranging from vocational certificates to advanced diplomas online.
Whilst it may look promising on the surface, UMSU Education (Academic) officer Shanley Price expresses concern at the University’s reliance on teaching courses completely online.
“Students don’t want all of their learning to be conducted online; face-to-face learning is a crucial and valuable element of obtaining a degree,” she said. “This shouldn’t be indicative of the way the university is moving for all courses, and if it is, we hold strong concerns.”
The Initiative remains in developmental stages. Positions within the staff framework are still vacant, and opportunities remain open for funding.
According to a University webpage, funding will “provide support for academic teams to develop high quality, wholly online graduate courses in collaboration with an internal team of eLearning specialists.”
It is unknown whether the University will expand in the future to offer degrees of other levels or specialties, such as bachelor degrees. The courses in evaluation, run by the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, were set to launch on the 13th of April.