Real World Futures

Digital sparks physical appetite

Date: 01 November 2018

QUT’s adaptation to digital learning has had the unexpected consequence of encouraging students to better use campus facilities, this year’s Real World Futures conference was told.

The QUT Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Margaret Sheil AO, said the desire for physical spaces was one of several surprises for sceptics about university traditions fuelled by the rise of online learning.

She contrasted the experience of universities with the experience of newspapers which had not mastered the dual needs of their readers as universities had mastered the dual needs of their students.

And she offered the parallel of the cinema industry which had withstood numerous threats to its survival by adjusting to recognise that its customers valued the human interaction of an outing to the movies.

Professor Sheil was the Provost (Chief Academic Officer) of Melbourne University when it confronted the impact of Massive Open Online Courses in 2012.

The courses, which offered free content from the world’s best universities, were seen as a threat to Australian institutions.

Instead, they had been an opportunity to better understand how students learn, how academics could teach better and to reach large audiences.

“When 10 students out of 100 get a question wrong, you might think that’s not very good. But if 2000 out of 10,000 get it wrong, you might think you’ve asked the wrong question,” she said.

Professor Sheil outlined QUT’s strides in online learning, including a partnership with UK-based FutureLearn which had reached 358,000 learners internationally.

And it was in the progress of launching QUT Online, in partnership with Australian-based Online Educational Services.

The courses offered online would allow QUT to retain control of admission, content expertise, teaching, assessment and graduation while relying on external expertise for marketing and learning design.

She said it was likely online learning would expand, particularly in the post-graduate market where there would be demand for new skills. This made it important that undergraduate students had access to online courses during their degrees.

She said the shift to online learning did not reduce costs as lectures were the most cost-effective part of the universities offerings. “It does mean the lecture will remain part of our suite of offerings,” she said.

Content sourced from QUT News Web Service.

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