"Distance learning is study in which the teacher and overseas student are separated in time or space throughout the duration of the unit of study. Distance learning differs from online learning in that the study may be undertaken through written correspondence and exchange of hard copy materials." From "Education Services for Overseas Students", Explanatory guide for Standard 9,Australian institutions can't register purely on-line programs for international students. The programs and students must be at most 25% on-line.
"Providers must monitor each student’s enrolment to ensure they:Even if the student is on-campus, a course may still be considered on-line: "... if the student is solely communicating with the teacher through electronic means then this will be an online unit, regardless of where the student is physically situated. " (from:"Education Services for Overseas Students", National Code Part C: Mode and place of study).
a. take no more than 25 per cent of their course online or by distance education; and
b. are enrolled in at least one face-to-face subject in each compulsory teaching period." From:"Education Services for Overseas Students", National Code Part C: Mode and place of study
Even real time (synchronous) communication with a human teacher is considered both distance and online learning: "This unit may be considered to be both online and distance learning. The teacher and student are separated in time or space throughout the duration of the course and the communication is through electronic technologies." (from:"Education Services for Overseas Students", National Code Part C: Mode and place of study).
No explanation is provided for these exclusions of distance and online learning. There is no educational justification for this: students learn at least as well with on-line courses.
There can be very poor quality face to face courses, where the student has almost no interaction with a human teacher. Consider the case where the student is at the back of a large lecture hall, seeing the lecturer as a postage stamp size figure at the front of the room. For this student their experience will be largely electronic: they will hear the lecturer's voice through the room's loudspeakers and be looking at the electronic projection screen. With a class of one hundred or more students there is very limited opportunity for student interaction and this may well be by an electronic device, such as a "clicker". In contrast the on-line student can see the speaker more clearly on screen and interact more.
In my view a more reasonable rule of thumb would be that the average university student will need to be on-campus for about 20% of their studies (one day a week for a full time student), with the other 80% on-line. The quality of the education should be measured by the results produced, not by the mode of instruction.
By unnecessarily restricting Australian universities from e-learning, the Australian Department of Education is placing at risk the future of the Australian Higher Education system. Australian and international students will not want to undertake poor quality face-to-face courses offered in Australia if they can study superior, lower cost, on-line courses provided internationally.