Sunday, September 15, 2013

Good Universities Guide

On Thursday I attended the Canberra MBA & Postgrad Studies Expo and picked up a free copy of Hobsons' "The Good Universities Guide 2014 to Postgraduate Courses: Arts, Education and Social Sciences". The guide is divided into volumes for different groups of disciplines. There is also "Accounting, Business and Law" and MBAs. The arts guide is 214 pages, covering courses offered in Australia by universities (it does not include the postgraduate vocational programs offered some non-university higher education institutions). Also available on-line is Hobsons Course Finder. But I found the on-line guide unusable and the paper guide much better.

The guide offers a very condensed set of information about each institution, campus and course, including ratings. I was looking for a masters in education (specializing in on-line distance higher education). The guide has a section on programs in education and training. This starts with a description of the discipline and possible jobs on graduate. The universities offering programs are listed. A table of university rankings, based on student surveys is provided, but it is not clear if this is just for teaching courses, or all courses. All the offerings in each category of program (Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma, Masters by Coursework and Masters by Research).

The paper guide is useful in that you can scribble notes on it while talking to the education provider at the expo. But the text is very small and hard to read, and it is difficult to narrow down the selection of programs. In my case I wanted a Masters, available on-line, part time, but has to manually cross out all the many face-to-face ones. When I tried the on-line guide I was able to select just what I wanted. Curiously I noticed it had a category of masters not in the paper guide: "Master Degree (Extended)". The on-line guide also included Doctor Degree (Coursework) which was not mentioned in the paper guide.

Unfortunately I could not actually get the online guide to fine me online programs. The interface kept giving the error message "You must choose a State or enter an Institution Name". The state did not seem relevant for an on-line course, but I entered one anyone and kept getting the same error. On a third attempt, resetting all entries and selecting all states, the online I got 36 education programs. Unfortunately the system only allowed me to display the first of two pages of results:

  1. Avondale College of Higher Education
  2. Charles Sturt University (CSU)
    Charles Sturt University - 6 matching courses
  3. CQUniversity
    CQUniversity - 2 matching courses
  4. Edith Cowan University (ECU)
    Edith Cowan University - 2 matching courses
  5. James Cook University (JCU)
    James Cook University (JCU) - 1 matching course
  6. Monash University
    Monash University - 7 matching courses
  7. Open Universities Australia (OUA)
    Open Universities Australia (OUA) - 3 matching courses
  8. RMIT University
    RMIT University - 1 matching course
  9. University of Ballarat
    University of Ballarat - 1 matching course
  10. University of New England (UNE)
    University of New England (UNE) - 7 matching courses
  11. University of New South Wales (UNSW)
  12. University of Newcastle
  13. University of Tasmania
    University of Tasmania - 3 matching courses
  14. Australian Catholic University (ACU)
  15. Charles Darwin University (CDU)
  16. Christian Heritage College
  17. Curtin University
  18. Deakin University
  19. Flinders University
  20. Griffith University
The number of programs listed was too many to be useful. Unlike the paper guide, there was no easy way to scan the results and eliminate irrelevant entries. Also there was no way to further refine the list (for example, eliminating those institutions with below average quality of teaching).

The poor user interface of the on-line Hobosn's guide meant that it was of no use in helping select a course (there would seem to be scope for better such online guides).

But in the end I did not find an Australia institution which provided an online Masers program in distance higher education, so it looks like I will be studying outside Australia.

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