Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Transforming the Australian University System After COVID-19

Professor Brian Schmidt, Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University has predicted universities will be transformed by the COVID19 emergency. He has asked what domestic courses should look like and how do universities make themselves less dependent on international student income. I suggest planning for a gradual return to the classroom with blended learning. The distinction between on-campus and online students should be removed, along with full and part-time, domestic and international. The typical student will likely study 20% on campus and 80% online. But students should be allowed to choose the blend which suits them. Courses and programs can be flipped, with a design for online delivery, plus some campus-based elements added were appropriate. In any case Australian institutions should include online learning, as part of permanent contingency planning.

International and Australian Students Working Together Online

UBC: Venue for ICCSE 2014

As it happens,  in 2014, at the ICCSE international technical education conference I proposed international and Australian students could learn to work together online. That is now happening, with computer project students I help teach working in online teams, using a learning module I designed for this purpose. Rather than treat this as a temporary measure, for exceptional circumstances, it could be made routine for all students who learn teamwork. This online way of working was already common for computer professionals, and many other disciplines, before COVID-19. It should be part of training of professionals. Australian universities an offer options where international students start their education in their own country studying online, before coming to Australia.

Policy Change for Blended Study

The Australian Government should change policy to accept blended learning as the default, for both domestic and international students. Australia should focus on quality education for all students, wherever they are. This will reduce the burden from unworkable regulations, which have been waved during the current emergency. It will also provide a competitive advantage for Australia in a more competitive international education market.

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