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How digital technology is ushering in a new age of learning

Rebecca Merrett | Dec. 12, 2014
Digital disruption is driving education outside the boundaries of the classroom and into a host of new online opportunities.

digital technology

More and more educators are ditching the chalkboards and opening their physical classroom boundaries in favour of digital learning.

Embracing the 21st century in this way may seem like an obvious step, but there's more to it than that; the world is paying attention to Australia's innovative use of technology in education.

The 2014 Global Innovation Index shows education placed Australia in the top 10 performing countries, helping to move our overall ranking up from 19th place last year to 17th this year.

Here, we look at how digital learning is shaking up the industry.

The MOOCs movement
The University of Tasmania's massive open online course (MOOC) on dementia care from the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre is one of the most successful in the country, and has one of the highest completion rates globally, according to its CIO, Jeff Murray.

"We had 20,000 [people participate] the first time, a similar number the second time, and we are in the later stages of the [next] offering of the course," he says.

From the success of this MOOC, the university created an online Bachelor of Dementia Care, attracting 1000 applications. Murray says nearly all enrolments were a result of the MOOC.

"The success rate of conversion of MOOC to online course also puts our MOOC as one of the most successful globally," he claims.

Picking the right course to attract a large number of students was key to making this conversion, he continues. The last thing you want to do is offer something that people can find online elsewhere or through another university doing MOOCs.

Murray notes most courses globally have failed to convert for institutions, and have therefore been a cost. He advises other institutions to choose something they are internationally recognised in, a need that is niche and globally required, "and you will find your MOOC is a successful route for adoption of new online courses".

Another university embracing MOOCs is Swinburne University of Technology. It has its own MOOCs running on the Blackboard learning management system, as well as online courses on the Open Universities Australia's Open2Study platform.

Each time a MOOC is run, it receives about 1000 registrations, according to former professor, Gilly Salmon, pro vice-chancellor, learning transformations, who has been the most involved with MOOCs at Swinburne.

"We are reaching cohorts of students who may not have considered university learning. And I think from the numbers you can see, that they are hungry and ready for it," she says.

MOOCs offer the opportunity for universities to raise their profile on a global scale and market their courses. If the content is compelling enough, they hope to convert participants into paying students.


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