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Online learning in Australian higher education: Opportunities, challenges and transformations

Student Success Journal — 2019 STARS Conference Issue

Invited Feature by Dr Cathy Stone

Cathy Stone (NCSEHE and the University of Newcastle, Australia) presented this paper at the 2019 Students, Transitions, Achievement, Retention & Success (STARS) Conference.


Higher education is being rapidly transformed by the growth in online learning, with an increasing number of universities worldwide offering degree programs in online, distance modes of study. Australian education has a long history of ‘distance education’, primarily offered by regional universities. With the digital communication advances of the 21st century, traditional ‘correspondence’ study has transformed into online learning, with many more universities, both metropolitan and regional, offering undergraduate degree programs that can be completed entirely online. While this can provide a significant opportunity for further widening of participation in higher education, Australian and international research indicates that much needs to be done to improve the higher attrition rates currently associated with online learning. This paper draws on the findings of three separate yet related Australian research projects, to compare student and staff perspectives on ways to improve outcomes in online learning.

Read the full article in Student Success Vol 10 No 2 (2019).

Cathy Stone’s 2016 NCSEHE Equity Fellowship report, Opportunity through Online Learning: Improving student access, participation and success in higher education is available here.

Posted 19 August 2019 Posted in Culturally and linguistically diverse, Disability, First in Family, General, Indigenous, Low SES, Regional, rural and remote