In the time of covid-19 and extended lockdowns, the market in online courses in Australia is booming. Great for business, but a bit confusing for the you, the student. This article is intended to de-mystify the market and help you make the right choice, saving you time, money and frustration.
Types of Online Courses in Australia
A quick google search for Australian Online Courses will reveal thousands and thousands of different course providers and courses on offer.
There are FOUR main players in the Online Course industry in Australia they are:
- RTOs (Registered Training Organisations),
- Course Aggregators
- Universities, and
- private colleges offering non-accredited courses such as ourselves.
RTO’s and TAFEs
RTO’s are colleges that are accredited and recognised by the Australian Government that are also approved to offer Nationally Accredited Qualifications. A nationally accredited qualification have names such as Certificate III, Certificate IV, Diploma or Advanced Diploma. Only RTO’s can offer these courses and are allowed to use those names in their qualifications.
Nationally accredited qualifications are designed to create ‘job-ready’ employees and are specifically designed to match the training to the tasks required to complete specific jobs.
RTO’s offering online nationally accredited courses need to be approved to offer them online.
Course Aggregators (Marketing sites)
A quick search for online courses australia will also bring up many Course Aggregators. These are primarily marketing businesses that promote and/or take enrolments on behalf of online colleges for a substantial fee. When you go onto one of these sites they will frequently have a very large number of courses – and a range of colleges/universities offering them. Some will only offer degrees, while others may offer a mix of degrees, postgraduate qualifications, nationally accredited qualifications and some unaccredited courses.
Universities offering Online Courses
Many Australian Universities have been quick to pivot to online learning post covid, however there are a few that have traditionally focused on distance education, notably Charles Stuart University (CSU) based in Wagga has long tradition of offering online and distanced degrees. A quick online search will bring up Deakin, Griffith, ANU, UNE among others. open.edu.au is a major aggregator of university offerings in which students can enrol in one subject at a time. Obviously, Universities are primarily offering degrees online, but some do also offer Nationally Accredited Qualifications such as Cert IVs and Diplomas.
Private colleges offering Online Courses
Private colleges such as ACS Distance Education and Careerline Courses have been operating in the online market for over 30 years specialising in distance education and home study. Colleges such as ourselves offer non-accredited adult vocational style courses that can be studied from home and are usually self paced. Usually they offer a very wide range of shorter courses and employ a range of tutors with qualifications relevant to the courses offered.
In recent years there has been a huge boom in online courses – with many people who are not from an education background offering one or a few courses in a specific subject area such as fitness, nutrition (especially how to lose weight), cooking, languages or more.
How Online Courses Work
Most colleges/universities generally will all host their courses in an LMS (learning management system), this may be refer too as their Learning Portal, space or some other name, but its an LMS. An LMS is a place to put course materials collected together into a course. An account for the student will be created upon enrolment and then the account is assigned to a course. Course completion can be tracked. Usually assignments are also managed within the LMS and often communication between tutors/teachers and students is also managed.
So you’ll enrol in a course, an account will be created for you and then you will have access to course materials. After you have completed the course materials you will be awarded a certificate or similar.
Online Course Materials
So you’ve decided what type of course you need, you’ve paid and enrolled and now you get to start. But wait! How is the course presented to you? This can actually matter a great deal as not all materials are suitable for everyone.
Video Vs Written Content
There is no right and wrong, but its important to consider what works for you. Some course providers only do video (think Udemy) while others may present a mix (frequently Universities and TAFEs with higher budgets) and other may only do text. Ask before you enrol to avoid disappointment and losing money on a course that might not work for you.
Self Paced or Tutor Lead?
Self-paced means that you are left to work through the materials at your own speed. If a course is tutor lead however, then you’ll have to be available to login/be online at specific times and dates to attend seminars or group interactions.
Some question to consider might include:
- how much support will I get?
- Will I have the same tutor/teacher throughout the course?
- What are the response times?
- What are their qualifications?
- How can I contact my tutors?
If these questions cannot be answered then consider looking elsewhere. The human factor in online education CANNOT be under-estimated. We are social creatures, and the support from your tutor/teacher is often critical in making an online course viable.
An online course can be immensely practical or just theoretical. A good online course will have practical tasks written into it at every unit – this helps you gain real world skills and a lived appreciated of the content. Be prepared to commit to the time required to complete any practical tasks required!
Assignments & Exams Online
Depending on the type of course you have enrolled in, there will be different levels of assessment. Short online courses such as those offered by Udemy will have no assessment, you just watch your videos and do the work until the course is completed. Completed a Cert IV at TAFE or a degree through University online will require a much higher level of assessment including complex written and practical assignments and also exams where appropriate. Many TAFEs and Universities will have exams that can be taken externally or with an online proctoring service run by companies such as ProctorU and Proctorio (read this great article in The Conversation about online proctoring in Australia).
This has been a very brief guide to online courses in Australia. If you need advise or just want to chat please feel free to contact us, or browse our own selection of online courses or for something quicker check out our online short courses here and see if something is right for you.