Students are more likely to meet their classmates online rather than in the university cafeteria as the number of people undertaking distance education continues to grow.
Charles Sturt University (CSU) is still leading the field and of its 38,000 students last year, 22,000 of them were earning online degrees.
CSU Professor Vice-Chancellor (Student Learning) Sandra Wills said distance education has been a core principle of the university since 1989.
A range of science based subjects are among the courses run for online students via the Orange campus.
“For CSU working with students beyond the boundaries has been the norm for two-and-a-half decades, we are the largest online provider in Australia,” Professor Wills said.
She said other subjects in Orange such as dentistry are still run face to face due to their practical nature but the technology now exists for online learning in dental and medical fields.
She said there were 559 online course run for students who could not attend campuses due to location, access, lifestyle, work or family.
“Online study is not just for people a long way away for many, they have busy lives, often online students study part-time,” Professor Wills said.
“They could be studying or living anywhere in Australia and tutors tend to be based at one of our main campuses.”
“We have lots of staff in Orange who would be teaching online.”
Professor Wills said along with the development of online only course other face to face subjects are also embracing the technology structure with even exams to be run online.
She said online examinations would increase student flexibilities, and they would be watched through a web cam and their computer locked to the exam page to prevent cheating.
Hayley Eshman lives in Wollongong but will start her second year of study in a Bachelor of Law with with CSU this year.
By studying online she said she can continue working and does not have the hassle of getting to a university campus in her wheelchair.
“It fits in with my work schedule because I work four days a week, I can get enough of my work done and study and get it done on time,” Miss Eshman said.
“It also means I don’t have to be on campus because I’ve got a disability and I don’t have to organise a wheelchair taxi or anything.
She said aside from having to be self motivated, the biggest challenge was mandatory residential schools.
“You have got to be organised and know what you are up to and what you are doing,” Miss Eshman said.
“It’s a bit of trouble getting to residential schools but we make it work.”