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USC expands online learning options

17 Aug 2020

New students from Fraser Coast, Gympie and Caboolture will be able to access an extensive range of USC degrees online from next year.

USC Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Joanne Scott said the changes were part of a wide-ranging revitalisation of the University’s approach to learning and teaching and followed positive feedback to this year’s shift to technology-enabled learning in response to COVID-19.

“We found that USC’s personalised, interactive approach to learning and teaching works equally well delivered online as it does on-campus,” Professor Scott said.

This led USC to review its programs at all campuses, including Fraser Coast, Gympie and Caboolture, where the costs of teaching only face-to-face had previously limited the University’s capacity to offer students a broader range of programs.

“By pivoting our model at our smaller campuses to favour technology-enabled learning, we are able to give students access to many more of USC’s degrees,” she said.

These include Secondary Education, Arts, Science, Business, Commerce, Creative Industries, Design, Communications, Criminology and Justice, Psychology, Human Services, Sports Studies, Environmental Science and Animal Ecology.

“The online programs will also provide greater study opportunities and flexibility for those who previously have been unable to attend university because of work or family commitments.”

With the switch to online delivery, some existing degrees and diplomas will not be available from next year to new students at Fraser Coast, Gympie and Caboolture campuses.

A small number of programs requiring face-to-face learning for professional accreditation or learning purposes will continue to be taught on campus.

These include Nursing Science, USC’s most popular professional program, as well as the University’s Tertiary Preparation Pathway (TPP) – a free, six-month program which prepares students for university study.

“And with higher degrees by research still on offer, students will be able to progress from TPP to PhD,” Professor Scott said.

Professor Scott said USC’s strength in personalised, face-to-face learning extended to its approach to technology-enabled learning and teaching.

“We don’t do traditional distance education in which students don’t get to know the staff or each other,” she said. “Instead we’re focused on using interactive technology to connect with and learn from each other, whether on campus, in our homes or our workplaces.

“In our virtual learning environment, high quality audio-visual materials and resources will support multi-modal, engaged learning.

“Students studying online will also have access to their local campus for services such as academic skills, counselling, library services and social events, and some programs will include field work and a small number of on-campus workshops and lab sessions.”

The changes will not impact on current students, who can complete their programs at the three campuses. They also have the option to study courses online, while accessing face-to-face learning activities on campus.

Professor Scott said online learning would enhance USC’s appeal to a wider range of students and support the University’s sustainability as it dealt with the financial fallout of COVID-19 travel restrictions on international students, and uncertainties around Commonwealth proposals for higher education funding.

“USC has been supporting a number of programs with low student enrolments at Gympie, Caboolture and Fraser Coast, which is difficult to sustain in light of our current challenges,” she said.

“The flexibility offered by online learning should make these programs more accessible, helping to increase the number of students in our regional communities able to undertake jobs-focused university study while maintaining their work and family commitments.

“USC remains committed to its regional communities and to offering the very best higher education opportunities we can to our students at Fraser Coast, Gympie and Caboolture.”

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