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Coronavirus is driving learning online. How well prepared is CDU?

This article appears in: Online study
COVID-19 and online learning

It’s clear that the COVID-19 crisis has challenged the higher education sector to rethink teaching and learning. The result is that more students than ever will be studying online. Is Charles Darwin University prepared to meet that challenge?

We put that question to CDU’s Dr Alison Reedy, Team Leader Higher Education and Training Development, Office of Education Strategy. Dr Reedy gave us an overview of what CDU is doing—and has done—to ensure effective delivery of online learning.

While many universities around Australia and overseas are rushing to put their courses online, CDU already has around 70% of its higher education units online, and 56% of CDU higher education students are studying externally online, with a further 22% studying a combination of internal and external units.

“While online learning is business as usual at CDU, that’s not to say that learning and teaching in higher education is not affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The nature of some units, such as work placements and practical units, mean that each discipline is working creatively to develop quality alternatives."

“Most CDU staff have experience in teaching online and students are used to accessing the institutional Learning Management System (LMS), Learnline, to download readings, watch videos, engage in online activities and communicate with their lecturer and other students in real-time or asynchronously. For most students enrolled internally at the university, the COVID-19 pandemic means joining their external peers in the online mode,” Dr Reedy said.

Ms Joanne Forrest, lecturer in the Preparation for Tertiary Success (PTS) program, also spoke about online learning at CDU.

“The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted equity issues, with some students in the PTS program not having access to computers or reliable internet access. This has required creative workarounds and a focus on the use of mobile phones and apps,” Ms Forrest said.

In one workshop, students used Snapchat to send photos of handwritten work to their lecturer for feedback and marking. Despite the challenges in changing learning modality, the students in the PTS program are determined and motivated to continue studying.

Dr Reedy summed up CDU’s overall position by saying, “We’re in good shape. Is Coronavirus a challenge? Yes. But it’s a challenge we’re prepared for and ready to meet, largely due to CDU’s longstanding investment in student learning online.”

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