This was originally published in Campus Review.
Online learning breaks down barriers to education giving people who may not have accessed higher education a chance to study off campus and at their own pace.
This is according to David-Jack Fletcher, an online teacher at Swinburne Online, who has a unique perspective on how online education is helping remove cultural barriers between students as well as in the access of education to individuals.
In referring to ‘culture’, Fletcher defines it as encompassing everything from ethnicity and race to things like age, disability, gender, family circumstances, religion and even things like geographical location and sexuality.
“Taking advantage of technology can also have a massive impact on erasing these cultural barriers.
“Things like webinars, virtual study groups which I find to be really important and obviously the infamous Swinburne Online collaborate sessions, they really help to break down those barriers,” Fletcher said.
“When I talk about virtual study groups, I think it’s really interesting and fascinating that people from opposite ends of the country can be in the same study group. People with completely different backgrounds and experiences come together,” he added.
Fletcher said Swinburne Online attracts a non-traditional and culturally diverse student groups. For instance, the average student age is 32; 24 per cent of students are from low SES backgrounds; and 24 per cent of students are from regional areas.
In terms of accessibility Fletcher said online education is making higher education more achievable to people who may not have been able to take up study for one reason or another.
“With developing technologies and improvements in the internet, obviously individuals who previously have not been able to take up higher education because they’re just too far away or maybe they’ve got some other reason why they’re unable to attend a physical campus can actually complete entire degrees online importantly without sacrificing student support services because obviously, on campus support services, you need to attend in person,” Fletcher said.
“You have the opportunity to come and go as you please in a way.”