20 SES 07 B, Higher Education; Making it Accessible
Universities are being encouraged to enroll greater numbers of students, especially those entering through non-traditional pathways. Governments have been implementing policies aimed at changing the student profile of universities, setting targets to increase the numbers of people with a university qualification. Between 1983 and 1995 the number of people attending university in Australia increased by 70% (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1997). This increase was the direct result of government policy designed to achieve a broader base for tertiary education participation (McKenzie & Schweitzer, 2001). Similar patterns have occurred in other OECD countries such as Canada and the USA (Christofides, L., Hoy, M. & Yang, L. 2009). In Europe, the Bologna Minsters support increasing overall student numbers in higher education recommending that the EU have at least 45% of 30-34 year olds with a higher education qualification. In Australia, the Review of Australian Higher Education (2008) recommended that the proportion of the population with higher education qualifications needs to increase. The 2012 academic year saw an unprecedented rise in the number of candidates applying to and being accepted into Australian universities.
With greater numbers of students enrolling in university courses, a large percentage of these students are enrolling in distance education programs. The distance education environment has been revolutionised by the growth in e-learning technology. Learning Management Systems (LMS) now offer a range of tools such as wikis, blogs and podcasts that can enhance the learning experience of distance education students. One of the greatest challenges facing university lecturers today is meeting the changing expectations and demands of students in the online environment (Knipe 2009). Lecturers are required to address the diversity of student cohorts, such as greater numbers of low socio-economic status students and students in full time work (Devlin, Kift, Nelson, Smith and McKay, 2012).
This paper reports on a project that has been monitoring student progress through the first year of their course. These students are enrolled in distance education programs which have been designed specifically as alternate pathways into university. Demographic data as well as data drawn from evaluations and tracking of students through their first year will be presented. Findings from this project indicate that universities have to draw on a range of approaches and teaching strategies if students in these types of programs are to successfully complete a high education degree.
Australian Government (2008) Review of Australian Higher Education. Retrieved December 2012 www.innovation.gov.au/HigherEducation/Documents/Review/PDF/Higher%20Education%20Review_one%20document_02.pdf Brown, M. Keppell, M., Hughes, H., Hard, N., Shillington, S. And Smith, L. (2012) In their own words: Experiences of first-time distance learners, Department of Education Employment Workplace Relations Christofides, L., Hoy, M. & Yang, L. 2009 The Determinants of University Participation in Canada (1977-2003). Canadian Journal of Higher Education, Vol39, No. 2 pp. 1-24. Devlin, M., Kift, S., Nelson, K., Smith, L. And McKay, J. (2012) Effective teaching and support of students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds: Resources for Australian higher education, Office for Teaching and Learning, Sydney European Commission (2009) The EU contribution to the Bologna Process. Retrieved December 2012 www.ec.europe.eu/educational/pub/pdf/higher/bologna_en.pdf Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities McKenzie, K., & Schweitzer, R. (2001) Who Succeeds at University? Factors predicting academic performance in first year Australian university students. Higher Education Research & Development, Vol 20, No 1. 21-33 ORGANISATION FOR ECONOMIC COOPERATION AND DEVELOPMENT (1997) Thematic review of the first year of tertiary education in Australia Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Retrieved April 2012 www.dest.gov.au/archive/highered/occpaper/00A/oecdexsum.htm
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