When the COVID-19 pandemic first took hold in early 2020, institutions around the world rushed to switch to remote working. As employees abandoned offices and students left classrooms to set up at home, the overhaul of all our lives was tougher on high school students than many others.

If you faced challenges with home learning in high school, don’t expect the same from your experience starting university. Deakin University is a leader in online study with 40 years of experience in distance and online education and the most satisfied students of all Victorian Universities*. We give you the best of both worlds by combining online study with practical, real-world learning.

‘The reality is our world is both physical and digital, and that’s the reality right now irrespective of the pandemic. What the pandemic has done is accelerate it,’ explains Professor Liz Johnson, Deakin’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education.

‘The learning people do at university has to reflect the real world, and the real world has moved to blended working – it’s not going to go back,’ Prof. Johnson says.

On-campus and online learning each have their strengths, so how can you combine the two to achieve the best of both worlds?

We still believe on-campus learning builds important skills

There’s no denying that some things are just best experienced in a specific place. You’ve probably had visions of becoming a university student – walking around campus, debriefing with your peers after class, feasting on snacks while studying with mates. These experiences are still possible and really important.

Complex group discussions like brainstorms can be done via video conference or even email, but they tend to be more dynamic when everyone is together in a room. Plus, most people find building rapport is better face-to-face.

‘Video collaboration is transactional – I talk then you talk – backwards and forwards in a transactional way,’ Prof. Johnson explains. ‘In a collaborative room it’s more like a network, with lots of things happening at once.’

Then there are the practical, technical or clinical skills that absolutely need to involve on-campus learning. ‘For example, if your outcome is nursing, you will need experience with clinical staff and patients well before you’re working on a ward,’ Prof. Johnson points out. Other learning experiences such as field trips allow you to observe and experience a rich environment.

Work-integrated learning is a key component in many courses within each of Deakin’s four faculties: Arts and Education, Business and Law, Health, and Science, Engineering and Built Environment. Many areas now offer both on-campus and online work experiences reflecting the real-world practice of each discipline and industry.

Deakin’s leading-edge facilities will always remain crucial

In university courses of the future, Deakin’s world-class, leading-edge facilities will remain an essential aspect of high-quality learning and research.

‘When you’re in a space, you observe the space with more than your eyes; it’s the whole environment, not just a square on a screen,’ Prof. Johnson says. ‘This is particularly important in specialist spaces which are created to allow you to practice skills in work environments or places that are difficult to get to or access otherwise.’

Online learning is authentic preparation for the future of work

Whether you’re learning on-campus or online, you’ll be building the skills you need to be job-ready using digital tools.

‘Irrespective of the current restrictions, we think it’s important for students to learn digitally because our world is increasingly digital,’ Prof. Johnson says.

With Telstra, Woolworths, CSL and all of the big four banks among the Australian companies that have pivoted to hybrid work policies since the start of the pandemic, it’s clear the graduates of the future need to be prepared for the new world of blended work.

‘If you want to find out information, you look it up online. Whether in work, home life, or study, your first source of information is likely to be a search engine,’ Prof. Johnson points out. ‘No workplace is going to say you shouldn’t use the internet.’

Deakin University’s library contains more than 1,600,000 online resources, including ebooks, ejournals and videos (for perspective, our enormous physical collection is slightly smaller at 805,000 resources).

Online is the most accessible way to learn

‘Having the internet at your fingertips allows you to take out time and place as constraints on learning,’ Prof. Johnson explains.

Gone are the days of missing out on a week’s worth of course content if you get sick and need to skip a class. With videos or audio clips containing lesson material, written and visual resources and links to references all available online, ‘the learner can look at it and interact with it in their own time and place,’ Prof. Johnson explains.

A few ways the internet makes learning more accessible

  • Information: course content shared online instead of via a lecture at a set time and place means you can focus on digesting it where and when it suits you best.
  • Communication: using tools such as email or message boards allows you to step in and out of conversations with your teachers and peers between everything else in your life.
  • Feedback: feedback from teachers shared digitally can be richer, easier to interrogate and available to save for future reference.
  • Discussion: students and teachers can connect via videoconferencing in live sessions to plan study, check concepts and clear up misconceptions.

On the flipside of accessibility, if you face challenges with digital connectivity, we’re here to help.

‘Deakin is particularly aware that some people have poor bandwidth, so we’re always thinking about options for someone with intermittent connectivity,’ Prof. Johnson adds. Examples include ensuring course materials are downloadable, keeping video content short and offering text-based resources.

Progressive, real-world learning means combining on-campus and online study

Deakin will always continue to offer many online-only options in relevant disciplines. But for those who prefer the idea of an on-campus university experience, online learning opportunities will complement, not replace, on-campus teaching.

In many cases, a combination of online learning and intensive, on-campus sessions works well – adding value and flexibility to a degree. ‘For example, instead of making you come in three times a week for 13 weeks, we might work with you online and meet on-campus at occasional intensives,’ Prof. Johnson explains.

Examples of ‘best of both worlds’ communication

  • A project group could meet up physically to get to know each other, then switch to communicating online to nut out the details of their assignment.
  • A discussion group could start out online to introduce themselves one by one, then meet up face-to-face ready to jump into a complex group discussion.

Lockdowns due to COVID-19 forced many teaching staff to quickly reimagine online-only versions of their planned lessons. In many cases, this meant creating new and exciting opportunities for students.

For example, Bachelor of Marine Science course director Prue Francis created a virtual, interactive version of a field trip to the coast that she normally runs for first year marine science students. While the immersive, on-campus version of this trip is ideal, the virtual version remains a useful learning tool. Into the future, students will benefit from a better-than-ever hybrid approach, in which they use the virtual field trip as a pre-learning exercise so they’re better prepared to attend the on-campus field trip.

If you’ve always dreamed of using your time at university to gain international experience, don’t despair. Deakin is offering plenty of international opportunities to current and future students, virtually.

With all these study options available, you really can enjoy the best of both worlds. If you faced challenges in VCE, your resilience is preparing you for a brighter future.

Ready to learn from Australia’s #1 public university for educational experience? Find a course that combines the best of both worlds.

* (Australian Graduate Survey 2010–2015, Graduate Outcomes Survey 2016–2022 (GOS), Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT)).