Designing education for the modern learner

Victoria is a leading Australian EdTech ecosystem with deep capability that can support learners across the globe. The Victorian Global EdTech & Innovation Expo was an initiative run in partnership with Global Victoria to promote Victorian EdTech capability to a global audience.

This session discussed the advantages for universities of partnering with online program management businesses, the modern student that learns on their own terms, the support infrastructure required for their success, and the market leadership opportunity for taking Australian education online into new global markets.

Victorian Global EdTech & Innovation Expo


Ryan O’Hare, CEO Keypath Education Australia & Asia-Pacific

Ryan leads the sector’s largest Online Program Management (OPM) business focussed on the postgraduate sector. Keypath Education partners with many of Australia’s leading public Universities to significantly scale their online offering through a combination of capital investment and best-in-class online education services specialising in the areas of learning design, market intelligence, digital marketing, and student lifecycle services.

Claire Field, Claire Field & Associates

Claire is an education sector consultant providing strategic advice on VET, international education and private higher education to providers, investors and other tertiary education stakeholders. Claire has a weekly column in Campus Morning Mail and offers a subscription service providing expert insights on the Australian tertiary sector. She is the host of the ‘What now? What next? Insights into Australia’s tertiary education sector’ podcast. 


Institutional advantage with online program managers

As education institutions look to extend their reach to students beyond the traditional campus, Online Program Management (OPM) partners build, recruit, deliver and manage online degrees for higher education providers. 

OPMs maintain an institutions’ brand reputation. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, the risk of going online, and doing it quickly, can end in frustration for students and educators and financial and reputation damage. OPMs are specialists that know the sector and have experience in these delivery models. 

Universities partner with OPMs because they drive and scale faster and with a greater level of expertise than they can do by themselves. This is their primary focus, they understand the student experience and the support infrastructure required for students to succeed in an online environment.

The 2020 problem

Across the globe, and at home in Australia, 2020 has seen the suspension of face-to-face learning and on-campus activities at universities and higher education providers. 

While online learning has been a part of the Australian experience for 25 years, the recent movement of every student and every course online, has been rapidly and hastily executed purely to enable education to continue. All stakeholders would agree that this ‘Online Learning 1.0’ is not so effective, and actually not so different from the traditional lecture theatre experience. But what comes next? 

This is where online program managers and the capable and well-developed EdTech sector in Victoria steps in. 

As the pandemic passes, will students want to return to campuses to study and socialise as they have in the past? Higher education providers may need to adapt to new learning preferences and entice their students to continue their studies, if not wholly online, in a blended model. 

Universities can partner with local OPMs to ramp up their online offerings to cater to this new reality.

Global competition

OPMs have the knowledge and expertise to allow Australian institutions to export their education to the world.

For many years, Australian institutions have relied heavily on overseas students – however, the global situation means many will now be unable, or no longer willing to to travel to Australia to study.

Australian institutions, previously trading off their global reputations and that of the cities and towns in which their campuses are based, will now compete with North American providers more developed in the online space. 

Flexibility will be key to their success; potentially offering a mix between studying in Australia, at offshore partners and online.

The modern student

Generations of Australian students have studied on campus, following in the footsteps and experiences of their parents. However, the demand for online learning is increasing.

As the workforce changes, and the expectations that workers become lifelong learners –  upskilling and changing careers in a way never before seen – it’s vital that online learners stay engaged and supported. 

The average online learner is 39 years old and 96% work full time. Many have been away from learning for 10 to 15 years, have been in the workplace, and have family and professional commitments. Learning online fits in with their lifestyle – they have chosen online over on-campus.

Delivering online content at points in time, in bite size learning, with quick feedback, relevant assessment, contextualised to their professional environment are important considerations in course and delivery design.

Online learning is hard; students are on their own a lot of the time and it can be easier to drop out without a support network. OPMs bring in pastoral care; the support infrastructure a student needs to succeed. They help prepare students for the challenges they will face fitting study into their world. Building a study plan around their life is vital; it’s not going to be 8 hours on a Sunday. More realistically, study will be spread across the week, 1 hour here and there. Being upfront about the challenges and offering mitigation strategies helps students succeed in this environment. 

There is more disruption expected; assumptions that the market or industry had 5 yrs ago around study have evolved drastically. Graduation is no longer the most important aspect: elements of study, upskilling and reskilling, dipping into a unit of study so the student is getting what they want; the learning they need to then go back into the workforce and get a promotion or change careers. Universities will need to get comfortable with students learning on their own terms. 

Local opportunity

Over the past 5 years, the sector acknowledged that moving online was important to them, specifically in the undergraduate, VET and post-graduate spaces.

The expertise to support this transition is available in Victoria – the home of the OPM sector and the home of EdTech innovation. There is a market leadership opportunity for Australian education partnering with the expertise of the OPM sector to deliver Australian education into new global markets.

The Victorian Global EdTech & Innovation Expo, supported by Global Victoria, was a virtual conference held on 14, 19, 21 May 2020.