Expanding online programs to engage a new cohort of learners

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 innovation in online and blended learning, the opportunity to engage industry in the design of authentic learning experiences and an exploration of partnership models that could see universities reaching new cohorts of global learners with Australian education.

Victorian Global EdTech & Innovation Expo


Emeritus Professor Beverley Oliver

Beverley is a higher education consultant, speaker and researcher focussed on digital education, micro-credentials, curriculum transformation, quality assurance and graduate employability. She is a past Deputy Vice-Chancellor Education at Deakin University and recipient of the title Alfred Deakin Professor, for outstanding contribution to conceptualising the strategic enhancement of courses in the digital economy. Beverly is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, an Australian National Teaching Fellow and non-executive director of Open Learning.

David Bowser, CEO Curio Group

David has over 20 years experience in higher education as both an academic (Melbourne University and Cambridge University), and as a leading strategy consultant to vice chancellors and their executive teams, advising on their most complex strategic issues. In 2016 he created Curio Group, a collective of advisors, educators and product developers focused on working directly with education institutions to make a difference. David is known for his strong analytical capacity, innate curiosity and enthusiasm to develop insights for clients that can be embraced by an organisation and readily implemented by staff.


The best of the old and the new

Learning, whether online or on-campus, needs a passionate educator skilled in their craft armed with the tools they need to do their job. 

The best learning experiences have peers conversing and bouncing ideas off each other led by a fantastic teacher.  It is the passionate teacher ensuring students engage with the content and focus on the learning outcomes that creates an authentic learning experience. 

COVID-19 has seen an industry move to online delivery en masse; however is it really online or is it just face-to-face online? 

Using education technology and online learning opens significant opportunities for educators. They can now re-imagine how they teach, to optimise the genre, and improve learning outcomes and efficiencies. A lot of learning can be substantially enhanced or augmented by bringing digital and online together.

Using the learnings from the best of face-to-face classroom experiences and translating them into the online environment means proven structures can be retained. Other aspects will need to be completely re-imagined, specifically curated and designed with the students’ learning experience and outcomes as the focus.

The new normal

Online learning is going to be the new normal. Students will take more control of their learning which will include wanting to mix attending campus with online learning too. This doesn’t mean the end of the campus, the key will be a rich and blended experience for the learner, combining the best and most dynamic of online learning, and the best, most social and engaging of on-campus experience.

A role for industry

It’s an exciting prospect for educators, and a great opportunity for industry to collaborate to create authentic blended learning experiences that meet the demands of the modern student. Enabling industry to contribute to learning and skills outcomes enhances student employability and job readiness.

Exploring partnerships

Partnerships and collaboration among and between education institutions and EdTech, domestically and internationally are providing great opportunities. Universities increasingly understand and rely on the benefits of partnerships; likewise EdTech need the education sector; an interdependence that accelerates the entire ecosystem.

Australian EdTech entrepreneurs are often graduates of the Australian university sector, creating solutions for challenges experienced and solving universal problems. This means that connections can be easily established between the two.

Outside of the Australian ecosystem, local institutions have partnered with universities in other countries to share and deliver their online content into new markets. Innovative partnership examples exist that leverage reputation and brand, mitigate risks, share costs and profits, and engage a new cohort of learners with Australian education.

Clicks vs bricks

As Australian institutions look to invest more in their online space rather than their physical campuses, new opportunities present themselves. 

Investing in their online spaces allows universities and higher education to move beyond their geographical constraints – this enables an institution in the heart of Melbourne to offer its expertise and learning to students across the country, across time zones and across the world. The opportunities are boundless and borderless. 

In many places around the world wholly online universities exist, however shaking off the established on-campus reputation, and juggling regulatory restrictions to offer different price points and different models has meant there is no such institution in Australia.

This could be a prime opportunity to run an experiment and offer this totally different experience, trading on the good name of Australian education with the support of Australian EdTech to deliver exceptional online learning experiences.

Online expansion

The culmination of this exploration of and expansion into the new normal of online, blended and rich learning experiences provides the opportunity to engage with a new market of potential students. No longer constrained to the classic catchment, Australian universities and higher education can look to attract a far more diverse cohort of learners. 

Around the world, and around Australia, there are those with a day job looking to upskill, those with children who want to start learning once the household has been put to bed, and those who can’t forgo their earnings to move across the world to study. 

Whether it’s a short course, long course, or degree level study, institutions can now look at those they’ve never looked at before and how they can best service them.

Many traditional industries have been disrupted and transformed by technology, yet education can often be a 9 to 5 proposition, with the support students looking for out-of-hours not yet available. 

Australian universities now have the chance to export to the world in a way they haven’t before, to engage with any learner in any time zone. This requires new thinking, and a commitment to explore new price points and new business models. 

There is immense capacity and ingenuity in the Australian tertiary and EdTech ecosystems to offer reliable, affordable and engaging learning all over the world.

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