Sunday, October 04, 2009

Open Universities Australia - The Pros and Cons of Completing an Online Degree With OUA

Open Universities Australia (OUA) has become an increasingly popular option for students wishing to complete their degree off-campus. There are many advantages of studying with OUA, however just like other universities, there are some things that should be considered before enrolling. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of completing your degree with OUA.

Advantages

- It is easy to enroll.

You can enroll quickly and easily over the phone or online. Just select your units, and enroll. If you are paying by FEE-HELP, you can arrange this online too.

- Fewer entry requirements.

For many of the degrees, OUA offers an easier entry pathway than other universities. While some programs do require a formal application, other degrees such as the Bachelor of Arts do not have any entry restrictions. This is great for people who have not studied in a while, or who did not finish their formal education.

- Flexibility.

If you begin your degree and then decide to take 6 months off, you can. If you want to study over the Christmas holidays, you can. OUA offers the chance to begin a degree part way through the year, without having to apply, wait to receive an offer, and then wait until the following year to begin studying.

- Your degree is awarded through a recognised university.

A lot of students worry that their certificate will have the OUA logo on it, or that their degree will not be a 'proper' degree. OUA students graduate through a recognised university and get the same certificate as on-campus, directly enrolled students.

- You can fast-track your degree.

For many of the programs offered by OUA, the study periods run back-to-back, all year round. This means that you can study without taking a break and finish your degree faster. For example, if you choose to study three subjects per study period without taking a break, you could potentially finish your degree in two years instead of three, or if you study four units per semester, you could finish a three-year degree in 18 months.

Disadvantages

- The cost.

While many of the units are competitively priced, some units (such as the science units) are much more expensive than those available to students who secure a Commonwealth-Supported Place, directly through a university. It is a good idea to work out a rough estimate as to how much your degree will cost altogether and then decide whether it is cheaper to apply for a Commonwealth-Supported Place instead. Another cost that needs to be considered is the cost of an exam invigilator. If you know someone who is suitably qualified, then they may be happy to do it for free, however professional exam supervision services can be quite expensive.

- Lack of course information.

OUA are reportedly trying to improve the quality and quantity of unit information available, but at the moment many of the unit descriptions, assessment details and book lists are quite brief. It is a good idea to contact the OUA representative at the provider university if you would like more information regarding a particular unit, they are usually quite helpful.

- Inconsistency.

Unless you are completing all of your units through the same provider university, this may be an issue. Each university has a different set-up, with some providing all of the course content online, whereas others send out a hard copy of all course materials, and there is no online interaction at all. Inconsistency amongst tutors and course coordinators can also be a problem, with some tutors offering online tutorials once a week and replying to queries within 24 hours, and others offering minimal assistance and feedback.

- Difficulties in planning ahead.

OUA is constantly evolving, which is reflected in the changing availability of units and courses. Unit availability for the following year is not known until around November, and if you have not registered your degree, course structure changes can occur, which may disrupt study plans. Register early to ensure that you can complete the degree that you have started!

Overall, OUA offers a great way to complete a degree, particularly if you require flexibility, would like to fast-track, or just want to try a few units for personal interest. Like all distance education providers, however, it is important to think about whether this type of study is the best choice for your lifestyle and goals.

You can read more about my experience studying with OUA here:

http://www.xomba.com/open_universities_australia_my_experience_completing_degree_oua


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