Selling Students Short

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Published by Matthew Davidson on Thu, 21/05/2015 - 9:38pm in

This evening I attended what I think must be my first book launch since leaving Sydney over a decade ago. I feel almost civilised. Here's a comment I left on The Conversation's review of Richard Hil's new book:

Students don't only have "no choice but to study online because of work or family commitments", or indeed anything to do with their own circumstances. Often we have no choice but to study online because we have no choice but to study online.

Last year, as an undergraduate at Southern Cross University, I first encountered the phrase "converged delivery". This is where nominally "internal" units of study are delivered entirely without face-to-face tuition. You can "attend" lectures on-campus if you like, but you'll just be looking at a slightly larger screen than you have at home, hanging from the wall of a classroom. Students thus have the "flexibility" of choosing distance education at home, or (in the case of Coffs Harbour) distance education in a campus conveniently located in the middle of a swamp, adjoining an airport and one of Australia's most impressive sewage ocean outlet pipes.

Initially I thought that this was a reaction to the Grattan Institute's - sorry, I mean the government's - proposed higher education reforms. But no, the move to converged delivery is an SCU program that was set in motion in 2007. University administrators are not reluctantly responding to a neoliberal agenda imposed on them by government; they are among the agenda-setters, leading the way to cheap, dumbed-down, lowest-common-denominator faux-education.