Industry Insights

World-class Credentials, Small-town Support

03/20/23   |  
Keypath Education
A young woman sits outside with her laptop studying one of the best online college degrees
Online study has opened up a world of possibilities for students in regional areas

How the best online college degrees are transforming regional learning

Online study is completely revolutionizing how we learn. Universities are opening their programs to students worldwide, breaking down barriers for people in regional and remote areas. As a result, students can now access world-class education from their own homes.

This expansion benefits all players. Students can study the best online college degrees, leveling the playing field with on-campus students. Universities can reach more students than ever before, improving their reputations and increasing alumni numbers through successful graduates. Finally, local communities no longer risk losing their populations to big cities for study and work.

We spoke to Howell Williams, Chief Development Officer at Keypath, about how online study is changing the face of the tertiary education system.

How online learning benefits students

Regional universities have served their communities and the students that live in them well for decades. But for many regional students, their choice has been limited to their local tertiary institution. To access a university out of their region or in capital cities, those students have, in the past, had to relocate. This can be an expensive and disruptive process and not something all students can afford. This barrier has contributed to greater educational inequality across the globe.

While online study options have been available for decades, they weren’t always accessible. Not all universities offered online courses. Online study, by definition, also requires internet access, which hasn’t always been reliable in some remote areas.

COVID-19 presented an opportunity for more universities to develop online degrees and open their doors to more students. Technological advancements have also helped EdTech solution providers design better programs.

Now, students who once had limited or no access to study can receive a high-quality education from anywhere in the world by attending universities with the best online programs.

The benefits of online learning for regional and remote students mean they can:

  • receive a high-quality education from anywhere in the world
  • stay in their hometown
  • remove the costs of relocating
  • study at their own pace
  • connect with people from all around the world
  • receive the same quality of education and opportunities as their on-campus peers
  • continue to contribute to their hometown after graduation by using their skills and qualifications for the benefit of the wider community

Is an online degree worth it?

Students are sometimes concerned about whether an online degree will provide them with the same quality education and future opportunities as studying on campus. 

Howell confirms that while studying on-campus and online are different experiences, they are equally valuable.

“A degree is a degree with the same outcomes. The university is responsible for that quality no matter the modality — on campus, online or hybrid.”

This has even been backed by research, says Howell.

“Online learning is different in terms of modality and the experience, but it’s not lesser. There’s plenty of evidence to support that. Student surveys show that the online experience matches or exceeds the face-to-face experience in terms of delivery.”

Howell advises students with particular concerns about studying online to speak with a student advisor. These experts will seek to understand the personal needs and experience of the prospective student and give tailored advice that the student might not find by looking online or reading the course brochure.

How to choose the best online college degrees

To have the best online education experience, it’s important to carefully consider which university and course are right for you.

Howell breaks this down into three easy and actionable steps.

  1. Do your research. Read up on the best universities with online programs and determine which ones might work for you.
  2. Get on the phone. Call up the universities you’re considering and speak to their student advisors to learn more about the programs and student experience.
  3. Think about what kind of virtual classroom you want to be in. Some are pretty autonomous and allow you to study at your own pace. Others have set structures with fixed assessment deadlines and live classes.
A nursing student sits in front of her laptop studying online with one of the regional universities in Australia
Thanks to online learning, even programs such as nursing are able to be offered to students who live far away from a university

How online degrees benefit regional universities

Adopting online degrees has many benefits for universities too. This is particularly true for regional universities that can partner with the best EdTech companies to expand their reach nationwide. This allows them to connect with students who may not have previously considered regional universities.

Ever since the days of old-school distance learning, where students would receive a VHS in the mail, regional universities have been pioneers in this space. 

“Regional universities have always been innovative when it comes to delivery models and teaching. They were the first to actually go where the student was,” says Howell. 

Regional universities are also often the first to test new or innovative products and methods, such as courses that aren’t typically delivered online, like healthcare. This creativity has meant regional universities have become some of the best universities with online degrees.

Regional universities in Australia are a great example of how this innovation leads to success. In fact, the nation’s regional universities rank highly in lists of universities that engage in distance learning. Deakin University, for example, has 12,339 distance education students, while Southern Cross University has 5055 and James Cook University has 1753. 

By building a quality educational offering, universities can enjoy numerous benefits, including:

  • attracting students nationwide
  • boasting high retention rates
  • building a solid alumni network
  • improving reputation
  • increasing their reach and student capacity

Benefits of online study for regional communities

Communities also benefit from the option of online delivery. By studying remotely, students can study for the best online college degrees while living and working in their hometowns.

This allows communities to maintain their population level and culture. It also improves the economy when graduates can continue working in their community rather than needing to move to larger cities.

“If there is already a population there, how can they stay and get trained up where they are to be able to serve their local communities?” asks Howell.

This is particularly relevant to the healthcare industry. The challenges of nursing, general practice, psychology, and other healthcare industries are prevalent in rural and remote areas. Previously, many people interested in studying these fields couldn’t get an education close to home. This meant they would have to either move away or wouldn’t be able to enter the sector at all.

“In the past, you had to come to campus to get a healthcare education. But students aren’t always near universities, so they can’t come to campus, so they don’t enroll. It’s a constant cycle,” says Howell.

Now that regional students can access the best online college degrees, they can study remotely and find placements in their community, leading to local job opportunities.

“It’s good for students because they can complete their training in their communities,” says Howell. “It’s good for regional employers because it helps fill roles and build a pool of healthcare workers in their space. And it’s good for the larger state and communities that can be supported by having more healthcare professionals across the country.”

Kickstart your online learning journey with Keypath

Get in touch with one of our friendly Keypathers today to find out how we can help your online students achieve success.