Five Crucial Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Online Degree

Finding the right course can be challenging at the best of times. Throw in an international pandemic, and you may be wondering where to start. As education shifts online to stop the spread of COVID-19, you’ll need to consider how digital learning will affect your student experience now and beyond the pandemic. Luckily, we’ve got you covered! From learning platforms to student support, here’s how to choose your ideal online course. 

How will the course be delivered?

A great starting point is, “How will I access my course?” When you’re adjusting to online study, you’ll need reliable and efficient learning platforms where you can reach out to tutors and peers directly. From Canvas to Zoom, make sure to research the platforms and digital tools utilised by different education providers. What is their user satisfaction? Are they secure? Is their interface accessible and easy to navigate? Having access to engaging, practical platforms with plenty of opportunity for virtual socialising (such as webinars, online tutorials and chat bars) will keep you on track while studying online. You may need to reach out to the education provider directly if course delivery methods aren’t listed online.

Where does the course and education provider rank?

While every student has a different learning style and career pathway, it’s important to keep overall rankings in mind when choosing a course. The education provider’s reputation will affect your day-to-day student experience as well as your employment opportunities beyond graduation, especially for students looking to work overseas. This year, five Australian universities ranked in the top 50 worldwide in the QS World University Rankings, placing Australian university education third in the world. It’s safe to say Australia is a fantastic place to study! 

These rankings can give you a picture of graduate outcomes, teaching standards, and the facilities available to students. Researching the academics behind the course and the employment rate of course graduates is another great way to assess course quality. How does the faculty rank globally? Are they involved in interesting work or research? You need to feel inspired, challenged and supported by your tutors and the rest of the staff; remember that much of your student experience, such as elective subjects, will happen outside your course faculty.

What subjects will I be undertaking?

When you’re searching for your ideal course, it’s easy to overlook the individual subjects, or units, you’ll be covering. These units will be the building blocks of your degree, so it’s vital to pay attention to both the core subjects you’re required to complete and the electives you can choose from. Consider how effective online delivery of these subjects will be, keeping in mind that you can enrol in subjects with practical components when education providers resume face-to-face learning. 

While it’s important to keep future employability in mind, don’t forget to choose units that genuinely interest you, especially if you are unsure of your career pathway; in a changing employment landscape, many jobs of the future are yet to be invented. Enrolling in subjects that make you eager to learn will make your student journey exciting and inspiring, and ensure that you end up in the perfect career for you. 

Remember that entry scores are an indicator of course demand, not course quality; don’t get so hung up on entry score requirements that you forget to do plenty of research into the content you’ll be learning and how it will benefit you. 

What support systems are in place?

Many students underestimate how much they will use support services throughout their degree. It is essential that you choose a course with adequate support systems to help you through the highs and lows of student life, especially if you are an international student. Studying entirely online is a new challenge for many students, so you’ll need plenty of IT support to get the most out of digital education; make sure the education provider you choose offers IT assistance via phone, email/chat bars, and, when you eventually return to campus learning, on-site. 

Counselling and medical services can also make a huge difference in your day-to-day study experience, especially when you’re coping with the potential isolation of COVID-19. Look into the healthcare services available both online/via phone and on campus, and take note of specific COVID-19 support systems on offer. 

Ask universities about the scholarship and financial aid options available to you early, as assistance is competitive and universities will need time to assess your personal situation. Keep a lookout for other important services and initiatives such as spiritual/religious support, legal services, clubs and societies, social opportunities, and academic assistance, making sure you can access them on campus once face-to-face learning recommences. 

Where is the education provider located?

After months of adjusting to COVID-19 restrictions, it might be hard to imagine life on campus. Don’t forget that while Australian education providers are currently operating digitally, most courses will be resuming face-to-face delivery as soon as possible. 

Make sure you can commit to the entire duration of the course (Australian degrees generally take three years to complete, but course length can vary), and thoroughly research the location of the education provider. You’ll want to feel comfortable on campus and in the city where your education provider is located, so factor in campus size and facilities, cost of living in different Australian cities, suburb demographics, atmosphere and nightlife, and transport options

Online study is a fantastic way to maintain your education and prepare for an increasingly digital world. Keep an open mind when looking at online courses, and don’t be afraid to reach out to education providers directly with any questions.