Victoria’s Federation University Australia, like CQ University in Queensland, is dual-sector, teaching both degree courses and TAFE. It offers the Victorian Government’s free TAFE program to over 1,070 students studying ‘priority’ trades. The state launched Free TAFE in 2019 and it covers more than 40 vocational certificate and diploma courses.
The Federation also offers 11 federally funded short online courses, with 164 students enrolled. The most popular six-month courses are the Postgraduate Certificate in Health (Occupational Health and Safety) and the Undergraduate Certificate in Vocational Education and Training, it said. Fees are reduced by approximately 60%.
“These short courses give Victorians the opportunity to upskill and retrain online during the pandemic in specific areas of demand and they are also strong pathways to higher degrees and postgraduate qualifications,” said said the acting Vice-Chancellor of the Federation, Professor Andy Smith.
The University of Southern Queensland is offering five “COVID-relevant micro-certification mini-courses” that can be stacked to form subjects for credit. It also offers 20 discounted six-month online certificate programs that are part of the federal government’s COVID-19 Higher Education Relief Program announced in April. Toowoomba-based USQ says it is one of the biggest offerings of such short programs in the country.
CQ University says it has also had “good uptake” in government-supported short courses, particularly in computer science. “It got me thinking, why not do it more often, and maybe B2B,” said CQ University Vice-Chancellor Professor Nick Klomp.
Some of the other CQ University initiatives are the $2 million BMA future skills partnership with TAFE Queensland and BHP Mitsubishi Alliance, the $1.2 million per year Glencore apprenticeship training and a $330,000 partnership. dollars with the Queensland Government for five micro-certificates to help small business owners with marketing and staffing.
Klomp continues, “BHP has come to us and they’re starting to look over the horizon and say, ‘we don’t even know what our graduates will want in a few years, but we know there’s going to be automation, a lot more technology…we need them to have skills in automation and information systems that no apprentice currently has.” So we work with them to design new programs.
“We’re actually using a bit of spare capacity to work with industry and that’s a classic example,” he says. Staff are enjoying “a bit of downtime to think about a new agenda…what will a new post-COVID environment look like for all of our industries, like agriculture and mining?” »
UNSW Sydney says it has moved more of its teaching online as a result of COVID, and wants to mix onsite and offsite experiences. “Feedback from our students has been positive, with our academics receiving some of the best teaching evaluations in our history. We are exploring next-generation digital education technologies and looking at how we can better use tools like Microsoft Teams,’ it said in a statement.
For its part, Brisbane-based QUT has introduced several undergraduate certificates, including for information technology and nursing, and a postgraduate certificate in leadership and career learning.
“These short courses are offered to domestic students, started in semester 2 and were offered full-time, online only,” the university says. Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Education), Professor Robina Xavier, says completing four units will provide an officially recognized qualification and a possible route to a degree.
Members of the Australian Technology Network of Universities are implementing 43 short courses in priority skills, such as a Postgraduate Certificate in Chronic Diseases and Vulnerable Populations at the University of Technology Sydney.
At the University of New England, Professor Rod McClure is planning a pilot program later this year for medical students to undertake a year of apprenticeship in a rural area, where they would be embedded as health practitioners in small communities and would benefit from professional support via IT from the university’s Tablelands Clinical School.
“If we can provide proof of concept during a pandemic, then we have a platform on which to scale the virtual hospital idea,” McClure said. “The construction of virtual hospitals in regional areas has the potential to generate significant long-term economic, social and health benefits for the regions, and therefore for Australia.”
Klomp of CQ University is among university leaders who cite telehealth as a game-changer. “Suddenly our students, because they couldn’t do certain internships in our health sector, were involved in telehealth. It wasn’t a big part of our curriculum,” he says. “Now it’s a big part of not only our training and health program, but also our internships.”
Also in Queensland, on the Sunshine Coast, USC says it “quickly pivoted to embrace telehealth technology during COVID restrictions to ensure that many final year students can complete their hands-on experience hours under qualified supervision, while extending valuable community service more broadly across USC’s regions.