New technologies have transformed the way many industries operate, including higher education. Combined with an unpredictable economy where employment is often impermanent and industries are volatile, we have seen an increasing cohort of students seeking to reskill to ensure employment or to capitalise on emerging opportunities as industries change. This paper explores Charles Sturt University’s Bachelor of Creative Arts and Design (Graphic Design) online course as a means for retraining in the graphic design discipline for mature-age students who often balance their studies with competing demands including family and work responsibilities. Access to online education provides a flexible avenue for these students to explore new directions in their careers, convert TAFE qualifications into degrees, turn art and design passion into profit, or convert the wealth of knowledge they have gained from different jobs into a career in the graphic design industry. Many of our students already work in and around the creative industries and are able to take advantage of this immersive workplace learning experience, often outstripping many internal students’ learning outcomes.
While the affordances of new technologies have allowed us to open up design education to a much larger, more geographically diverse demographic, online education is not without its challenges and problems. This paper explores the successes, failures and challenges we have encountered as graphic design educators in the online space, and provides insight into the ways students engage (or disengage) with the online studio. We are particularly interested in the engagement of mature-age students who are undertaking the course for retraining purposes. This cohort will be the primary focus of the paper.