The Future has already Happened: Dispelling some Myths of Online Education


As funding for higher education continues to shrink, student numbers steadily increase and international alliances become significantly important, online delivery is often heralded as the ‘direction of the future’ for learning and teaching. However, deep rooted and negative opinions regarding the online learning experience and concerns that technology will replace the teacher accompany the new pedagogical setting.

By paying careful attention to the alignment of course content, learning activities, assessment and learning outcomes, online education experiences can be engaging and rewarding for both student and teacher. However, perceptions often remain negative towards online education, viewing it as simply a cost-saving measure leading to student isolation, inactive participation and absent teachers. This paper aims to outline some myths regarding online education and dispel them as misconceived.

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Rick Bennett has worked for The University of New South Wales for 12 years in the School of Design Studies at the College of Fine Arts. The last few years have seen a dramatic change in his role within the University: from coordinator of the first year Bachelor of Design program to that of directing significant research into the Internet and possibilities it holds for collaborating across distance for art and design education. In 1998, he founded The Omnium Project as an ongoing research initiative for online collaborative education for the creative arts. In 2001, he was awarded the first UNSW Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence Using Educational Technology. Today, Rick is continuing to develop interesting advances in online creative interaction between distanced individuals and in 2004, The Omnium Project was awarded significant funding through an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery grant. Rick has a presented and published outcomes of his online work, both nationally and internationally, at design and education conferences as well as in peer reviewed journals and publications.

Leong K. Chan lectures in graphic design at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. He is the author and coordinator of two online courses, Graphics and Contemporary Society (GCS), and Graphics, Global Communication and Society (GGCS). His research includes the socio-graphic history of HIV/AIDS in Australia and South East Asia; graphic design and national experience; online collaboration in design education and practice; visual culture in East Asia, and graphic systems for information design. He is research director of the Australian Socio-Graphic AIDS Project (AGAP), the Southeast Asian Socio-Graphic AIDS Project (SEAGAP), and the Design Asia Project (DAP). Currently, Leong Chan is a Senior Lecturer and Postgraduate Research Coordinator at the School of Design Studies, College of Fine Arts (COFA) at the University of New South Wales.

Andy Polaine is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Media Arts, College of Fine Arts (COFA) at the University of New South Wales. In 1995 Andy Polaine co-founded the award-winning new media agency Antirom in London working with clients such as the BBC, Levis Strauss and Co. and The Science Museum. He later worked as a senior producer at Razorfish in London before moving to Sydney, Australia in 1999 where he started the interactive department of visual effects company, Animal Logic. Andy left Animal Logic in 2001 and is now a Senior Lecturer in Interactive Media at The University of New South Wales’s College of Fine Arts as well as working as a freelance designer and writer. He writes two regular columns for Australia’s leading design magazine, Desktop, and has written for a number of other publications including Australian Creative and the Sydney Morning Herald. He commenced his PhD at the University of Technology, Sydney in 2004 and recently won a UNSW Faculty Research Grant for his research into the language of interactivity.