Conventional wisdom tells us a university degree has certain features: set terms, lecturers at podiums, textbooks, deadlines, exams, campuses group assignments – and a big debt at the end or (if you’re lucky enough to afford it upfront) dent in your bank account.
If you’ve considered upskilling to advance your career, no doubt you’ve quickly weighed up these factors against more modern forms of professional development. Workshops, short courses and boot camps are a quick Google away and offer industry relevant, up-to-date content and hands-on skill development for a fraction of the time and cost of a traditional university degree. Of course, depending on your goals a professional course might not suffice. However, the explosion of education providers keen to develop courses that put customers’ needs first highlights the changing nature of post-school education here and internationally.
To their credit, universities haven’t been sitting on their collective hands in the meantime. They’ve been moving towards customer centricity and evolved their service offering to be more flexible. You can now do your entire degree without stepping foot on a campus, or study university courses from institutions around the world through MOOCS (massive online open courses) platforms. Universities have embraced technology to help engage students with learning on a more personal basis, and terms such as ‘personalised learning environments’ (PLEs) and technology-enabled pedagogy are now ubiquitous.
It’s a great step forward, but it’s not a silver bullet. Factors can (and do) arise that can impact a student’s learning and impede their ability to study. As a result, the attrition rate for distance students remains consistently higher than for on-campus students – a big issue for online education providers. And that’s only the students universities have moved from prospects to customers – many haven’t even enrolled, discounting university as an option due to its inherent rigidity.
As a pioneer and long-term provider of distance education in Australia, CQUniversity has been particularly invested in addressing this challenge. While we’ve always had a great reputation for flexibility (we deliver more than 300 TAFE and university courses across 25 locations and online), we began to consider a ‘hyperflexible’ course design, and from there developed what we refer to as a Tertiary Accredited Self-Paced Online Course (TASPOC).
The difference between a TASPOC and traditional university course is dramatic: students can enrol whenever they like, start immediately, and progress entirely at their own pace. This means students can submit assignments whenever they feel they are ready. The learning experience is time-bound, but not by short, term-based periods; students have a few years to complete the requirements. From a marketing perspective, the TASPOC is truly innovative – potentially even disruptive – opening up new target markets and allowing for better segmentation and service of existing markets to reduce attrition rates. It also represents a shift from service to product-based marketing: one that seeks to fulfil the needs and wants of a specific target market, rather than the traditional ‘build it and they will come’ service-based approach of most university degrees.
CQUniversity’s first TASPOC, dubbed ‘the MBA for the Rest of Us’ – is the MBA (Leadership) and launched in July 2018. It’s targeted at those who might not otherwise be able to afford to study what essentially is a very expensive degree that aims to create networks. Our students, many of whom work and live in regional Australia, already have their own networks. These students simply want to learn practical skills and develop knowledge informed by theory and research to become better managers and leaders.
The MBA (Leadership) is deliberately inexpensive. Priced from $7,000 AUD as a full-fee paying postgraduate course, it’s delivered entirely online under a new model of staff support. Students aren’t required to work in groups, but are required to reflect on how they work in groups. Students can’t pick their own units – the structure is set – and the assessments are traditional (essays, formative online tests, case studies) and marked by a well-qualified academic team. There are no discussion forums, but students communicate with one another via a professional online network. Importantly, there are no due dates for assessment, and students can choose the order of units they study (there is a recommended structure). There are no face-to-face requirements such as residential schools – anyone who has tried to fly return between cities like Mt Isa and Sydney will understand the prohibitive cost of travel for a weekend.
It’s been a big job. CQUniversity has reduced overheads in order to minimise the cost of the course, and invested heavily in development and the technical processes needed to support this hyperflexible learning. Customer service is also more important than ever. The course is growing, with more than 100 students now enrolled, all progressing at their own pace. Any one of them can submit an assignment at any time, with a promise that it will be reviewed within 3 to 5 days. Customer centricity has been the focus – developing great systems to support student experience that in turn facilitates access to education.
With the course now running successfully, the University is investigating options for new TASPOC courses, hosted on the ‘be different’ platform. This sort of innovation in the higher education sector is challenging – there are very rigorous standards and frameworks set by regulators and government. Students need to know what they are signing up for, and we need to ensure that what they are studying is delivered at the right level, cost, and to the right outcome. But one thing is clear: The days of ‘one size fits all’ style courses, developed in a ‘cookie-cutter’ style, are well and truly behind us.
Whatever the size and scope of your role in business, CQUniversity’s MBA (Leadership) will give you the skills to be better at it. Learn more at the website.