Debates about online learning adoption remain as polarised as ever, with many academics remaining sceptical about the value online delivery can bring to their institution.

Unlike other sectors, Education and in particular Higher Education at a mass market level continues to disrupt at a snail’s pace. That said, a level of optimism must prevail, with certain indicators showing signs of growth, where in 2018 Australia, welcomed more students to Master level study than on-campus (Norton, 2018). Like all great industry disruptions, often what is required to achieve mass market adoption is a strong holistic problem or pain-point, one that resonates with all users of the product or service.  The current Covid-19 pandemic presents an unfortunate problem for us to solve.

How do we continue to advance our students and institutions in a time where governments around the world are correctly advising self-isolation?

Is this the time to fully uncover the value and flexibility of online learning at a mass market level? It seems that many Universities have had to take a highly reactive approach to facilitate their overseas students, particularly in China which makes up the largest international student market for both Australia and New Zealand. In this context, many academics who would normally remain ‘on the fence’ about developing online material were forced to provision for the large number of overseas students stuck in their home countries.

Early this year, the Times Higher Education reported that despite a strong appetite for Chinese students to consume content remotely, their research points out that “the biggest barrier will be the capacity of academics and universities to deliver it”. The mounting pressure to respond meant most Universities only touched the surface of online content. Primarily, the net result was the recording of lectures, tutorials and formulation of study plans.

Were online learning sceptics too closed-minded on the pedagogical capabilities online offers? Perhaps. Remaining somewhat optimistic, now is the time to exploit the opportunity, albeit under very challenging circumstances.