One of the success stories of Charles Darwin University is its law degree offered both on campus and online – the latter an innovation in program delivery that is increasingly being taken up by students from interstate and overseas.
Australia’s first and fully interactive Bachelor of Laws degree was launched at CDU in 2003, originally tailored to the needs of external students in remote and regional areas of the Territory.
However, the online degree has proved popular with students in the eastern States and overseas – particularly with foreign lawyers who want to gain an Australian qualification so they can practice in the country.
‘Many of our overseas students are ex-pat Australians, but it’s an ideal way for those already qualified in a foreign country to gain accreditation before they apply for a visa,’ says law lecturer Ken Parish.
He says the online course is able to cope with the demand, but that refining the delivery systems is a constant process of improvement and innovation.
‘To the best of my knowledge we’re the only university to deliver a law degree fully online, and the only one to offer weekly online tutorials in “real time” so that the students can hold conversations with other students and their tutor,’ says Mr Parish.
‘In fact the tutorial system utilises the latest VOIP (voice over internet protocol) technology so that even students with old dialup modem connections can speak with each other and their lecturer/tutor instantaneously from anywhere in the world.
‘Our enrolments have grown strongly since its inception and this year we will be looking to make further online improvements such as podcasting.’
About half the law students at CDU are studying online.
One of the criticisms of online studies has always been the lack of the human dimension, the face-to-face contact of campus life, especially in a field like law with its advocacy and argument. However, says Mr Parish, there have been few complaints.
‘There has been little resistance to online studies, perhaps a few misconceptions that have been dispelled quickly once we explain how the delivery works,’ he says.
‘Lecture notes, tutorial problems, quizzes and all other materials are delivered on the web rather than in paper or CD formats.’
With students being able to download their lectures, they are able to listen to them at times convenient to them – fitting them into their work or domestic schedule.
The course has been designed so that students may enter at the start of semester one or mid-year.