Breaking down the distance barrier

UNSW Global has launched a fully online English pathway program to help students attain certification while waiting for COVID-19 restrictions to lift. 

UNSW Global Pathway program moves online

UNSW Global has launched its first purpose-designed online English language program for direct entry to university.

UNSW Global has launched its first purpose-designed online English language program for direct entry to university.

When students join UNSW Global’s next intake for its flagship University English Entry Course (UEEC) in May, they will be studying from their own homes across multiple time zones – connected and supported in a unique online experience.

"UNSW Global’s University English Entry Course was the first of its type in Australia, and it has always been our goal to ensure the program remains fit for purpose," says UNSW Global CEO Laurie Pearcey. “We are excited to be one of the first to make a full transition into the digital world.”

With COVID-19 restrictions limiting access to traditional IELTS, Pearson or TOEFL English language certification, it has been challenging for many students hoping to fulfil their dreams of studying abroad.

And while education providers everywhere rush to convert traditional face-to-face programs to online lectures and content, UNSW Global has sought a more ‘active’ learning approach – designed to enhance the experience and foster a supportive community specifically for language learning.

Combining education and online expertise

Partnering with OpenLearning, one of the world’s leading learning platforms, has given UNSW Global two distinct advantages.

Firstly, OpenLearning partners with Alibaba Cloud, which reduces the risk of access and internet speed issues for students based in China. Secondly, the platform’s learning designers could work with UNSW Global’s highly experienced English language faculty to create a uniquely engaging program.

"Most online courses out there are quite passive," says OpenLearning CEO and co-founder Adam Brimo. "They are usually designed to supplement face-to-face teaching – and if you take the face-to-face element away, all you are left with is documents."

OpenLearning has spent years researching its activity-based learning philosophy. This was in part inspired by Brimo’s own experience as an undergraduate at UNSW’s School of Computer Science and Engineering, and further developed with his co-founders, CTO David Collien and UNSW Professor Richard Buckland.

"Studying at UNSW was a transformative experience. I really enjoyed the community interaction that was driven by learning activities and projects. OpenLearning’s vision is to make that possible online," he says.

Using social interaction to engage and motivate

UNSW Global’s 10-week fully online University English Entry Course is designed to build confidence and other interpersonal skills in preparation for academic study – as well as opportunities to practice written and spoken English, read academic-level texts, give presentations and join in group discussions. Ice-breakers, social interaction, peer-to-peer feedback and idea-sharing tools are all built in.

Pearcey has spent the past few weeks popping into chat rooms and listening to student debates during an initial pilot demo. "It’s wonderful to see such a high level of engagement amongst teachers and students," he says. "It’s clear the online environment is instinctive to this digitally-savvy demographic, but our teachers have also adapted without losing the care and heart they bring to the classroom."

"So far, over 90% of our students have told us they’re happy with the experience."

Transforming access to English pathway programs

Pearcey believes the program could profoundly transform access to high quality English language programs and pathways to further study. “If we can get this right: developing innovative online programs at scale, at a price people can afford and a delivery cost that universities can sustain, it could revolutionise global access to higher education at the great universities of the world,” Pearcey says

With its strong affiliation to a global Top 50 university, UNSW Global’s program could also play a role in admissions pathways for other universities around the world seeking alternative channels for high-calibre academic students.

"We welcome enquiries from other universities seeking an online pathway," says Pearcey. "We are still seeing a strong appetite for UNSW Sydney admission later this year and in 2021 with applications for some programs up by double-digit percentages. This program will allow them to prepare and give their studies a head start."

He anticipates hundreds of students will join the program this year. On completion they can still seamlessly progress to an undergraduate or postgraduate degree at UNSW Sydney ­– online while border restrictions are still in place, and on campus when travel resumes.

As the first Foundation Studies pathway provider in Australia, UNSW Global has pioneered international education for more than 50 years. It recognises the current crisis demands a proactive and agile response – and that student needs will continue to evolve.  

Both Pearcey and Brimo believe online programs like this will be the future for education.

"This UNSW Global program is a showcase for what’s possible with high quality online learning, especially in the language space," says Brimo. "Students are more discerning now, and if we can show it’s possible to have an as good, or even better, experience online, that could change the market."

About UNSW Global:

A leader in global education and training for over 50 years, UNSW Global is a not-for-profit, wholly owned enterprise of UNSW Sydney (University of New South Wales). UNSW Global offers English language courses, Foundation Studies and Diploma programs to international students.