I have been both a student and a lecturer with the Northern Territory University and then the Charles Darwin University.
When we first came to Darwin in 1987 I connected with the university by developing a unit titled Sociocultural Foundations. The unit was about helping preservice teachers to understand the elements of community of which they needed to be aware both when on teaching practice and when graduating as teachers in our schools.
The unit lasted the whole academic year. It involved teachers across a number of preservice years. I was involved as a lecturer and the organiser of tutorial sessions.
The program was totally on campus, there being no such thing as online course alternatives at that stage.
I was also involved with the university as a student completing two masters programs; a Master in Educational Studies and later a Master in International Management program.
Again, both these courses were on campus.
I discovered that there are some significant advantages to working in this mode (on campus totally): However, those advantages did not emerge until I again worked at the Charles Darwin University from 2012.
By that time, online teaching albeit in its infancy was starting to emerge as an alternative. The work I did was with students both at the campus and by extension.
I was disappointed in the online model. It seemed to me that people who were studying at distance well less committed and more prone to overlook course requirements. Further, the faculty hierarchy seemed happy to excuse those who did not fulfil commitments beyond compulsory assignments submitted and exams undertaken (where applicable – and they were very minimal).
Teacher preparation is largely about groupship. That is teachers in training working together, sharing ideas, and being a group of persons together. The online model does not promote these essentials.
I don’t believe people preparing to teach can adequately complete units if they are working singly and in isolation from others.
Online modelling may help universities when it comes to the bottom line financially. It seems that if fees are paid and work minimally done, then students fulfil requirements. I found that working with online students created difficulties for quite a number who were quite borderline students. However, anyone I may have recommended to repeat a unit or not to pass the course was eventually conceded. That was the decision of those to whom I was responsible.
Online learning may have become more refined since my involvement. It would need to have changed to become a viable tertiary alternative.