Online copies questioned
Media investigations suggest some universities are offering pre-made online courses with no real teaching involved.
An investigation by Guardian Australia has revealed that some students pay thousands of dollars for online courses that they believe are offered by prestigious universities, but are actually outsourced to for-profit companies.
These companies use aggressive recruitment tactics and refer to students as “customers”.
The report found that some courses feature outdated pre-recorded lectures and no live teaching.
Course assignments are marked by gig workers, who also oversee online “discussion boards” in lieu of tutorials.
Australian universities offer more than 850 courses, mostly postgraduate online degrees or diplomas, that are contracted out to third-party online program management companies (OPMs) for course management, administration, and marketing. These courses are marketed to students under a variant of the university’s actual name, sometimes with ‘Online’ added to the end.
The media investigation highlights how the outsourcing of courses to OPMs risks misleading students into believing they are being taught by qualified academics.
Criminologist and domestic violence expert Molly Dragiewicz resigned from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in part due to concerns about how a graduate certificate she designed was outsourced to an OPM.
The course materials were still provided to students under her name, and audio recordings of her lectures continued to be used without her knowledge.
Students say they have complained about the outdated course materials, lack of academic discussion, and no clear study or learning outcomes.
The investigation also raises concerns about how OPMs generate efficiencies by reusing materials from year to year, including lecture recordings, which are not suitable for subjects where new statistics or laws regularly emerge.