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How To Choose An Online University: Does A Campus Matter?

Online study options rose in popularity due to the need to overcome large distances that separated students from higher education institutions. Whilst this is still the primary reason for many students, the demand has changed in recent years, with an increase of city-based students also choosing the online mode due to its flexibility and comparable quality to on-campus learning. 

With trends in the job market constantly changing, the flexibility to study whenever and wherever you want has become a key factor when choosing an educational provider, particularly for postgraduates. However, most people still tend to default to providers in their home state or universities they’ve heard of. Online learning provides an opportunity to broaden your options, giving you the flexibility to choose an education provider that is best suited to your needs.

As the demand for learners to keep working whilst they study continues to grow, this flexibility is more important than ever particularly in the field of data science. A report conducted by IBM in 2017 found that 39% of data scientist roles require a master's degree. In order to adapt to this change in learners' needs, more and more universities are offering online postgraduate data science courses. 

As the number of available online courses continues to grow, so too does the potential for learners to seek out education beyond their local area without having to relocate. To help you choose the right university, consider the following benefits of studying online with a university outside of your home state.

Quality assurance

The high expectations for employment and need for career fulfillment are increasingly becoming significant factors to consider when choosing where to study online. Learners are not just looking for guidance in navigating the changing digital world, but the best option for quality education and career opportunities. 

The Australian higher education sector continues to be regarded as a provider of high-quality education, both to domestic students and students around the world. Australia is home to a number of universities ranked in the top 1% worldwide, and of these, over 20 provide online courses

Having these courses offered online means that even if you are living in another country, you can still study with a quality assured university and receive a globally recognised qualification without having to move.

For domestic students wanting to study a highly specialised field, you may find that the course you want is only offered at a small number of institutions. Having the online option means you have more flexibility to pick an institute that is well known for its research contributions in your field, without the worry of campus location. 

For example, if you are an aspiring data scientist interested in the innovations of machine learning you may want to study with an institute like the University of Adelaide. Home to the Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML), one of six Research Institutes at the University of Adelaide, the AIML is leading initiatives in the application of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and computer vision. Courses such as the online Master of Data Science (Applied), gives you the opportunity to be exposed to this research and contribute to its initiatives even if you are not located in South Australia. 

Greater accessibility for a lower cost

In 2010, the most common reason given by higher education students for moving away from home was wanting to be closer to education facilities. Moving interstate or abroad can come at a high cost- from removalist trucks to renting, to the potential increased cost of living. 

As mentioned above, you may already have a course in mind that you want to study but it is only offered interstate or overseas. Not only do you have to factor in the cost of study, but now you need to add on the cost of moving too. Especially if you are considering moving overseas to study with a university with a great reputation. Not only will the cost of the course come at a higher price, but it may not be aligned with the Australian market. 

Online study offers an alternative option, without having to compromise your financial capabilities. You will instead be able to save on costs, such as expenses traveling to and from a university campus, including spending money on petrol and public transport, and spending less on textbooks as all online course materials are free. As well as this, online students have the flexibility to manage their own schedule, so you have the added benefit of continuing to work full time

On an international level, this is a significant benefit. Access to education is a necessary element for economic security, particularly in developing countries. As a result, the global demand for learning through more inexpensive, flexible models is increasing at a significant rate. The rise of new digital platforms that make learning more accessible reflects this.

This accessibility means that even if you are living in a country that doesn’t offer the same educational opportunities offered in Australia, you still have the option to choose the right provider for you without having to worry about moving overseas. 

Build a global network

One of the key elements to getting ahead in your career is networking, and studying online puts you in the perfect position to reap the benefits of a virtual network. From collaboration in settings such as forums, webinars, and online discussion boards, the virtual classroom puts you in a unique position to surround yourself with a network of individuals from all different locations and backgrounds. 

Particularly for an area of study such as Data Science, having a network of peers from different industry backgrounds can be a great advantage when it comes to progressing your career

How does the location of your online provider affect this? As like choosing an institute that is well known for its research contributions, choosing a course based on its support and teaching staff might be another important consideration for you. For learners wanting to crack the global data industry, online learning gives you the opportunity to gain flexible access to quality teaching, from professionals in different corners of the world. 

Take senior instructor Dr Lewis Mitchell for example, who is a Course Coordinator for the online Master of Data Science (Applied) at the University of Adelaide. Dr Mitchell received the 2018 SA Young Tall Poppy Award from the Australian Institute of Policy and Science, for his research in developing mathematical and statistical tools to monitor trends in social media. If you are wanting to develop a career in computational social science, human dynamics, online social networks, as well as data assimilation and the mathematics of weather and climate having access to professionals such as Dr Mitchell will not only benefit your studies but help build your global network.  


Possibly one of the most important benefits of online study is the ability to personalise your learning experience. This means that you get more control over your pace of learning and approach, making the experience more meaningful and relevant to you.

Each university has a personalised learning format, and continues to develop learning experiences based on specific learner needs. For students wanting to study and work full-time, the number of intakes universities offer per year and the flexibility of the study format are at the top of the ‘specific needs’ list. In Australia, universities generally only have two intakes per year (February and July). However there are a few universities that offer multiple intakes, and they tend to be located in bigger cities.

Having the option to choose from multiple intakes comes with several benefits, including:

  • Start when you are ready- giving you the option to work around your own schedule and start your studies when it best suits you.
  • More flexibility- 100% online learning means you can log in and study where and when you choose.
  • Focused study- most online programs are delivered one subject at a time over a six-week teaching period. This focused delivery allows you to master one subject at a time.

Looking at online learning options outside of your home state gives you more space to choose a program structure that meets your preferences for faster and more flexible learning styles. No longer restricted by geography, your options for further education are endless. Identifying the benefits of studying with an online provider locally, interstate or abroad can help you narrow down your list and choose the right online study destination for you. 

For more information about the data science courses offered by UoA, visit our programs page or contact an enrolment advisor today on 1300 291 117.


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