La Trobe University is set to “significantly expand” the number of online-only qualifications it offers as part of a new strategic plan addressing “severe” revenue losses.
The university's 2020-2030 strategic plan [pdf] outlines how the institution will shrink in staff, students and revenue terms “for the foreseeable future” as the economic downturn and international travel restrictions bite into its bottom line.
The university said it stands to lose up to 25 percent of its revenue by the end of 2021 and predicts a full recovery may take between three and five years to complete.
La Trobe’s new online strategy is separated into three elements: online only, ‘StudyFlex’, and ‘Regional Connect’, which are expected to double the university’s current revenue from online courses by 2024.
“We will significantly expand the currently small number of qualifications we offer in online-only mode, especially in our areas of strength where we can attract students from outside our geographical footprint,” La Trobe said.
At least one program from each field of education will be offered online under the plan.
The StudyFlex option offers students more flexibility in their choice of when and where they study, even if they are enrolled to attend on-campus.
This strategy aims to give the largest possible number of students a more seamless study experience between different modes of course delivery, and will be offered in all of La Trobe’s generalist degrees.
It will be backed up by the Regional Connect strategy, under which learning and engagement hubs will be set up at each of its campuses in regional Victoria to provide online students in those areas access to in-person academic support and events from researchers, industry speakers, project partners and alumni.
To balance out the investment in establishing more online courses with content tailored for digital delivery, La Trobe is set to “exit unsustainable face-to-face offers" in disciplines other than rural health and education "and replace them with more high-quality online courses supported by on-campus facilities, student support, and employability pathways to local industry”.
La Trobe vice-chancellor, Professor John Dewar, said the strategic plan outlines how the university can ensure it remains relevant in the coming years.
“Our new strategic plan outlines how we will achieve future success and emerge as a more resilient, future-focused and necessarily more efficient institution that will flourish in a post-COVID world,” Dewar said in a statement.
“While the severe financial consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic mean we’ll necessarily be a smaller institution measured by revenue, staff and students for the foreseeable future, we will continue to place our many communities at the heart of everything we do and will more sharply focus on our strengths in teaching and research, and retain our identity as a university with a strong sense of social responsibility.
“We are creating more pathways to qualifications which lead to successful career opportunities and offering more choice and flexibility around how we deliver our courses, including an expansion of online and mixed modes of teaching and learning.”