Otago Polytechnic is working towards a future where students
from around the world enrol in its "virtual campus", a
portfolio of programmes being fully taught over the internet.
Otago Polytechnic director of learning and teaching Prof
Sally Pairman said the polytechnic was hiring four staff to
make up a new unit called "OP Online" and aimed to have its
first internet-based course up and running next year.
After setting up its first course, the new unit would look at
what the polytechnic was teaching at its physical campus and
see what subjects would be appropriate for the online
"We will also investigate new programmes and courses that can
be delivered online," Prof Pairman said.
The unit would put the polytechnic at the cutting edge of
what was a growing trend in tertiary education worldwide, she
"What we envisage is that we will have our on-campus
experience for students that want to come and have
face-to-face [teaching] ... and then we will be building up a
virtual campus for students that are looking for a total
This would not be at the expense of its physical campus, she
"It's not that we are going to shrink what we do on the
"We are just building a new area of our business."
Asked if there would be problems associated with not having
face-to-face contact, she said: "What we are doing is
providing a whole range of learning opportunities ... and
[students] are the ones that need to decide what's best to
meet their needs.
"Not everyone can afford to be a full-time student ... There
are millions of learners around the world who don't have
access to any tertiary education - for them this is an
The polytechnic would develop its business model as the
number of programmes grew, but some courses would be
delivered for free, only those seeking assessment on the
material covered charged, while other courses would be based
fully on fees.
The unit's first course - tentatively called the "graduate
diploma in tertiary teaching" - would be aimed at educating
Otago Polytechnic's new academic staff, but would also be
open to people outside the polytechnic.