Is it farewell to on-campus study?

This is probably our future. It is highly likely that a lot of tertiary education will stay online, even when we can move freely again.

It suddenly dawned on me the other day: I miss the libraries.

I miss the New Arrivals shelves where books from different departments would all sit together until they were sent off to their new homes on different shelves, on different floors.

I miss the compactuses in the basement. I miss turning the huge wheel to move each unit along their tracks, marvelling at the engineering that allowed me to move a whole bookcase full of books by myself, and marvelling at the idea that there is so much knowledge in the world that some must be tucked away in the basement and some will inevitably be in the bottom-most corner, because something has to be in the bottom-most corner.

And the more I thought about it, the more I missed the actual campus. ANU was (still is) a great campus; full of buildings of various ages, great trees and no fences (except for the constant building work). And then there’s Sullivans Creek.

This list used to contain the Co-Op Bookshop, but it’s gone.

I even miss the grungy bits.

Australian National University Billboard 2015

Even though my study was limited to one field, I was always aware of other wonders and wished there was time to explore them all.

In contrast, during online study, I sit here with a very narrow focus that unfortunately doesn’t omit the growing piles of dust sitting in my periphery.

Yet, I’m loving online study.

It’s a delight studying in the country with almost instant access to the facilities of a city-based university. Granted, not everything in the library is available yet electronically, but there’s enough to make it a practical endeavour.

It’s a delight not waiting for a bus, and waiting for a bus, and waiting for a bus … a repeated process that seemed to stretch on forever.

It’s a delight not carrying a pile of books home, lugging them blocks between bus stops and doorways, only to find that some are useless and why didn’t I work that out back at the library … oh, that’s right, I need time to think these things through!

How did it come to this? Two things. First, social distancing and travel restrictions in 2020 required universities to very quickly work out how to deliver all their courses online. Second, the Australian Government created the National Priorities training program where a course that might normally cost upwards of $10,000 would only cost around $1000, provided it was completed full-time in one semester.

As a result, I’m now studying for a Graduate Certificate in Teaching (Primary) that doesn’t qualify me to be a teacher. That last bit is fine, as I have no intention of standing in front of classroom. Instead, this is my opportunity to learn about teaching so that I can be a tutor.

After the National Priorities program is over, there will still be plenty of opportunities to study online, albeit for less fancy qualifications. Knowledge is knowledge (providing it is knowledge and not opinionated hear-say). And building knowledge is a critical step towards building wisdom and experience.

MOOCS, also known as Massive Open Online Courses, are a low-cost option for building skills. I completed one early in the year to see if I could manage online study.

But I might give myself some time off before I jump into the next one. Maybe next year.

What are your thoughts?

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