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Equal or Equitable? The Role of Flexibility Within Online Education




Online study is generally associated with the terms flexible and flexibility. Many students choose to study online specifically for the flexibility that is offered, hoping they can combine their studies with multiple other responsibilities in their lives. For students living in regional and rural areas, such flexibility can be even more important, given the additional difficulties they face in accessing campus facilities. While a flexible learning environment has the potential to contribute positively towards equity in higher education, this equity can be compromised when university policies and processes that have been designed for on-campus students are applied equally to online students. This paper examines the experiences of a group of regional and rural Education students who have chosen to study online, to a large extent because of online learning’s promised flexibility. Their experiences demonstrate that equal treatment may in fact undermine flexibility and result in an inequitable student experience.

Author Biographies

Cathy Stone, The University of Newcastle Australia & The National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education

Conjoint Associate Professor, School of Humanities and Social Science

The University of Newcastle, Australia

Adjunct Research Fellow, National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE)

Elizabeth Freeman, University of Tasmania

Dr Elizabeth Freeman

Senior Lecturer in Medieval European History

Associate Head, Learning and Teaching (Humanities)

Private Bag 41

University of Tasmania

Janet Dyment, University of Tasmania

Senior Lecturer, Curriculum and Pedagogy

Deputy Head of School

Faculty of Education

University of Tasmania

Tracey Muir, University of Tasmania

Associate Professor in Mathematics Education

Faculty of Education

University of Tasmania

Naomi Milthorpe

Lecturer in English, School of Humanities, University of Tasmania





How to Cite

Stone, C., Freeman, E., Dyment, J., Muir, T., & Milthorpe, N. (2019). Equal or Equitable? The Role of Flexibility Within Online Education. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 29(2), 26–40.