A survey of academics by the Sidney Morning Herald has found that the option of Internet-based learning has led to a growing tendency among students to skip classes, cutting attendance by up to half in certain courses.
Lecturers from NSW universities surveyed by the publication said that within a few weeks of the commencement of the university semester, students started skipping classes and relied instead on the course material available online to make up for the missed lectures. However, the same lecturers felt that while online material could be used as an adjunct to classroom instruction, they could never be complete substitutes.
Students however clearly perceive otherwise; a 2010 survey of more than two thousand first-year students by the centre for the study of higher education at the University of Melbourne found that over a third of students believe that skimming through online notes and viewing podcasts or video recordings of classes could be an effective substitute for physically attending classes. The survey also found that only 19 percent of students spend more than 20 hours on campus each week in 2009 - down from the 32% five years earlier in 2004.
The Sidney Morning Herald report also points to a 2008 nation-wide study by the Australia Learning and Teaching Council, which seems to draw similar conclusions in that only 56 per cent of 721 students who used web-based learning attended lectures often.
While technology has enabled radical advancements in education as in all other spheres, academics globally have raised concerns about certain limiting features of online education. For one, it deprives the learner of the very concrete takeaways from peer and faculty interaction and the exchange of ideas in class. As associate professor of social science at the University of Western Sydney, Jane Mears told the Australian newspaper, ''The beauty of a lecture is that you can actually influence people, drag them in ... Clearly you can't do that online.''