What is an Online Short Course?

Working in a cafe

The University of Adelaide is investing in a range of learning products to meet a variety of contemporary needs. One of these learning products is Online Short Courses or OSCs.

OSCs are non-credit bearing learning opportunities designed to address specific learning and development needs. The target audience for an OSCs may include current University of Adelaide students, alumni, national or international professionals, or a specific industry. OSCs can complement formal study by focusing on skills and knowledge that contribute to success at University; they can enable the application of academic outputs such as theoretical frameworks or models; and they can be designed to meet skill gaps in industries and organisations.

An OSC can be anywhere from 2 hours in duration to a few weeks but ideally they are short and focused. They can be completely asynchronous where participants complete the learning at their own pace, or they can include a blend of asynchronous and synchronous components where participants have some opportunities to interact with each other and/or with an instructor. They are built and delivered online using Canvas Catalog - an external facing instance of MyUni (Canvas) which enables enrolments from people outside of the University of Adelaide.

OSCs do not provide credit towards a formal qualification. Rather, the emphasis is on flexible and digestible learning that addresses a specific need. There may still be assessment components where participants are required to attain a specific result in order to progress through the course or to achieve a certificate of completion. Assessment elements in this context provide confidence for participants and employers that the learning objectives have been achieved and that the skills and knowledge can be applied.



People seek to enhance their knowledge and professional practice at many points through their lives. Particularly in light of employment challenges faced by many people during Covid-19, opportunities for just-in-time, flexible and digestible learning can help people gain the extra skills they need to improve their employment outcomes. OSCs are a good option to address immediate learning needs because they can be designed and built relatively quickly.

OSCs can also be an opportunity to address gaps in industry and professional knowledge, such as legislative changes, mental health in the workplace, revised safety principles or integrating technology in teaching and learning. OSCs can provide an avenue for teaching employability skills that can complement technical skills gained through formal training.

Well-designed OSCs integrate principles of good learning design including accessibility, teacher presence, authentic assessment and interactive elements that facilitate meaningful engagement with the content. Participants who undertake University of Adelaide OSCs are getting a taste of what our teaching and learning experiences are like which may influence them to undertake more learning with us, informal or formal. OSCs also generate an additional line of revenue for the University.


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Designing and building OSCs can be challenging for a number of reasons. The design and build of OSCs needs to be efficient to ensure a cost benefit can be realised. This means that the complexity of the course outline, assessments and learning elements need to be carefully considered and managed to ensure the course can be built relatively quickly.

The next challenge is time commitment. OSCs need to progress from concept to delivery fairly quickly to ensure the course can go to market in time to address the identified need. Therefore, the subject matter expert needs to be available to create the content and engage in reviewing the course as it is being built, to ensure the OSC will be suitable. Time commitment can vary depending on how much content is already available, how long the OSC will be, whether there are media elements that need to be produced and whether there are synchronous components within the course.

If there are synchronous components and/or assessments that need to be manually graded, then someone needs to be available to facilitate those tasks each time the course is run. However, if the OSC attracts sufficient revenue, there could be enough funding for a casual resource to manage synchronous components and/or assessment marking.



The PACE team - Professional and Continuing Education - work closely with Learning Enhancement and Innovation (LEI), academics/subject matter experts and industry professionals to design, build and deliver OSCs to meet current and emerging demands. If you have an idea for an OSC and you think there is a market that may be interested, please reach out to your Head of School or the PACE team to start a discussion. If the OSC is viable, PACE and LEI will then work with you to take the concept through to delivery.

PACE Online Short Courses: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/pace/online-short-courses

PACE Team: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/pace/contact-us


Dr Nina James

PACE Project Team, Learning Enhancement and Innovation

Tagged in learning design, Learning Enhancement & Innovation, Remote Learning