A new degree in International Sports Management at Federation University is unique in more ways than one.
It is the university's first degree to be delivered totally online and, in partnership with the World Academy of Sport, its students will be able to take part in traineeships at prestigious sporting organisations across the globe.
Federation University's Dr Sue Brown, who is director of the international sports management degree, said it had always been planned that the degree would be 100 per cent online with planning having started well before the coronavirus pandemic forced universities to switch to remote learning.
The degree is aimed at domestic and international students including elite athletes, with the ability to complete the course in three years of full time study or up to 10 years part time enabling athletes to combine studies with their training and competition schedules.
"We are seeing the sport industry looking to the future and reshaping, reorganising and upskilling with new technologies, new skills and a new approach to learning, and our degree supports that - 100 per cent online and flexible - so even competitive athletes can study and train without compromising their education," Dr Brown said.
The new bachelor degree builds on the existing sports management degree which is one of the university's most popular degrees.
The World Academy of Sport contacted Federation University early last year after hearing about the existing sports management degree. Dr Brown presented the existing course to WAS and submitted a proposal for the international course which was accepted over universities from the UK and US.
"Being international sports management, the course is designed wholly for online delivery to allow for flexibility for people around the world," Dr Brown said.
She said designing a university course online from scratch was very different to the recent coronavirus-inspired experience of having to quickly switch from face to face learning to remote learning.
Keeping students engaged online was a particular challenge.
"It is unique to design this from the start ... and I think going in to the future we will see more online degrees pop up," she said.
It's clear the sport industry and people's passion for sport at every level is very much alive and now is the time to take those opportunities to upskill and prepare for the future.Dr Sue Brown
"You do have to have some sort of personal contact with them as well ... and we can do that now with some of the amazing software platforms that are out there."
Many university courses were already a blend of online and face to face learning before the pandemic but Dr Brown said the online component had to be more engaging that just a podcast or a lecturer talking to a powerpoint presentation.
"It's about the art of design and making sure you have the right balance of information. They they go off and do some online learning activity, then more face to face time to keep them engaged."
Dr Brown said part of learning was students discussion concepts and ideas together, and that could also be managed online.
"We will definitely be offering that once a week time for students to come together and have that discussion - it's really important to give them that option.
"When you have different students around the world coming together who are interested in sport and can share ideas, insights and different cultures ... it will be fantastic."
Dr Brown said international sports management as well as universities were moving in to a more digital space.
"We were moving in that digital space but now more than ever people will need to have a new skills set for the future. We have been thrust in to this and it will definitely change the way we do things," she said.
She said the success of online degrees would come down to how well delivered they were, but online degrees would never replace university learning.
"Universities will always have face to face and online options for students in the future. People like going to university and being on campus ... that experience is another form of learning."
The World Academy of Sport is involved with many international sporting federations including the International Olympic Committee and Paralympic Committee and the course will draw on case studies and interviews with top-level sporting management around the globe.
The course will start from the beginning of 2021 and broadly cover areas including management of high performance athletes through to sports development, promotion and the commercial side of sport.
"It's exciting to be releasing a bespoke, 100 per cent online degree. We have been tailor-making our degree for months. We have really tried to keep the needs, wants and lives of our prospective students front-of-mind," Dr Brown said
"It's clear the sport industry and people's passion for sport at every level is very much alive and now is the time to take those opportunities to upskill and prepare for the future."