Due to growing popularity and increasing acceptance of online education, it has successfully got rid of its reputation as a low quality and low cost means of earning a degree. One of the main reasons for this transformation is that many universities and prominent online institutes have struggled long and hard to provide similar learning and networking experience as traditional classroom learning.
Online Is More Effective
As a result of this, FutureLearn, the leader in MOOCs (massive open online courses), has introduced specific features on their website which enables learners to talk with each other about assignments and academics. FutureLearn is one of the prominent online learning providers which offers hundreds of free online courses. Regarding the support of Open University (OU) to FutureLearn, Prof. Mike Sharples believes that the discussions between online learners is actually proving effective. Students tend to watch lecture videos and either ask relevant questions or comment on content online. Students also get support from a lead academic who is easily accessible online to answer their queries. FutureLearn is a successful partnership among 37 UK universities along with the British Library and the British Council.
The Open University (OU), which has over 200,000 students, is considered as the model for excellence in learning online. Every learner is assigned a dedicated tutor to help the complete their courses. Many other institutes, like the University of Derby Online, also offer dedicated tutors to students who can be contacted easily online. Moreover, administrators also organise for the learners to meet face-to-face at the university. However, even with such support, online learners need to be self-motivated and self-disciplined.
Offering Excellent Support
According to Julie Stone, deputy director of University of Derby Online, learners recieve both academic and personal support. She says “There is online assistance for students who have financial problems, workload problems or their IT systems are not working. Our students are introduced to their tutor. They get to know them online and through video and blogs.”
Most of the online education providers include a number of activities in the programmes to motivate a large number of users. The University of Liverpool is one of the global universities which has significantly invested in the online sphere. It works in association with Netherlands-based Laureate Education, which is a commercial company. Liverpool provides around 29 courses, including Masters degrees, doctoral degrees and postgraduate certificates. As the size of the class is limited to 15-20 students for each module, students get the opportunity to bond with each other via online forums.
A Global Experience
Professor Helen O’Sullivan, academic lead for online learning at the university, says “Students benefit from being part of a global classroom and from an international network of knowledge, experience and expertise. Our students are required to work together on assignments and critique one another’s work. For each module, there is a dedicated instructor who guides the class week by week. ”
O’Sullivan adds “We also have a fully trained support team who are on hand to support students throughout their programme and will respond to student enquiries within 24 hours, and round the clock technical support. Our students are also assigned a personal dissertation advisor as well as the general dissertation instructor to help them structure research.”
The fact is online education is gaining more ground and offering better benefits to learners than traditional courses. Hannah Morton-Hedges, an independent careers advisor, says “Online students want access to tutors, but they also want access to the other students on their course. There is a problem of isolation when you are studying at home. Students need to feel connected. They also need feedback from their tutors. The companies are self-regulating and, for that reason, students need to be confident about what they are likely to get before signing up. ” She concludes “There is no doubt that online courses are much better than they used to be, but students need to do their research before parting with any fees.”
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