There has been, since the early 1970s, the opportunity to study by correspondence. Therefore the need to ‘learn’ form a remote location has been evident for decades. The advent of the internet and the expansion of accessible and high quality online services has meant that education has moved away from its traditional ‘roots’ and is beginning to transition from Traditional Education to Online Learning, by embracing the e-culture.
Most educational institutions, from schools through to research facilities, now use online tools and platforms for learning. Rather than replace the traditional methods, these exist alongside and as an enhancement aid. For example portfolios can now be kept in a virtual learning space where students and tutors can access them at any time. Assignments are now submitted via email or through a dedicated system (such as Oxford College’s BTEC HND system). This means that students and tutors have much more flexibility and marking times are less.
The use of WIKIS is growing and allows collaboration on study projects.
Forums provide virtual communication between students and college/university staff, and it is a great way to share ideas, knowledge and continue to feel included during the study journey. Forums also allow discussions to take place 24/7 which means that students don’t have to wait until the next tutorial to pose questions.
Many educational institutions also provide real time platforms which are either via webcam or through a virtual classroom facility where tutorials can be conducted or students and tutors can ‘virtually discuss’ specific topics or ideas.
Online learning offers students the opportunity to study at any time convenient to them. For example the Oxford College Campus is ‘open’ to students and tutors 24 hours a day. Therefore students can access their study materials, resources and send emails to their tutors at any time which offers effective time management if they are working or otherwise committed and also provides support to learners who may wish to study outside normal hours.
Online courses also provides students with a greater degree of control over their study journey – whether they’re taking an A Level in Biology, a BTEC in Business Studies or a Diploma in Counselling – and this ownership means that students are more likely to have a positive learning experience.
The ‘shift’ from traditional face to face to online learning is driven by student requirements, lifestyle, economic factors (for example limited resources), and course choice (usually greater in distance learning). Perhaps one of the most important factors in this shift is the accessibility to courses, usually requiring no specific prior learning or set ‘grades’, but rather requiring confirmation and demonstration of basic skills and aptitude for study which is assessed during pre-registration discussions with study advisors.
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