Over the past year, the number of students entering the Open University between the ages of 17 and 25 has increased 36%. So why has distance learning suddenly become so popular with younger learners? While the cost and availability of univeristy and college education is now making it harder for many to gain a place, internet and mobile phone-savvy students are also alert to the accessibility of open learning.
A recent report in The Guardian focusses on changing perceptions of distance learning as a way of combining study and work. While many university and college students combine study with a part-time job, new technologies now make it possible for open learning students to combine study with career development. The difference is that where full-time students find themselves working at low paid jobs to support their studies, those choosing to study by distance learning can combine this with a job that may also be the first step on their chosen career. Distance learning students can combine their study with a career-orientated job and know that both will help them progress along their chosen career path without the sting in the tail of a student loan to pay off at the end.
While most courses, whether in schools, colleges, universities or distance learning colleges still rely on traditional print-based materials as the basis of study, many now routinely incorporate online resources as part of their core materials. Books, course folders, photocopies, hand-written notes, and downloadable files are still part of the foundation on which many courses are structured. The attraction for many distance learning students, however, is the growing availability of online access to video tutorials (for example, on YouTube or iTunes); the ability to upload assignments and send these to tutors by messaging services built in to online classrooms, and the possibility of joining in online discussions with other students. Many resources are now available online for listening and speaking another language: you can even record your homework orally and send it to your tutor by audio file!
For many studying humanities subjects, the difference between traditional university courses and those available via open learning is getting narrower in everything except perhaps the cost. On this, distance learners win hands down! For those studying vocational courses such as childcare, tourism, nursing, or business administration the ability to combine work and online study are, for many, proving more attractive than conventional routes to gaining qualifications.
Choosing Open Learning
The range of resources available online means that open learning students can be in contact with tutors and other students more easily; they can access course materials anywhere without having to carry heavy files around with them; and most importantly, they can fit their studies around their chosen career path. Many more younger learners are now seeing the advantages of combining work and study in a cost-effective and manageable way as a better option than sinking heavily into student debt.
At Oxford Open Learning we offer many GCSE, IGCSE and A Level distance learning courses to help you get the grades you need to further your studies. We combine traditional learning materials with online resources, offering a blended approach to learning that helps you make the most of your studies. All our courses include the support of a tutor who is a fully qualified, experienced, teacher. Contact us to see whether we can help you on your way.