Open or distance learning, correspondence courses, multiple learning platforms, VLE’s, blended learning: all of these go some way to describe that you as students are working ‘somewhere else’. Between them they represent a different era or aspect of what is basically the same thing, of a ‘Smart’ access to learning, from where you are. Sound good? Well, much of it is.
None of this is new. It’s 150 years or so (!!) since this sort of thing started. In that time lots of things have changed, and lots has been ‘learned’ about distance learning. Can you imagine doing a course in 1850? With hardly any of our modern technology? The University of London was the first university to do this and now has students in 180 countries. And did you know that just under 100 years ago the BBC took on education on as one of its roles? The OU started in 1971. Nowadays TV, mobile phones, post, and computers all help.
So what are the benefits? Obviously the whole point is to have flexible access, to learn at the speed you want – within reason! Getting support and materials from a distance so that you”re not restricted in your movements and sharing in the development of technologies. MOOCS ( really! ) are providing increasing access to many top level courses. And there seems to be no limit to the speed of innovation for interactions on your mobile phone. Try and look up the article ‘MOOCS and the man leading the UK charge’ on the ‘Guardian’ newspaper website, 19/8/14. He says with ‘Future Learn’ all kinds of interaction will be key.
But what are the disadvantages? Isolation? A sense of being out of your depth? Fear of having difficulties with your course with no teacher to help in the traditional way? Well, it is a different ‘world’ and one which is moving fast. We’re all becoming familiar with the rapidly changing technologies and we must learn to use them for our benefit. So we come to the next question: what to look for when you’re making your choices?
Firstly, you must choose the right course (s). OOL provides a wide range of these and provides support to go with them. Similarly, MOOCS offer a range of HE courses.
Second: support. A big choice now is either personal support, and again, OOL does this. Or electronic support. The OU seems to be moving towards this.
Finally: quality. What universities provide ( MOOCS ) is probably going to be okay, and OOL is a member of ABCC ( a good website too! ).
These are big, important changes. Let’s exploit them.
I'm semi-retired after a successful and much enjoyed career in education. Funnily enough, my last job was as a tutor for OOL. I taught on courses providing professional training for school support staff, as well as A level English Literature and English Literature GCSE. I've had an interesting career, in schools, colleges, adult education, the Arts and a few other bits and bobs. At one stage I was also a local authority inspector. Now I'm a school governor, and am enjoying watching my young grandchildren go through their own first experiences of school. Through these articles I hope to keep you up to date with different aspects of education news – and also to keep you interested!