For many students in higher education it can be a challenge to attend a study programme in person. Both travel and time can be an issue, particularly for adult learners juggling family and work commitments alongside their study. The cost of higher education can also be a barrier. In these situations, fully online courses can offer an alternative.
For educational institutions working to maintain enrolment numbers while facing budget pressures of their own, online courses can also be a viable option. In the US, the number of students enrolled in distance education now tops six million.
With the rise of technology-based learning, it’s little surprise that a 2017 Navitas Ventures study found that at least 50 per cent of respondents expect the traditional university model to be disrupted by 2025, with nine out of ten university leaders expecting disruption by 2030.
Fully online courses can make learning attainable
Online learning offers an appealing level of flexibility as educators and students increasingly recognise that when it comes to learning, one size often doesn’t fit all. Students will devote differing amounts of time to a topic in order to fully understand it. This stands to reason – after all, we all learn in different ways and at different rates. Adult learners in particular will hold a wide range of pre-existing knowledge and skills from earlier studies and work experience and will bring this to their studies. This is a strength that adaptable online courses can help students capitalise upon.
Through a learning platform, progress can be at the students’ own pace. This not only maximises chances of success, it also helps learners stay motivated and engaged. It’s all about personalising learning – shaping the programme around the student rather than the student around the programme.
Optimising online courses for student success
Fully online courses can bring down barriers to learning, but for them to be successful educators and administrators must recognise the unique challenges that distance learning poses.
The most obvious of these is that students are working on their own – they don’t come together in groups or have face to face time with tutors.
Peer groups can be highly influential when it comes to maintaining learner motivation. Tutor-student interaction is also central to creating a supportive, successful learning environment. The good news is, these things can still be a part of the equation when it comes to distance learning.
A learning platform can provide a range of features including online discussion boards and live video interactions to help create an in-classroom experience and support students as they progress through their courses. Feedback by video can prove useful for both student and tutor – in the absence of face to face conversations, it can help provide an in-depth, descriptive assessment of coursework.
Remote learning creates a new business model for educational institutions whose costs shift from supporting a physical infrastructure to providing tutoring and coaching at distance. It can, however require a shift in mindset around the instructor/learner dynamic. Particular focus should be paid to maintaining students’ learning momentum, motivation and self-discipline.
Fully online courses can bring down barriers to learning by offering students an alternative to face to face courses and opening up new revenue streams for educational institutions. To ensure courses work for both learners and educators, attention should be paid to maximising the benefits of distance learning and making best use of the tools that learning platforms provide to create the right learning environment for every student.