What it Means to Study Online
Studying online is one of those things that sounds basic but few seem to know the exact concept is unless they’ve experienced it themselves. I’ve not tried all forms of online study so I’m far from an expert. But in the first year of my Bachelor’s degree, I’ve got a decent insight into how it is possible to do such extensive studying without having to sit in a lecture hall. Note that this gravitates slightly more towards how I am studying, although some of these points can be applicable to all courses.
WHAT CAN YOU STUDY?
There’s a huge variety of what can be done. Degree’s, MOOC’s, diploma’s, and one pro is a lot of these can be directly connected to your LinkedIn bio without all the faffing around. The website themselves even offers courses with their LinkedIn Learning.
Most courses do charge but you can get a lot for free. If you’re interested in a sneak peek at studying online, try a MOOC. That’s an acronym for Massive Online Open Course; my Sixth Form loved to get students to do them in their spare time. They’re usually a couple weeks to a half a year and take only a few hours a week- you’ll be told roughly how many before you start. In fact, I’ve got one on the basics of cultural comprehension. Since they’re so short, there’s a huge variety in what you can do. Blood, bones and brains? Plenty of options for you biology fanatics out there. Society, Sartre and Skinner? Social scientists are sorted too. Those who hate anything with the ‘S’ word in it?
Lets just simplify it: Unless you’re interested in nothing, there’ll be something.
HOW WILL YOU LEARN? WHAT MATERIALS WILL YOU USE?
One thing you’ll notice is the use of multi-media. I’m doing an Open University course in International Studies full-time. This means I’m doing two 60-credit courses. In the post, I got sent five textbooks and booklets on my assignments. But I don’t even need these physical resources as the website provides PDF’s. And as the UK’s largest host for disabled students, the OU specifically have many adaptations to their materials. As a visually impaired student, I was also offered audiobooks.
Throughout the weeks I can get assigned to look through videos, websites, podcasts and have a go at a few drags and drops. Then I have questions which I respond to and get to read the answers after submitting my work. Alongside, I get a chapter of the book which I have to make some comments about each week. We have no set criterium on how to learn the information presented, but I personally use a highlighter and pen. Others say they just read it and wait until assignments before they get to the nitty gritty.
WHAT ABOUT TUTORS?
Two or three weeks before starting my course, I got emails saying I’d been assigned one for each module, SM and IT (we’re not disclose full names so have to resort to initials). These two are at the other end of the phone or computer if you need any assistance or want an expert to talk to. Both have PhD’s in my case, with my one tutor repeatedly telling me he’s worked with the OU for 30+ years… just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re just any old person! Additionally, they mark your assignments with comments on how it could be improved alongside what you’ve done well.
ARE THERE ANY LECTURES?
On top of tutors, we have something called Tutorials. These can be attended in a local university. For example, I live in the Welsh Marches, and my local one is in the University of Wolverhampton. I’ve never personally been though because that’s quite a trek. However, I do know these involve tutors going through presentations and answering any questions students have.
Meanwhile, you can also attend online ones, which is what I do. These are done over Adobe Connect and the tutor and students can use their microphones or the chat box provided alongside viewing a PowerPoint tutors have produced. For me, these are roughly monthly and are done for introduction to new parts of the module and before assessments.
HOW DO YOU KEEP IN CONTACT? ESPECIALLY WHILE TRAVELLING?
Communication is easy nowadays without having to use your phone and rack up a huge bill. There’s the old-fashioned email which can be used for messages which don’t need such an emergency response. Nowadays, a lot more websites are using live chats which are great when you want an answer soon without having to pay for it. I greatly benefitted from this when I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Keeping in touch with other students is one thing which may arise in people’s minds. While traditional university students get the chance to meet students studying their subject in lecture halls, I haven’t had this chance while out here. It’s not a problem though as there are forums and there seems to be Facebook groups for everything. Some use these for getting advice or clarification, but I’ve seen many a post asking who lives locally so they can meet up and become friends too. You can make it as social or as antisocial as you want.
There’s also the student associations and the like. Some of these involve taking part in surveys every so often for the benefit of putting it on a CV, which I have done myself. Considering this starts at the beginning of the year, I have only done one so far on being a disabled student and how the OU have managed this. I can’t comment much further on the effectiveness or other types of questions at the moment, but I’m guessing they’ll be varied.
FLEXIBILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY
Online studying can also be more accessible to certain groups of people. Many fellow students class themselves as disabled or have young children. Rather than having a set routine which they have to fit their lives around, they can put down their studying if they’re having an issue and pick it back up when it’s resolved. For example, while I didn’t, I could’ve sped ahead with my studying before the road trip so I had two weeks to do whatever I wanted, and then revert back to my studying habits upon reaching Da Nang. On that note, it’s so flexible that you can do things as large-scale as travel the world with Global Grad!
So, to put all the points I’ve made into bullet points as a summary of what online study entails:
- You can find a wide variety of courses regardless of your interests
- Courses can be as short as a few hours to getting a full degree completely online
- You can use plenty of media to learn, including physical materials
- If needs be, you will get provided with tutors to help you that can be just as experienced as a traditional tutor. There will be plenty of ways to contact them.
- Sometimes you may get the chance to attend physical classes. If not, there is always the option of online lessons too which can be where you can ask questions
- Communication nowadays is easy if you have issues with the course or need advice, and you don’t need to pay a fortune
- You’re not alone if you don’t want to be!
- You may be able to partake in extra activities to boost your CV
- Flexibility and accessibility are two of the biggest pros of online studying.
This summarises the basics of what online studying is. The concept is surprisingly much simpler than people think and definitely something everyone can try to get a taster, regardless of their current life status. Even us Global Gradder’s are getting experiences around the world while our studies range from short courses to degrees which can carry on over several years.
About the author
Jasmin Dawling is one of Global Grad’s January 2019 students and is completing a full-time Bachelor’s degree with the Open University in International Studies. While this is her first time formally blogging, she has had plenty of writing experience in the past, from novel writing since the age of six to working on the school newspaper. Apart from seeing the sights of South East Asia and working on her degree, Jasmin spends most of her time either procrastinating or writing down her novel ideas, be it on her travelling-inspired new ideas or the 7-part series she’s been toying with for almost ten years.