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The joy of online learning

In recent years online learning has been on the rise, and it’s easy to see why. The simple virtue of being more convenient than traditional face to face courses, with students able to fit studying around other commitments, means they have increased in popularity significantly. 

Students can engage with the content and learning material at a time that suits them, and they don’t need to travel anywhere to study, they simply log in to whichever online learning platform the institution might use, from the comfort of their own home. 

Cost can often be something that prohibits students from pursuing an education, and this can be another benefit of online learning, in that it is often easily accessible to those who are on much smaller budgets. 

In this article we will take a closer look at what online learning is, the teaching methods often used, and how online learning  can be used to prepare for university.

What is online learning?

Also referred to as e-learning, as the name suggests, online learning are courses of study that are conducted 100% online. Students participate in a virtual learning environment, where they participate in lectures and seminars, access study resources, and submit assignments digitally. More often than not all contact with tutors and fellow students is conducted online via discussion forums and email, as well as video conferencing.

Students who participate in online learning may have more contact with their fellow students online than they would in the regular environment, owing to the increased channels of communication. Indeed, there are many ways for students to interact online, including: discussion boards and forums, email, video conferencing, virtual group activities, and many more.

Online learning courses don't require you to be physically present, instead you study at home, and at your own pace. While online learning programmes often consist largely of virtual study, you may also have the option of attending physical workshops in some cases.

Be aware that the terms online and distance learning are often used interchangeably, but at different institutions they mean different things, so it's best to check as to what an online or distance learning course involves in terms of contact time and course expectations before committing to a programme. 

While online learning courses are particularly suited to students with work or family commitments, courses of this nature require a huge amount of dedication and self-discipline, and can be a great way of preparing you for the rigours of higher education or post-graduate study.

What are the methods of online learning?

Many distance learning providers will have their own way of delivering the content of the course. Most are moving away from delivering the resources via mail, or even email, but are moving to an online learning platform that can be accessed, depending on the software used, from any computer, tablet or smartphone. This means it can be accessed at any time, anywhere, giving you ultimate flexibility and control over your learning experience.

While each individual course will differ in its delivery method, some of the resources that you might come across include:

  • Online textbooks and e-learning materials

  • Academic Journals

  • Videos and webinars

  • Live virtual lectures and recorded lectures

  • Polls, quizzes and surveys

  • Discussions forums

  • Interactive sessions

If you’re coming from a more traditional learning background then some of these will be familiar to you.  One of the main advantages of these formats is that they are completely portable, providing the ability to be able to study from wherever you are.

Live virtual lectures and recorded lectures are also something that are utilised in most learning environments, and this is no different in online learning. They are a key way of delivering information, and allow students to watch and attend lectures from wherever they are. 

A difficulty that online learning providers often face is how to replicate the face to face interaction that you would benefit from in a classroom or campus-based course. Online courses often use a variety of tools to achieve this, including discussion forums and interactive Q&A sessions to provide interaction with other students, lecturers and tutors alike.

Another aspect to consider with how online learning is delivered, is how it is assessed. There are a few different assessment types:

  • Individual Assessment

For each individual assignment, you’ll likely receive a topic, word count and deadline, and then be expected to write a structured essay within the expectations set out by the course.

  • Discussion Activities

Depending on the institution, discussion-based assessments might be used. Often a discussion will be started by a course tutor with a question or topic to be debated among students. They will then research and post reponses, demonstrating their knowledge and understanding of the specific subject.

  • Essays

Essays are a core component of assessment in online learning as well as traditional learning, and are something that students of all backgrounds will be familiar with. The difference here is that they will be submitted virtually as opposed to being physically turned in.

  • Exams

Again, something that all students will be familiar with, exams are a key method to test your learning. Once more, these will be completed online in a virtual exam environment. 

Online learning for university

If you’re considering applying for university, a good way to make sure you feel academically prepared is by completing a pre-university course, either before applying or prior to beginning your course at university. 

These courses are now available online, and benefit from the flexibility of online learning. They can be a great opportunity to develop the writing, critical thinking, and analytical skills necessary for higher education. Studying at a university level requires enhanced critical thinking skills, as well as being able to develop a supported, substantive argument and critically analyse sources and data.

There are different types of pre-university courses available online. Some of these will be generic, but a major advantage of some pre-university courses is that, by choosing one which is closely related to your chosen area of academia, you will explore material that is similar to your course, providing you with the skills required for degree-level study. In addition to this, by choosing a specialised course you will be arriving at university with an enhanced passion for your subject, which will undoubtedly make you stand out from the crowd.

At Cambridge International Academy we have a variety of online courses that will prepare you for the rigours of university study. 

In addition to courses in an array of subjects, we also deliver courses that prepare you for Academic Writing, Public Speaking, and Research and Evaluation. 

For more information on any of these courses, please get in touch today.

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