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The ‘universal’ learning experience - building 100% online degrees for optimum student engagement

The quality of online education has consistently improved in recent years. Senior Learning Designer, Nick Johnston, manages the development of our 100% online postgraduate programmes – ensuring the quality is comparable to campus-based counterparts and meets the needs of a global audience:

The first thing we do is look at the validation document. This is the agreed framework that gives a degree its academic credit, and ultimately, what gives students their final qualification,” Nick explains.

“This document provides us with the basis for the structure and content of the modules we create. It identifies its’ core content, learning outcomes and modes of assessment (similar to campus). However, when designing degrees for online delivery, we also try to give each online module a different focus – one that’s relevant for those who work and study simultaneously.”

This is an important consideration - over 90% of current students work alongside their studies and seek content which complements their professional lives.

Nick continues, “It’s then that we can think about the pedagogical and technological approaches to each module.”

Research has shown that online, student engagement can be lost in a matter of minutes¹. Recognising this, Nick and his colleagues work with Faculty to produce a range of content which complements varied learning styles. It also helps that having been a distance learning student himself, Nick builds upon his previous experience and empathises with future students in his day-to-day work:

For students, it’s disheartening when content isn’t interesting and interactive. We try to produce snippets of shorter, but engaging content - delivered in a two-way dialogue - in order to keep interest levels high,” Nick explains.

Technology is an important facilitator and our platform provides a range of features to keep content dynamic and interactive.

He continues, “[W]e create discussion forums to enable students to share ideas and personal experiences, but we also have live online seminars - four in each module - to give students the chance to talk to each other and their tutors in real-time.”

“Live sessions are the closest relative of the campus-based degree that exists online, but as there’s a cap of 25 students per tutor, they’re even more close-knit than being in a lecture theatre. They’re also recorded, so students have the chance to revisit what’s been discussed in their own time.”

Recommended read: Webinars reveal what it’s like to study online

Nick and his colleagues also make sure that the content and presentation of each module reflects the global nature of our cohorts:

In the Accounting and Finance module (for example), we reference international accounting standards so the content is universally applicable. We also think about geographical bandwidth and only use resources from public access sites that are unrestricted worldwide.”

Nick and his colleagues work to a 24-week process to build a module - three times longer than they take to run.

The first four weeks are for creating the module overview – this becomes the module ‘blueprint’ going forward. We then allow 16 weeks of content creation and learning design, and after 20 weeks we have a completed module which we then test rigorously. Once we have run final checks and the faculty have signed off thje module, it is released to students.”

Once the modules have run, they are further assessed and revised according to how students have interacted with the content, following direct student feedback received by our faculty. The programmes are refined each time they run to ensure they remain current, meaning that the quality and relevance of each module only continues to improve.

If this mode of study meets your requirements and you’d like to learn more, please fill out our ‘request information’ form and a member of our Admissions Team will contact you.

References:

1.GUO, P. (2013) Optimal Video Length for Student Engagement. edX [online] Available at: <https://blog.edx.org/optimal-video-length-student-engagement> [Accessed 18/12/2017]

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