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Why we need to give online education a chance in the UK

The concept of online learning may seem like a new phenomenon, the option to study online has been with us for a number of years.

Safeera Sarjoo
26th May 2016
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It's taken some time, but slowly, more people are becoming open to the idea of studying virtually as our lifestyles become increasingly busier.

A 2014 article in The Guardian stated that ‘online learning is still seen as the poor relation in the UK’ – and to some effect, this is true despite the convenience it brings to many. The UK’s reluctance to fully embrace online learning not only gives people less confidence to pursue a route of education that would be beneficial to them, it is also holding us back in terms of being  true players on the international stage.

America recognises the benefits online learning has and has turned a corner as more universities offer work based learning courses. Virtual universities such as the University of the People have been established where students can gain a bachelors, associates and masters degree online.

Not only that, some high school students are using their initiative and taking online college courses which is not only a cost effective option for them, but gives them a head start towards their college degree by the time they gain their high school diploma.

Statistics from the US shows a promising future for online learning. According to ReFuel, 44% of US college students in 2015 took at least one online course as well as courses on-campus/in-person.


Choosing to study a course online is choosing to nurture some excellent personal qualities that will come in handy as such being able to establish a routine and work independently. The UK’s reluctance to expand on the number of online courses and promote current online offerings isolates groups of people that would benefit the most from this mode of study.

Not all hope is lost though.

Platforms like FutureLearn provide users with a selection of online courses from top universities and specialist organisations.  Recently, this online course hub reached an astonishing three million users.

According to Matt Walton, FutureLearn’s Head of Product, these three million users had signed up to 6 million courses between them. Furthermore, approximately 55% of these signups were made in Europe.

This is definitely a good sign; however the topic of online learning has revealed a wider societal issue we face in the UK when it comes to education. Non-traditional routes are often regarded with scepticism instead of given a chance.

We’ve seen the same kind of reluctant attitude towards apprenticeships and having them branded as the option for low achievers. The truth is, anyone can do an apprenticeship if it’s the right option for them – and the same applies for online learning.  

Some of the most successful people across different industries have achieved success without a university degree – Charles Worthington, Richard Branson and Coco Chanel are just a few examples.

It is important to question how an online education translates into the working world – do employers value this kind of education? Is the course you’re doing accredited? Can you progress to further study or the next level at work through your online course?

These are questions everyone should be asking. What we shouldn’t be doing is brushing the benefits online learning can have in the long run under the rug in favour of university like we have been doing with apprenticeships.

Marc Scheer, a career counsellor and educational consultant based in New York City explained that while traditional programs have been around for many years, online programs are relatively new and employers may be less familiar with them.

However this tide is turning and according to a 2010 CNN article, a survey done by Excelsior College, an online institution and Zogby International, 61 percent of CEOs and small business owners nationwide said ‘they were familiar with online or distance learning programs.’

It is worth noting that these statistics apply to US based businesses and here at Training and Courses we have high hopes that UK based firms will follow suit soon.

For now though it’s important to get educators, students and businesses on board to understand how online learning provides opportunities to people that traditional education doesn’t. We have to stop categorising people into different methods of education and develop opportunities that are open and accessible to all.

 

You can find out if an online course is right for you by starting your search now on Training and Courses

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