Tanning by a distance

New terms such as on line and blended learning are becoming increasingly used and with time at a premium in business not all companies are willing to send staff to Northampton for long periods.  A physical presence is of importance in order to work in the tannery and learn the practical side of things and the interaction with colleagues is also invaluable, especially if perfecting English is also a target.

At Northampton we have been experimenting this year with lecture capture – recording the sound and the slides being shown on the screen.  This means that studentship can listen again to bits they did not fully understand and use the recordings for revision.  More interestingly in the future these can be sent out as part of a prepacked distance learning package supported by skype tutorials and online discussions and questions and answers.  This guest blog by an expert in the area gives some more background.

A blog post that discusses educational reform, the current state of learning, and where it seems to all be headed into the future.

Written by Estelle Schumann who is a well known writer in the area this guest piece considers the basic implications for educators for students and colleges alike. Ignore the prices which have no relation to anything we do at Northampton. Also teaching leather requires access to the tannery and practical work but increasingly these are able to be done in the student’s own company tannery or other local facility. So expect to see courses with tannery workshops in Northampton, or Northampton staff travelling to facilities overseas. The same course with multiple modes of delivery will become the new normality.

The Economics of Online Schooling

Students, and universities, the world over are working to refine education: day by day, the increase of technology available to both the student and educator is changing the face of an education as we know it. Now, a prospective student, with the proper care taken, can attain nearly any bachelor’s degree they’d like from the comfort of their own home, at their own pace. More than just that, the economic benefits of an online school abounds; it’s much cheaper, for instance, to furnish a virtual classroom than it is to furnish an actual room for students.

A growing problem is the possibility of getting a degree from a university that isn’t accredited: in effect, the degree piece of paper that is both worthless and extremely expensive. With that in mind, students should be wary and seek out the proper documentation before they take any sort of online classes; then with that done, any student can see the advantages of online classes. Distance learners can easily work from wherever they like, without going to a physical classroom. Unencumbered by a formal meeting place, students fit their school into their life, instead of the other way around.

A University Perspective

From the perspective of the educator, there are just as many advantages to online schooling as there are for students. Chief among them is cost. Even though the class will cost the student anywhere from seven to nine hundred dollars, the cost to the university will be much less than normal. This is because, with an online course, the overhead of running the course is much, much lower. With a normal class, you need a classroom, facilities to meet, and a given professor can only work with one group of students at a time. Whereas with online classes, the professor can work with several groups at once online, without the need for a physical meeting place.

This makes economic sense to the school: you can educate more students with the same number of professors. The extra income is reinvested back into the school’s research facilities, earning new accreditations, and expanding the existing course catalog. With an expanded course catalog, the institution in question will become a more attractive place for students, beginning the cycle anew.

The Modern Student

The subgroup of students who benefit most from the proliferation of online education is the non-traditional student; someone older, perhaps with a career already begun, can benefit greatly from the portability and the self-paced nature of modern online education. This same group, however, is also the most liable to be scammed by what are known as ‘degree mills’. A degree mill, in simple terms, is an institution that charges massive amounts of tuition fees to students without offering accreditation in return. These mills rely on the income from student loans, guaranteed by the U.S. government, to function; without students to fleece, they’ll wither and die off. It follows then, that any prospective students, no matter how advanced they are in their careers, will do well to research the institution of their choosing. Without accreditation, any degree earned is patently worthless.

With that in mind, though, online education is an incredibly powerful tool. Anyone, anywhere, has access to top quality research and professors from the best universities. The classroom fits in a backpack, and goes with you wherever you go; the hours are when you want them to be, allowing you to work when you need to, and better yourself in the interim. That, then, is the true advantage of online education: empowering the student, allowing them more choice in their lives, and treating them as adults, not children.

Estelle Shumann
estelle.shumann@gmail.com

For more resources see the Education Debate http://www.onlineschools.org/education-debate/

Together, some of these have been referenced by the likes of the New York Times, PBS, and Mashable, among others.

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