Depending on your background, you may have done some previous studies and/or you will have extensive professional experiences within your industry. Either way, starting a new course, especially in an online environment, can seem both daunting and exciting at the same time.
Being a Distance Learner
While you may well be sat alone at a computer, you will not be alone in your studies. In your online modules you will be part of a learning community - perhaps discussing topics weekly, working on a group project or receiving feedback from your tutor.
You might find it useful to take a look at this ebook that provides a practical guide to making the most of studying remotely at a UK Higher Education institution. It covers fundamental issues such as motivation, goal-setting, time management and coping strategies.
Talbot, C.J. (2010) Studying at a distance: a guide for students McGraw-Hill / Open University Press.
What We Expect of You as Students
We have designed the learning material so that you should spend around 10 hours per week on compulsory study, with the potential for an extra 4 hours of optional study. This includes the reading material, lecture content and completing the activities.
On top of this, we expect you to spend around 40 hours preparing and writing your Module Assessments.
Whilst we will do our best to keep you engaged with our course, it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure that you allow yourself time to study.
Schedule yourself set hours each week to study (though be prepared to rearrange when life gets in the way!) and try to keep to this structure each week.
Remember that some of your assignments include group work, and you will be asked to participate in discussions which will require you to visit more than once a week.
Check when you need to submit your responses to weekly activities. Meeting these deadlines this allows the course team to provide you with constructive feedback. It will also help to enhance your learning experience when you interact with your peers in a timely fashion, rather than studying weeks behind or weeks ahead of your peers.
You must submit your Module Assessments by the deadline given. Failure to do so will incur late penalties. If you do come across issues that may affect your Assessment submission, you must apply for mitigation as per the Academic Regulations.
Interaction with your tutor and peers is key to online learning. You, and your peers, have a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be shared - and you may just know the answer to someone else's problem.
You will also find that there is assessed group work on some modules in this course, which we believe is a key feature to your learning. We appreciate that this will, on occasions, be challenging, but not impossible.
We expect you to maintain the same professional levels of communication that you would employ in your place of work. This includes using proper English - preferably an academic tone - and typing fully.
You are also expected to be polite in your interactions with others, even when you are disagreeing with them.
Managing Your Time
Planning and time management are essential skills for online learning. You are able to study flexibility in terms of both time and place, however we recommend you consider a study schedule. Setting a regular time - or times - each week for focusing on your studies can help you stay on top of things, and ensure you keep up to date with your modules.
Remember that you modules have certain boundaries. For example:
- The modules have definite start and end dates
- The modules contain a set number of teaching weeks (or units) with topics and activities
- The modules contain clear due dates for submitting assignments and activities
- Each module will state the when the weekly topic activities and discussions must be completed by if you wish to receive feedback
There may also be activities in some modules, where you are expected to join a session at a set time. These will always be announced in advance, and there will usually be options so that you can choose the best time for you to attend. Where this type of activity takes place, sessions will be record and made available if you cannot attend.
How a Typical Module Will Look
Topics will be presented using a variety of interactive content presentations and learning modules. You'll be given core reading, which we will always supply, and further reading, which we'll expect you to source yourself.
Where appropriate, there will be audio and video content, and a variety of activities including discussions, reflective journals, and production exercises.
Watch the following video to get an idea of how your modules will look and how to navigate them. Though there will be differences depending on your course, the general structure will be the same as shown here.
Interacting enhances learning - whilst some people may be happy learning entirely on their own, generally you learn by interacting with the world around you, and primarily the people around you.
In order to enhance your online learning, we have included high levels of interaction within your modules, whilst being respectful of time zone issues. This may come in the format of interacting with screen-based content, contributing to discussion with your peers, and completing group assignments.
There are certain behaviours that are expected in the classroom, and this is exactly the same online. You must always remember that you are representing yourself in a professional environment, and it is important that you treat everybody you interact with online with respect.
There are some basic rules for communicating online, referred to as “Netiquette”. You may find this summary of netiquette and its key principles a helpful guide for your online interactions.