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back to article Essex University offers online degrees

Merely missing lectures is no longer enough. From next year some students at the University of Essex will be able to graduate without ever getting out of their pyjamas - the university is offering the first complete online degree. Students will be able to join the course at several times throughout the year, and the course will …

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Essex is hardly the first

The Open University has been offering distance learning since 1969, and it has come a long way from the early days of bearded blokes in tweed jackets delivering lectures on BBC2 in the wee small hours of the night.

These days, the OU makes extensive use of the Internet to provide conferencing, tutor support and electronic submission and return of coursework assignments.

It's nice to see that Essex University thinks so highly of the OU's pioneering work that it is planning to copy it.

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Nothing new

I'm pretty sure Essex University have done this for years. At least, when I was a student there, I don't remember ever having got out of bed to go to lectures.

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Why is this so exciting?

Firstly - why is this a story? why has the register chosen to feature this course...what's so innovative?

On the other hand...I'm pleased this type of flexible provision is getting highlighted. It's important people know HE institutions are changing...and becoming more accessible.

Essex sounds like it is taking a step in the right direction. Bournemouth University has a couple of online courses one at BA (Hons) level (in Business) and one at Masters level (for media practitioners - journalist, wnew media specialists etc) www.creativedesk.me.uk . The Masters is not only online it is work-based. It's been running for a year and has students on it from a range of high profile media companies. Apart from the OU and a few other HEIs...largely HE offers very little for any other than the full-time campus based student - its amazing the quality of 'Masters' applicants you get when you change the delivery...

One key difference between the Essex model and BU model is we try and keep a cohort together in order to build a sense of cadre amoungst our students...and...we believe community is key to 'deep' learning....and because it's a Masters we try and add value to what they are doing th workplace for the benefit of the employer and employee.

Now thats a story...

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Hardly the OU

Not sure the comparison with the OU is accurate. Although some courses with the OU are done online only, there's not that many of them. There are course forums where students can discuss things, but sometimes it's safer not to use them for assignment based things in case it counts as cheating.

Most of the OU stuff is book based, and there are regular tutorials. Assignments are written or printed out and sent in for assessment. Exams are taken in schoold, colleges, community halls etc, in real exam conditions. They also offer quite a wide variety of subjects/units that can be interesting to study independently of gaining a qualification from them.

The OU don't have exclusivity on distance learning, but they do have a great deal of respect and acceptance as a very good institution. Personally I would suggest people would be better off using the OU, but it takes an awful lot of commitment. This new one from Essex initially sounds a bit lightweight. Good luck to them though, they may well be the right solution for a few people

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Whole class online is that the differnce to OU?

I would guess that its here because a whole class is taut online which is great, distant education is important especially with the pace IT changes and the need for professionals to keep up with these. But in the grand schemes of life why should it matter if Essex has done this or not unless it works as advertised?

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The value of a degree...

... is in the prestige of the university awarding it. The world of academia is full of prejudice and the OU has had a hard time convincing some people that their degrees are represent real learning and not some sort of mail order scam. I'm currently in the middle of an OU degree so an am hoping that employers will realise the work and commitment required. I am however a bit cynical so I won't be surprised if some don't.

In light of this I think that Essex has just devalued all it's degrees as some people will inevitably say 'You studied at Essex ? Isn't that were they do those stay in bed degrees?'

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Anonymous Coward

Taut

Dear Dave,

Is that what your were taught at your university?

Bruce from NZ

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Emo

Why stay in bed and study?

When you can stay in bed and just buy a degree, much less time consuming and you don't feel compelled to get drunk every night!

Eamon

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OU respected now

I think the days of the OU being thought of as not a real university are gone. Achieving an OU degree while maintaining other commitments (work, family) is no mean feat. I've heard a couple of people say that given two otherwise equal candidates, they'd take the OU person because of the dedication required.

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Rob
Bronze badge

Sounds great on paper...

.... but as most distance learning providers have found in the UK it doesn't make a lot of money, I work for an FE College, we had distance learning courses established about 5-6 years ago but gave them up due to high maintaince costs and low number of enrollements which means less money from the government.

Also distance learning isn't really developed enough compared to the internet technology actually available.

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The first - nope, no and not

Derby university has been offering online degrees (as well as distance learning) for a while now.

The psychology degree is now accredited by the BPS and is the first (and so far only) that they have accredited.

http://psychology.derby.ac.uk/online_education.html

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RE

In terms of differences to the OU process this will be based around a real-time element. It will be a taught degree; there is an attendance requirement however it is not campus based.

In response to the OU not being respected I think the tables have very much turned on the old negative attitudes. The OU scores very highly on teaching standards, student satisfaction, and pass rates. The grading system has higher thresholds than most UK campus based courses, and a number of large UK companies now pay to put employees through OU courses. It's a high commitment, high effort option, and not for the faint hearted. I am surprised the OU hasn’t presented a course based around the real-time element themselves.

This move from Essex, in my opinion, can only be a good thing. University life is not geared to the alternative student market (and don't believe the marketing blurb stating otherwise), if you aren't 18 or thereabouts attending a regular course may well be extremely frustrating (I speak from experience on this) not due to coursework, but due to a total culture clash between someone who has been out in the real world and the average devil may care student. Banging my head against a brick wall would have caused less pain!

I totally disagree that this will be a dumbing down measure. Of course in the initial stages you will get the odd muppet who thinks it will be an easy option, but they will soon be weeded out. The level of focus required to study independently is intense (ask any OU-er) – it’s the same kind of process full-time authors/freelancers go through, you have to have drive far greater than a lot of people could manage.

I only wonder why it has taken them so long.

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