Most learners in post-compulsory settings now have an online component to their learning, whether they are taking a course wholly online, accessing online components, or undertaking online tasks and interactions within a more conventional syllabus. As they move through the education system towards independent and lifelong learning, learners are ever more likely to find themselves studying online. Online learners are not, then, a distinct group of learners: they are post-compulsory learners in particular situations, and with particular preferences and needs.
A 2014 survey and consultation found that most online provision in the UK is at masters and professional level. Few universities are offering online opportunities as standard across their undergraduate programmes. Although the FELTAG agenda means that more FE courses now have an online study component, across both sectors there is a lack of experience in designing and delivering online, especially among mainstream teaching staff. The consultation process concluded that teaching staff need an injection of skills and confidence, along with strategic support, mentoring/development, and platforms for professional sharing.
As part of the Scaling Up Online Learning challenge, we have produced a range of resources on Curriculum Design and Support for Online Learning. These bring together best-in-sector case studies with ideas from an extensive literature review and consultation. They cover the relevant pedagogic models and theories, open and borderless classrooms, online collaboration, game-based learning, online assessment and feedback, and delivering effective content resources online.
As well as introducing these resources this presentation reports on findings from a study into the experiences of online learners, funded as part of the ongoing Jisc Digital Student project. These findings add depth to our understanding of effective online activities and courses. Like all learners, online learners need to feel supported across their whole learning experience, and recognised in their particular needs. They may want to belong to a cohort or to develop better habits of independent study. They may be keen to build a public profile of their achievements, or to practice new skills in a safe and closed environment. They will certainly want to learn in ways that are engaging, that give them a sense of belonging, and that enhance their life chances. These findings suggest a focus on the whole learning experience online, from registration through to recognising and recording achievements.
This presentation provides new resources for designing online learning, and new ideas for engaging with online learners to enhance their experiences.