Online learning has a friendly human face
We applaud Paul Le Blanc’s recognition of the “overlooked majority” of students who carry work, family and other responsibilities with them into their academic lives (“There is nothing impersonal about online learning”, Opinion, 20 December). As lecturers who have been delivering online MSc courses at the University of Central Lancashire for more than 12 years, we concur that it is possible to have meaningful interactions with our online students.
Our courses such as the MSc in Sustainability, Health and Wellbeing use a combination of online materials, synchronous facilitated discussion sessions, asynchronous discussion boards and one-to-one tutorials over Skype to deliver a rounded learning experience.
While this may miss the usual perceptions of the social side of life on campus, importantly it does fit in with students’ lives and gives access to learning that might otherwise be unavailable while still enabling students to become part of a dynamic learning community. Jean Duckworth
University of Central Lancashire
At the Open University, we too do a lot to provide students with a community peer learning experience – to their surprise. They seem to expect to have just a computer to interact with. When I phone my students to introduce myself, there is often a pause at the start of our conversation as they absorb the news that there is a human being who will guide them through their studies.
It is possible to have meaningful interactions with our online students, making them part of a community