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"Flexible and accessible": How to make online learning effective

Stephanie Saunders

Stephanie Saunders

Apr 30, 2019

We can improve online learning by making it more accessible and flexible.
We can improve online learning by making it more accessible and flexible.

Online learning is often hailed as the saviour of higher education. With young people growing up in an increasingly digital and on-demand world, online courses are seen as the bridge between traditional educational institutions and students' tech-driven personal lives. 

However, this doesn't mean online learning can't be improved. 

The benefits of e-learning

It's not hard to see why people see online learning in such a positive light. When done well, e-learning can:

  • Bring education to people living in rural areas (regional locations in Australia frequently have unemployment rates of above 20 per cent, according to the Brotherhood of St. Laurence, and education may help to reduce this). 
  • Allow those working full-time to access university education. 
  • Bring higher education to those who may not find university campuses suitable, such as people living with certain disabilities. This is especially useful for people wanting a change in career.
  • Allow overseas students to learn from a university of their choosing. 
  • Gives people a chance to do extra subjects in addition to their core degree.
  • May be more suitable for people who don't find traditional lectures engaging, or who are unwilling to speak out in seminars. 
  • Offer students scope for quicker, more personalised feedback via elements like instant grading or 24-hour marking tools. This is something that current class sizes make difficult for traditional courses.

The many benefits of online learning mean that it hasn't come under the same level of scrutiny as traditional forms of education. However, two reports have recently put online learning under the spotlight. 

Online learning means people with disabilities who may not be able to attend a campus can now have a university education. Online learning helps to bring university education to people who may not find campuses suitable, such as those with disabilities.

Improving attrition in online learning

The Department of Education and Training's "Improving retention, completion and success in higher education" has found that those undertaking online courses have some of the highest drop out rates of all university students, sitting above even part-time students for level of attrition. 

The report quotes another study released in 2017, C Moore and S Greenland's "Employment-driven online student attrition and the assessment policy divide: An Australian open-access higher education perspective." Specifically, Moore and Greenland criticise online learning because:

"Online students may not be receiving the flexible and accessible learning that online education is purported to provide. This situation highlights a broader issue, in that many online educators are using policies and protocols that are designed for traditional on-campus students without adequate adaptation for the online learner. Considerable scope therefore exists for improving online learner satisfaction and retention by more effectively accommodating online student characteristics and needs." 

"Flexible and accessible": the key to improving online learning

In order to be truly effective, therefore, e-learning must be as flexible and accessible as the claims made about it. Online courses are often used by those who cannot attend university at normal lecture times. This means e-learning platforms - including feedback services - must be accessible 24 hours a day. And this isn't something that is just important for those who work full time - on-demand is a key component of students' lives (for example with TV), and they are now expecting this of their learning. 

Feedback must also have a quick turnaround. Because online students don't have the same flexibility in their day-to-day timetables, they may only have time to complete assignments last minute, and therefore marking of drafts must be timely and efficient. 

Online, on-demand study help with Studiosity

Students that use Studiosity, love the flexibility it allows around life.

At Studiosity, we know just how important flexibility and accessibility is to today's students, which is why our Writing Feedback and Connect Live services are available around the clock. Our subject specialists will take students personally through a particular problem or question, while our writing specialists will read through draft essays, identifying three instances of the same error to help students unlock their full writing potential. 

Online learning really could be higher education's saviour, but only if it lives up to the ideals it is supposed to promote. At Studiosity, we believe we do. For more information on our services, contact the team today. 

About Studiosity

Studiosity is personalised study help, anytime, anywhere. We partner with institutions to extend their core academic skills support online with timely, after-hours help for all their students, at scale - regardless of their background, study mode or location. 

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