All of the courses and events run by the African History Project are online. The school was conceived of as an online school from the very beginning which means that all programmes have been specifically designed to be delivered online.
In this article we will explore why the AHP chose to establish itself as an online school and some of the advantages that this creates for our students.
- The Rise of Online Study
- Dispelling misconceptions
- Increased flexibility
- A wider world view
- Thinking of studying with us
Over the last decade online courses have become a very important part of the knowledge economy. Even face-to-face courses make use of intranets and online digital archives to organise and enhance their courses. While distance and correspondence learning have been an important way to study for many decades, fully online study is still something of a novelty. Studying online has opened up a lot of opportunities to many learners around the world. Even those who have the option of studying face-to-face are choosing to study online in some instances because there are a number of factors that make online study a preferable mode of study for a number of people.
Developments in technology are of course at the heart of the uptick in digital learning. Advancements in streaming and video conferencing, better digital document management systems, and better online whiteboard technology have revolutionised the virtual classroom. The result is that the virtual classroom has many features that the physical classroom cannot replicate and for learners that are often strapped for time, the efficiency created by these advancements makes online study preferable.
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The rise of online study has also to be attributed to changes in the conventional knowledge economy. The truth is that “entry level” jobs are just not quite entry level any more and it is much harder to have a single employer for the entirety of your career because corporates are redefining what it means to be an employer and to have employees. As governments pass on more costs to employers, they prefer to hire staff as contractors and take the risk of them leaving prematurely, rather than committing to permanent contracts and risking not being able to downsize quickly if the financial situation changes. This means that people are moving around a lot more in the course of their careers and therefore they need to possess even more transferable skills. This is where online learning comes it. It allows people to hone different parts of their skillset and develop new skills ahead of time.
Apeike Umolu, the Director of the African History Project notes that ‘the ability to think critically is in demand now more than ever as the world grapples with new challenges facing the planet and different aspects of public and private life. Life-long learners are using online studying to ensure that they are constantly meeting new information and facing new intellectual challenges and in this way can keep their minds sharp’.
Online study is here to stay and is going to continue to play more of a part in conventional and supplementary education. It is important when you enrol on online courses however to ensure that the provider has an expertise in teaching online. There is an art to teaching online and in facilitating learning at a distance – it is not simply the same as teaching face-to-face only in front of a camera. It is important to study at an institution that invests in the expertise to ensure that the learning experience is enhanced and not hindered by its online elements.
One of the common misconceptions is that studying online is somehow less rigorous that studying face-to-face. While it was common even two years ago to see gross differences between the price of a course delivered face-to-face and the same course when delivered online, it has become clear that rigour does not suffer because of the digital element. The result now is that few major institutions reduce the price of their online offering.
Online study is just as demanding and just as engaging as conventional study, particularly when there are live sessions as part of the programme. Online lectures generally have higher attendance rates than face-to-face lectures not just because of space restrictions but because of the flexibility (see below), particularly the ability to join a lecture from home. The result is a more diverse range of people take part in sessions online than one would traditionally get in an academic lecture theatre. In addition, the chat function on online streams allow for people to participant who may otherwise not engage face-to-face because of various social anxieties. Sessions that make use of both video and chat are highly engaging and these should be the ideal for any online course.
‘Life-long learners are using online studying to ensure that they are constantly meeting new information and facing new intellectual challenges and in this way can keep their minds sharp’Apeike Umolu, Director, African History Project
Another misconception about studying online is that you will get no tutor contact. There is a difference between online on-demand courses and online live classes. With the former there is rarely the ability to engage directly with the course director and as a result such courses are usually relatively inexpensive. If you really want to take your studies seriously and use what you learn in your future career, try to go for a course with some sort of access to a tutor. A tutor is a brilliant person to bounce ideas off and to help you map how you can get the maximum out of your studies.
The number one reason often given in support of online learning is the increased flexibility. It allows people to study in the evenings, at lunchtimes and on weekends. It also allows people to study from the comfort of their home or from a café or holiday destination. Not many people have the ability to take time off from work to commit to a full-time study program. For those who still need to juggle working and going back to study, the flexibility of an online program provides them with the opportunity to learn while still working and growing professionally. That flexibility allows you to more easily balance work, life, and study.
It is definitely true that the increased flexibility of online study has opened up education to so many people around the world that would otherwise not have had the chance to study. But is increased flexibility always a good thing?
The truth is that formal study has been so effective in cultivating innovation and new understanding over the last two hundred years because of its structure! There are many advantages to formal education including its strictness, that it holds students accountable to their education through participation and assessment requirements, and that it requires the best of educators by requiring regular contact through lectures and tutorials. Thus, though online lessons definitely allow people to plan education around their existing commitments, there still must be planning and structure in order to get the most out of your course. The best online courses are those that allow for flexibility but still have elements of structure to help you to keep on track with your studies.
One of the most impressive features about online learning is its ability of course to attract people from around the world. Studying online often allows students to be part of more international cohorts. This allows them to benefit from a greater diversity of lived experiences allowing for more engaging and fullfiling discussions during lectures and tutorials. It is thus important when picking a course to think about how international the school’s profile is.
In addition, having such an international cohort is also very good for your future career as you will have the opportunity to network with people you otherwise would not be able to network with from all over the world.
We hope this article has helped to set out some of the advantages we see with having a fully online school. If you are interested in enrolling on our Foundation Certificate in African History and want more information, please don’t hesitate to drop us an email to email@example.com or to contact us using the form below.