Higher education can sometimes be a bit like being on a roller coaster – you tend to stay on till it gets to be too much then wobble away from it seeking other distractions. For all too long the choice of roller coaster has been extremely limited.
Participants move through the various strata of education without really thinking about why they are doing it, and indeed exactly which options are available to them at each stage. It has become all too easy for a student to look up and realise that they have completed their degree and are now 50K+ in debt. There is, however now some good news for prospective students or indeed parents looking to encourage their teenagers into higher education. There are now some very real and indeed very sensible alternatives to traditional university study, and these alternative options are perhaps even more important for those seeking to enter postgraduate education.
Postgraduate students may already have a debt incurred from their undergraduate course, they may have a mortgage and often they have jobs and busy family lives. A traditional university simply does not always provide products that fit into modern busy lives. In addition, the costs of study via a traditional route can sometimes be too much for many prospective postgraduate students. A better value and more flexible offering is something that would suit most postgraduate students – and that is why online learning and blended learning can be a great idea as it allows students to study in their own time and to work while they study so they don’t incur in ridiculous levels of debt along the journey.
Postgraduate students tend to be that little older, have an increased amount of work experience to call upon and many, of course, have families and work commitments. Being able to fit academia around work and family commitments is very challenging when studying face-to-face on a full time postgraduate program. However, the very nature of distance or blended learning offers far more opportunities to those with obligations beyond education. Modern technology enables students to balance their commitments in a more realistic and flexible way, while still progressing in their postgraduate qualification and, by default, their career.
Distance learning has been the only real alternative to traditional classroom teaching for the last few decades. However, the concept of blended learning now offers a greater compromise to those who still feel they would benefit from spending time sitting in front of a tutor. Postgraduates can study through a mixed or blended approach that enables them to learn using the virtual learning environments of distance learning, coupled with seminar contextualisation and face-to-face classroom sessions.
Blended learning also provides a better fruition of study resources and course material, as students can take a class and then go back to the module online, accessing the content at their best convenience. This route can offer a sensible compromise for many, encouraging more people to pursue further studies that they can easily fit around their daily routine.
Author's Bio: Matthew Cooper is Head of School Business and Management at Arden University. His research areas include international marketing and cultural adoption plus various aspects of pedagogy associated with face-to-face and Distance Learning. He has a great deal of experience delivering postgraduate programs both in the UK and overseas, and a wide knowledge of the Far East culture and markets.