One of the objectives of the government is to widen participation across both further and higher education, particularly to enrol 50% of the population into higher education before the age of 30. The main reason for educational institutions to be interested in online learning is that it offers a wide range of benefits to the learners in terms of ongoing support and higher order learning.
The key challenge of widening participation is to attract and retain people irrespective of their background or aspirations to study at an educational institution and help them reach their full potential and fulfil their ambitions. A systematic approach in learner recruitment, retention and progression could help remove the barriers to gain access and promote participation in further or higher education. A holistic approach across the different sectors will guide and nurture the students as they progress through a programme of study.
Currently, there are multiple routes into post-16 education. Learner patterns are becoming increasingly diverse to include learners from ethnic minorities, under-represented communities, financially disadvantaged regions, physically and mentally challenged and those with language barriers. Some are older, some have families or work responsibilities to prioritise. But do these groups not deserve to be successful in their lives?
In the modern world, technology plays a key role and makes equality of opportunity happen. Digital technologies provide personalised and customised learning experiences to learners that keep them engaged and focused in achieving success. Beyond the benefits of enjoying the warmth of own home and avoiding extreme weather conditions and travel time, online learning offers free learning platforms and resources with learning opportunities that are highly essential for the modern digital world. It provides flexibility to learning – 24/7 access to multimedia learning materials via multi-devices through online study portals.
Online learning persuades universities and other training providers to be proactive in the widening participation programme and motivates the learners to actively participate and progress in their learning process. Online learning also enhances social interaction and promotes community cohesion. It breaks physical and cultural barriers and motivates learners in remote, dispersed or under-represented communities to return to study and allows greater access for those with ill health and provides independence for learners with disabilities.
Online learning proposes innovative approaches not only to the learning aspects but also to teaching and assessment methods. It adopts new ways of communication between tutors and learners and offers a wide range of web-based learning resources for learners through portals and facilitates record of learning. Such approaches enhance the learners’ experience of learning and encourage them to work independently and collaboratively and develop employability skills. All the courses that we deliver are designed with a strong focus on employability, providing an opportunity for career development.
The chances for open access courses to reach a diverse group of new learners aspiring to get into higher education is comparatively higher than a traditional class-room based course delivered in a structured manner. At LPC, we adopt a blended approach to learning. Our courses are a combination of online and traditional class-room based learning that gives the learners a more flexible way of learning. Most of our learners are employed part-time and some of them have family and other responsibilities. Juggling work and personal commitments could be challenging, but our online programmes can be accessed anytime and anywhere as long as the learner has internet access.
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