From education to employment

Remote education is here to stay – optimising the home learning environment

Matt Jones, founder and MD of online college Oxbridge, which delivered more than 250 course subjects to over 54 countries worldwide in 2021, explores how individuals can optimise their home learning environment and what providers can do to support them.

According to Statista, the global online e-learning market was valued at $101 billion in 2019 and is forecast to hit $370 billion by 2026. Closer to home, 13 per cent of British people used an online course in 2020, and despite lockdowns catalysing the trend of remote learning, this was already the direction of travel for a whole host of people seeking better value, flexibility and experiences through distance learning.

Remote education creates a pathway to develop skills outside of the traditional classroom, offering individuals the opportunity to learn without limits – on their own terms around other aspects of their lives. With remote education here to stay, there are some key considerations for both learners and providers to make the most of the experience.

Reaping the reward as a learner

While online and edtech platforms do offer greater flexibility to fit around lifestyle and personal circumstances, maintaining an element of structure is still key. A timetable and plan to tackle course content, meet deadlines or prepare for exams, helps with organisation and time management more than anything and is the heart of success for many. Tutors can also provide guidance on meeting deadlines and exam revision – a valuable dialogue between learners and educators.

Coupled with a tailored revision plan that emphasises the peak times for optimising your productivity – whether you’re an individual who works better in the evening or first thing in the morning – having the right environment for home working is critical. Access to the right technology, a quiet area that is free from distractions and access to the appropriate course materials or learning guides is essential.

Learners at home can also utilise proven techniques such as ‘active recall’, which aims to move knowledge from short to long-term memory through creating self-directed challenges. In your home learning space, this could be writing your own quizzes or leaving questions around the room or on fridges and furniture for testing later. When teamed with visual revision aids such as flashcards, mind maps and flowcharts, this is particularly successful. Another key strategy is spaced repetition, which aims to revise repeatedly at specific intervals by leaving gaps between sessions to allow information to sink in.

While the onus is on distance learning providers to create, facilitate and promote a sense of community that virtual classrooms need, classmates are encouraged to seize these social opportunities wherever possible, from meeting either virtually or in person to discuss courses, test each other and revise any topics. Outside of course content, the benefits of social interaction when learning help students to share in challenges and celebrate successes together. The old adage of ‘it’s yours for the taking’ is true here, and we encourage all learners to take advantage of any opportunity to engage with their peers and educators before, during and after a course, especially in an online environment.

Fostering a community while focusing on access and affordability – providers’ responsibilities

Arguably, the most important aspect of home learning that education providers must offer is fostering a sense of community for pupils, and being visible and available to provide ongoing support while not in a physical classroom setting.

Outside of core course assets and workbooks, access to additional digital resources in a range of formats and with content to help learners outside of the curriculum is crucial to delivering a fuller and richer experience. As an example, Oxbridge created a free Job Ready Pack in association with Hinterview and Pertemps to assist our learners in their future development when looking at career opportunities. The pack has been downloaded by more than 30,000 people to date, helping to prepare them with real world skills and boost their attractiveness to employers.

As the growth of the online e-learning market continues, attracting a diverse range of individuals who need or want greater flexibility and value for money, access to digital education has become a societal necessity. Yet, digital poverty continues to be an issue, with only 51 per cent of households earning between £6,000-£10,000 per annum having home internet access at the start of the pandemic, compared to 99 per cent of households with an income over £40,000. Support from providers could help tackle these inequalities and open up online learning in a home environment to more people.

Financial aid is also a possible solution. Regional inequalities are the focal point of the Government’s plans to level up, to address and increase access to opportunities. Oxbridge offers a Levelling Up Fund – a £75 contribution towards the cost of any course for all new students to make education more accessible and affordable. Often, it’s the first step that matters most, so reducing barriers to entry has to remain a key focus for the entire sector.

Our classrooms of the future

Highlighting the continued upward trajectory predicted in the online learning market, data from the Central Statistics Office found that 76 per cent of employed people who plan to return to education would choose“remote or blended” learning. In addition, the Government’s commitment to fund the £5billion Gigabit Broadband Programme, expected to deliver gigabit broadband to 85 per cent of UK premises by 2025, should make online learning more accessible.

Additionally, a 2019 report commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said that digital skills are becoming near-universal requirements for employment, with roles requiring digital savvy paying on average 29 per cent more than roles that do not. Online learning, by its very nature, can help to develop some of the digital and IT skills required for 56 percent of middle-skilled jobs and 68 per cent of high-skilled jobs.

Should the Government’s proposed ‘new minimum university requirements’ go ahead, many potential learners may need to seek alternative avenues to traditional higher education provision. As such, the chance to not just seize the opportunity presented by online learning, but maximise the experience, is there for those individuals, and the sector.

By Matt Jones, founder and MD of online college Oxbridge

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