Studying online: virtual mobility and courses on offer
Virtual encounters have a certain fascination. This is shown, for example, by the continuing popularity of chat rooms and networked online games. However, more and more, offers of virtual education are becoming important, such as online degree courses and MOOCs (massive open online courses), some of which have huge impacts on people’s working and learning environment.
At present a paradigm shift is taking place in education, away from face-to-face classes and towards online options. For example, online courses give students the possibility of gaining experience in international projects or internships, without leaving their place of residence or study. This is a great boost to equal opportunities in education around the globe, because students no longer have to be physically mobile to access special educational courses. The contents are available to anyone, anywhere in the world.
Courses offered online promote virtual mobility
An online course can also result in students discovering completely new areas of interest. So the content becomes mobile, while the people themselves do not have to move to another location.
Interesting interactions occur if the virtual offers then give rise to face-to-face encounters. For example, local study groups, called meetups, are sometimes created where the participants who are networked via the online portals meet in person; however, this is something that works better in larger towns and cities.
Online courses are revolutionising education worldwide
More and more people around the world are using opportunities to take courses online. MOOCs are becoming ever more important, especially in the US. A very large number of students can join the often demanding online seminars – making crammed lecture halls a thing of the past. Such online courses and online lectures are offered by colleges including Harvard University, UC Berkeley and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Online portals such as Coursera and Udacity work with several universities and make selected courses available on the Net: ‘We want to democratise university education with the new Udacity online portal. Courses that are available only to students at renowned universities should be available to everyone, quite independent of their origin, wealth, age, or gender,’ says Sebastian Thrun, a professor of artificial intelligence at Stanford University, in an interview for ZEIT Online.
The Hasso Plattner Institute at the University of Potsdam, which teaches courses in Information and Communications Technology, and the Leuphana University in Lüneburg are two of the few German universities that have so far offered online courses on their own websites.
Limits and deficits of studying online
In some cases, somewhat less popular university locations are getting a considerable boost by buying in virtual education options from renowned international institutes, and this makes them more attractive than they could ever expect to be with conventional university partnerships. On the other hand, small universities can make their excellent courses available to top international universities, which means they reach more people.
So far, online courses have not been able to completely replace university degree courses. Online and offline courses on offer are not always compatible, and cannot always be coordinated. In the future, the students will have to become more intensively networked with one another and with the teaching staff to enable them to combine courses from different countries. Opportunities and challenges of online learning include interesting aspects such as personal development and training to think critically.
Discussion on studying online within the community
Has an online course changed the way you obtain information and materials? Do you have better access to important curricular content through virtual educational offers? Would you re-think your plans for a semester abroad if you could take the same courses virtually at your own university? Write and tell us about your experiences and opinions concerning online study and virtual mobility in the Community group ‘Studium und Forschung’.