Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Academic Breadth and Co-Curriculum: Why an online degree might be the perfect path to a 21st Century Education by Sarah Maple

Last night, Anthony Seldon, renowned headmaster of Wellington College in Berkshire, presented his opinions of the problems of UK education to the College of Teachers. According to Seldon, one of the primary issues regarding the education system as a whole is the matter of exams and tests. He stated, "We do not need so many national external exams - we could perhaps get away without any until the age of 18, as they do in America."

Seldon explained the problems of developing an education system obsessed with fact, comparing the system of today to that portrayed in Hard Times by Charles Dickens. He argued that, "Once children start to believe schools are places where things are being done for them, rather than done to them, their interest [in education] will revive," making schools "places of delight, of excitement, and of harmony."

However, Seldon also put forward some arguments regarding higher education that may seem even more unconventional - and directly in opposition to how the UK universities see themselves. He argues that universities ignore academic breadth, co-curriculum, and personal achievement, leading to less incentive for 'school pupils to stretch themselves beyond their A-Levels.

This is an opinion that holds far more relevance when one acknowledges that we have recently seen university enrolment numbers fall for the first time in years. However, for those considering distance learning or an online degree, it seems that such criticisms highlight the positive aspects of opting to continue further education outside of those methods used by traditional institutions.

This is due to a number of elements that are prevalent on distance education or e-learning courses, but are less so elsewhere. First off, embarking on a higher education course online means that you, the individual, can study and complete work where and whenever you want - providing, of course, that you have the necessary equipment such as a PC and internet connection. This added flexibility means that alongside study, other commitments such as work and family do not have to fall by the wayside - as well as any extra-curricular activities you wish to pursue.

Additionally, those who are deterred by the prospect of learning online due to lacking confidence in new technologies, such as the internet, should not be put off. Such courses take into consideration these problems and, in the spirit of co-curriculum, embrace these opportunities to teach students new IT skills in a sector that is developing at an incredible pace - and becoming more and more important to future employers and new businesses.

Sarah Maple is writing about adult education and home learning.

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