Distance learning · Learning · Online learning

Learning – what’s your preference?

Over the years the choices of formal learning options have increased from the traditional classroom course, to the more flexible distance learning course and, with the advent of technology, to the multimedia rich, interactive online learning course. When you are faced with the decision about which of these type of course would suit you best there are a number of factors that will influence you including: the options that are available for the course/qualification you have chosen, how much time you have to study and when and where you need to do it, and the cost. Another important consideration should be based on something that many call your learning style (more in a later blog post about this) … or your preferred approach to learning based on your past experiences and what you know your strengths and  weaknesses to be.

How do you prefer to learn? 

When you are choosing the type of formal course you might prefer (such as one that leads to IOSH, NEBOSH or IEMA certification), there are a number of questions you should be asking yourself, to ensure you make the right choice.

  • Do you prefer to learn at a fixed time and place … or do you prefer to learn more flexibly when it suits you?
  • Do you prefer to sit and listen to an expert talking … or do you prefer to read, watch, listen, do, explore?
  • Do you prefer to learn with others … or do you prefer to learn mainly on your own, with the option to sometimes learn with others?
  • Do you prefer to be guided through your learning step-by-step at a pace set by the tutor … or do you prefer to have the choice about what you learn, in how much detail and when?

Classroom learning

The traditional classroom course is for those who prefer to have a specialist tutor stood in front of them, the discipline of attending a set number of days for a set number of hours, the comfort of doing it the way it has always been done, and the reassurance of seeing and talking to people in a similar position, with regard to the qualification being studied for.

For many the classroom course is their preferred option because it is something they are familiar with and something that has worked for them in the past. The tutor is on hand to share their knowledge and experience and answer questions. And, of course, there is the social aspect of learning that many of us enjoy – the opportunity to talk to and share with other learners. However, time away from the day job and the additional study time out of the classroom that many courses require is not something that everyone can commit to, or even something that everyone wants.

Distance learning

The distance learning course is for those who prefer to learn mainly from text and image based material, who need to be flexible about when and where they study, who are self-disciplined when it comes to planning their learning and setting aside time to do so, and who will take advantage of all the elements that have been designed into and developed for the distance learning course.

Distance learning courses have evolved over recent years with the advent of technology … my first experience with the Open University (about 8 years ago) involved receiving a parcel of the learning materials and assessments in the form of printed books and workbooks, even though the course was about technology! By taking advantage of the range of technologies available, distance learning has now moved on and the learning materials are generally in the form of digital course notes, incorporating useful web links and handy navigation that makes them easy to view on a range of devices, as well as being able to be printed off. But distance learning shouldn’t just be about digital course notes. Technology enables a range of other digital support materials to be made available, such as revision and exam guidance, example exam questions and answers and even mock exams, which can be marked by a tutor and feedback given to help the learner with assessing their progress or readiness for the exams. Technology is also key in enabling communication with tutors and other learners via discussion boards and live webinars, as well as email. Technology also enables the digital course materials to be updated quickly and shared immediately, so that as things change the learners continue to have the most current materials.

Online learning

The online learning course is a step-up from the distance learning course in terms of what is on offer, and is for those who prefer a mix of text, images, audio, videos, animations and interactive activities, who are comfortable studying both online and offline, who also need to be flexible about when and where they study, who are self-disciplined when it comes to planning their study and setting aside time to do so, and who will take advantage of all the elements that have been designed into and developed for the online learning course.

The multimedia-rich, interactive activities that are a key part of any online learning course present subjects in a variety of ways (video, animation, audio), providing you with the opportunity to see key concepts presented in another way and enabling you to develop your understanding of the topic. The mixed media of online learning courses also provide activities that enable you to check your understanding by applying what you have learnt to real-life scenarios. Web links provide the opportunity for you to find out more about a topic. The digital course notes that can be downloaded and studied offline are an important part of an online learning course because we can’t all be connected to the internet all of the time, but we might want to continue studying wherever we are, or have something to refer back to once the course is over. Online learning courses can also offer you interactive exam questions, additional revision and exam support and mock exams, which all help to prepare you for your goal of successfully passing the end of course exams. And of course, online learning courses also take advantage of the range of communication technologies to provide additional support between you and your tutor, and you and other learners … email, discussion boards, live online sessions.

Blended learning

Years ago there was only one way to learn formally  … in the classroom … but today we have so much choice. As the way we work and learn continues to change and we need even more flexible options for learning something new, the blended learning course, where there is a mix of the best of the classroom and online learning courses, is sure be the preferred option for many of us.

Further information

For more information on the learning options for studying for your recognised health and safety or environmental qualification, take a look at our UK or International websites or get in touch with our NEBOSH trained course advisors at enquiries@astutis.com.

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