Reading my peers’ blogs, I was surprised that I was not the only one having a hard time finding the right topic for this week’s blog. I am still not sure if I found the right one, but I found something that raised my interest and made me do some research.
Feeling lost, I typed in TED talk – online learning and I came across a 2014 presentation done by Shai Reshef, founder of an online university, named University of People.
What I liked about this TED talk was that it pointed out the benefits of online learning being a lot more affordable, and accessible. To make it accessible to students who don’t have broadband, this university created a low-tech online program using open-source. Students can access the text-based materials and respond to them asynchronously. There are also optional video lectures and links to online videos. The benefit of this online program is that students can study at their own pace completing an assessment at the end of each week. There is also a peer-to-peer system included, where they provide each other with feedback. Students view this as a great support system, with the opportunity to learn from each other. The university also assigns students to a personal adviser to help them be successful. Teachers can be reached through email and having only 20 students per class makes it possible to provide individual support.
After reading a few reviews and articles about the university, I came across a number of pros and cons: https://www.reddit.com/r/UoPeople/comments/8pxcfp/questions_about_studying_at_the_university/ The first issue that was brought up was that this university has national and not regional accreditation which can cause problems later on when looking for jobs. Another major con was that this university is advertised as a tuition-free university, but there is registration fee and assessment fee that students pay before taking their exams. The advantages of this fairly small online university are that they offer three undergrad and a master’s program taught by professors from different universities, who have expertise in teaching university level classes. Having the opportunity to access this program from anywhere in the world while studying in English is also a major benefit, with English becoming lingua franca.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find information if the credits can be transferred and how a degree from the University of People is viewed by employers. Since there is no demo class, I guess one has to give this program a try to see if they like it or not.
I don’t know how prestigious this online university is and it is not my job to decide, but going back in time, in the small town in Eastern Europe, having an online option for further studies in English would have steered my life in a different direction. After graduating from high school, I ended up going to a renowned university in the capital city and passing the entrance exam, I was able to study for free, meaning there was no tuition. But this university life was far from being free. The special library passes, the materials, and living in a different city far from family made it both financially and emotionally draining. Experiencing different ways of teaching and learning, I would have preferred online courses, with the possibility to listen to the material several times if needed, to be able to acquire the material more profoundly from the comfort of my home. But the real surprise was when I realized that my degree from this prestigious, accredited university was not accepted in Canada and my four years in education program needed an extra three and a half years of full time studying in my new country in order to be able to teach.
What I found out over the years while moving from one country to another is that transferring credits can be tricky. Since studying takes a lot of effort, I feel one should always try to find the right fit. Both deciding on a face-to-face or online course/program can be overwhelming. Taking the time to do research to find the most valuable courses for ourselves is crucial. At the end of the day it all comes down to one’s needs when considering further studies.
Thank you for reading my blog!