Combination programs are programs Dyslexia for numbers of study that combine classroom instruction with distance learning, often through online tools that allow students to get advice from instructors. Such tools include online forums, video conferencing, and Internet telephone technology such as Skype.
Tuition increases next year are expected to increase demand for alternative forms of higher education, especially those that allow students to continue working while studying. Combined learning is a top priority for many private educational institutions, which could become major players in the British education market when the government implements its plans to introduce more players into this market. A government briefing paper on the issue is expected to be published in the coming months.
Open University (OU) is the largest provider of distance learning in the United Kingdom. It already has 7,000 professors there who personally lead seminars, check online assignments, and teach classes live over the Internet – and often in unusual ways. For example, the university’s science classes use a “virtual microscope” application in which students and professors look at tissue samples together. This technology allows them to change the light and “move” the samples around, just like under a regular microscope.
“Students come together for face-to-face activities, but the fact that we don’t have to travel to class is appealing to more and more of our students,” says Niall Sclater, director of learning innovation at The Open University. “Much of our foreign language instruction is through audio conferencing, and our math classes use collective magnetic marker boards that are visible to students working on their home computers.”
Even practical courses are now studied remotely through blended learning. The University of Northumbria teaches a practical anatomy course for health professionals and all instruction is online, except for summer school classes.
Many universities teach certain modules simultaneously to distance and traditional students to avoid isolating the former. Birkbeck College, University of London, is one of them. “We encourage distance students to participate in face-to-face classes as much as possible,” says Bryony Merritt of the college. “We encourage them to come to lectures, Saturday kinesthetic learners sessions, revision classes and social events. It promotes a sense of ‘belonging.'”
Combined learning has also become a major way for universities to attract international students. Students in Portsmouth University’s master’s in international criminal justice include a student from Japan working for an international nongovernmental organization in Afghanistan, a Czech student working for a London-based crime victim assistance agency, and British police officers working in the United Kingdom, Europe and North America. They meet each other and their professors during a two-day introductory session at the university and then travel around the world and work in virtual classrooms.