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How does online study actually work? What are the mechanics of studying theology through a Higher Education provider like KEDS, and how does the learning experience differ from traditional taught programmes in a classroom?
These are some of the questions we’re sometimes asked and this short article aims to provide details of how our online programmes are delivered.
E-learning platforms are known as Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs). VLEs include well-known “off the shelf” systems, such as Blackboard and Moodle. However, some institutions create their own “bespoke” VLEs tailored to their specific needs.
Over the years KEDS has developed its own bespoke VLE that has been specifically designed to achieve the school’s strategy and aims, deliver its programmes efficiently and best serve its constituency.
We refer to it as our eCampus, an innovative e-learning platform providing students with the resources necessary to complete their chosen course of study.
Once enrolled at KEDS students open an eCampus account which gives them access to the various resources needed to complete their chosen programme of study.
These include programme and module specifications, handbooks, audio and video lectures, other media such as interviews, PowerPoint presentations and YouTube clips, as well as study notes, reading materials (including full-text access to books and journals accessible through the eCampus), a school noticeboard, forum, instant chat facilities and external web links.
All assignments are submitted, marked and returned online.
After working through an induction programme students begin working on individual modules (there is a separate webpage for each module).
Many online providers deliver their programmes synchronously, which means students and tutors meet online in real time for much of the course delivery. However, with students across the world and working across various time-zones, KEDS delivers its programmes asynchronously. This means students work through the material at their own pace (though there are deadlines for the submission of work at the end of each academic year).
So while students have access to tutors in real-time where necessary (eg by Skype), the eCampus provides KEDS students with the resources they need to work through their modules independently, without having to schedule online classroom events or other activities.
As well as the resources listed above, students have access to a knowledgebase and other databases providing them with answers to queries and additional information even when the office is closed in the UK. It makes for a far more flexible, self-paced programme with a strong emphasis upon independent learning and research.
In addition the eCampus forum provides students with plenty of opportunity to interact with fellow students and faculty on theological and course-related issues, as well as socially if they wish, while additional tutorial support is available by email.
What about face-to-face delivery? KEDS does organise some regional seminars and special events that provide invaluable opportunities to bring students and tutors together. However, unlike many distance learning schools that combine online and classroom delivery (known as blended learning), at KEDS all the course materials for our programmes are available online to any registered student with access to a broadband connection and eCampus account. In short, there is no requirement to attend seminars or other events if you do not wish.
Thus, studying at King’s is a fully online learning experience, so that it is possible to complete the whole of your programme via our eCampus. Meanwhile, a variety of media and delivery methods, considerable resources, interactivity and a genuine sense of community, as well as a flexible and varied learning experience, have all been combined to produce a learning experience which our students frequently commend and find invaluable.