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Survey on online learning in the UK

January 14th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

The Guardian newspaper has published the headline results of an interesting survey of people in the UK, undertaken in conjunction with the Open University. I’ll comment on a few of the findings.

48% of (presumably those with degrees) stated that they felt their degree has been beneficial in terms of getting a job in today’s economic climate. And that leaves a somewhat surprising 52% who felt their degree had not helped them get a job! Over 50% of 18-24 year olds feel obliged to get additional qualifications – once more possibly casting doubt of the value of an initial degree, especially given how expensive higher education is in the UK.

39% if those who have spent time developing their skills have done so online and one in five people have done or are currently doing an online course. However 45% said they would only consider doing an online course if it led to an official certificate and only 8% had heard of MOOCs.

This leads to a lot of questions. Sadly the original data – including the wording of the questions is not available on the Guardian web site. It would also be important to know more about how the sample was selected. And whilst the form of the presentation is graphically engaging, I am not sure how useful such headlines are for serious research.The Guardian has published the survey to Extreme Learning, “a special series run in association with the Open University, which will examine how online learning is evolving – and what this means for students, lecturers and universities.”

The problem with the launch article is that they appear to be conflating online learning with MOOCs and then using current academic and press scepticism about MOOCs with the future of online learning. I suspect that after the MOOC hype dies down MOOcs will become another a regular part of the online learning scene. But they will be by no means the only part. And once more depending on how the sample was selected, its seems to me more remarkable that 8% of the population has heard about MOOCs rather than the 92 per cent who had not.

The accreditation issue is concerning. Here i have only questions. To what extent is it the case that employers do not recognise learning achievement without certification and to what extent is that a perception by learners. If it is so, is this a cultural peculiarity of the UK, or a wider phenomenon (I know that in Spain everything seems to have a certificate). What chance does this give for initiatives like Mozilla badges to take off and what would they have to do to get badges (socially) recognised.

I hope the Guardian and the Open University will move on to consider other forms of online learning. In particular I would hope they think about informal and self directed learning which is probably more important than all the online university courses put together. And I hope too they look at work based and vocational learning, rather than just focusing on university courses.

 

 

 

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