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This content is taken from the University of Southampton & British Council's online course, Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsPAUL BRADDOCK: As a learner, it's important that you feel able to ask for help. This might be technical support initially, but you might also need to ask the tutor for information about the course content, and it's important that you're able to do this. As with face-to-face learning, in online courses it's important that you engage in the discussions as early as possible. It's easy at the beginning of a course to be an observer, which is sometimes known as lurking, where you listen and you read the discussions, but you don't respond. However, it's important that you do take part in the discussions, as this will help with your motivation.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsIt's also a key part of a course because as it develops and as it evolves, you will learn more from the course participants. One of the big differences between online learning and face-to-face learning is that with online learning, you're really responsible for your own development and attending the course, and you need to manage your time effectively to do this. This involves logging into the course, accessing the material, completing the tasks, taking part in the discussions. The onus is really on you to take responsibility for your own learning. Now watch this interview with a learner who has studied online talking about her experiences.

Skip to 1 minute and 16 secondsLAURA STILES: My name's Laura Stiles, and a couple of years ago I participated in the online Master's from the University of Southampton, which was run in conjunction with the British Council. It was a Masters, an MA in English language teaching.

Skip to 1 minute and 33 secondsYeah, it's what the name says, really. You basically focus on pedagogy and methodology and things.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 secondsEvery week, you-- well, the tutors uploaded the reading list, and told you that you had to read this article from this journal, or from this book. And then there were forum discussions every week that were compulsory, you had to participate in them. And then every now and then, there was a different kind of activity, so you had to collaborate with someone to post a forum post. So the activities were varied. But the majority was, you read, you do your forum discussion, and then you use all that information in your assignments for the end of the semester.

Skip to 2 minutes and 17 secondsThe first year that I was on the course, I was living in Prague, and the second year, I was in Barcelona.

Skip to 2 minutes and 27 secondsWell, I'd been teaching in China on just a basic TEFL certificate, and I realised that I really liked teaching, and I wanted to take it further. But I don't want to live in the UK to do a Master's. So I went to talk to some tutors of mine from university, and they suggested this online Master's. And I looked into it, and it just seemed perfect because I could do it wherever I was and fit it in with the work schedule. And financially, it just made sense, because there was no way I'd be able to work full time, or be able to work even part time to support myself while I was doing the Master's in the UK.

Skip to 3 minutes and 1 secondSo moving abroad just seemed to make sense for me.

Skip to 3 minutes and 7 secondsI think the biggest challenge is time management and the amount of dedication you have to have to it. Because when you're at university, it's so much easier when you've got people around you and always talking about the deadline and you have constant news about, you have to do this by this date. But if you're doing it online and you're relatively isolated from the other people in the course geographically, it's a lot more difficult to maintain the motivation. You can't just listen to everyone else, you have to have it very clear in your head. I have a deadline, I have to do it.

Skip to 3 minutes and 41 secondsFor me, the fact that I could do it wherever I was in the world without any access problems. The-- I mean, I'm not a morning person. So getting up at 9 o'clock for lectures was never my thing at university anyway. And being able to do it in my own time, fit everything around my job, and the life I was-- wherever I was living, it was just fantastic. The flexibility was incredible.

Skip to 4 minutes and 9 secondsMy particular interest on the course were the focus on the language testing and using technology. And I had a really good time in the technology and module building an online game. It was really, really fun. And because of that, I've been doing a lot of stuff with the school that I work at now, and I've been implementing Moodle and online learning, trying to develop the ways it teaches, I don't know, express and teach communicatively. And my job now is as a coordinator in the school. It's what they-- they call it coordinator here, but it's more academic management.

Skip to 4 minutes and 46 secondsAnd because of the course, and because of the knowledge that I've been-- that I acquired on the course, I've been able to do that quite successfully.

Engaging with online learning

What do you need to consider if you wish to study on an online course? What is it like to take an online course?

In this video, Paul Braddock introduces some ideas to consider when you begin to study on an online course. The video includes an interview with Laura Styles, who studied for the joint online MA in English Language Teaching offered by the British Council and the University of Southampton.

You are learning online now. What are the joys and challenges of using this course?

Have you studied online before? How does your experience on this course compare with other online courses you have followed? What are the differences or similarities?


Online MA in English Language Teaching (offered by the University of Southampton and the British Council)

And if you are a fully participating learner in Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching, you will be eligible to apply for a scholarship to cover part of the MA fees.

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Understanding Language: Learning and Teaching

University of Southampton