Virtual universities and distance learning
The virtual university is another product of the WWW era (though the idea actually predates the Internet— in 1969 the Open University was founded in Great Britain, using television to broadcast its courses). VUs include both the online versions of institutions that existed long before there was an Internet, as well as those that offer their courses entirely online. Examples of institutions in the latter group include Michigan Virtual University, Canadian Virtual University, Syrian Virtual University, and the Virtual University of Pakistan. Some of these have affiliations with “brick and mortar” universities. For instance, CVU has affiliations with the University of New Brunswick, Athabasca University, and other prominent Canadian institutions, which means that students registered there can take online courses from any of these places; and MVU also includes a high school!
Virtual universities were created so that students who lived far away from the campus of the institution where they wished to attend classes and could not afford either to commute to and from campus or to pay to board there, would nonetheless have the opportunity of receiving an education there. (Of course, you have to pay the fees for online classes too, but the cost is much cheaper than if you attended them on campus.) Online learning has a number of other advantages as well. The student can watch the lectures at his own pace, and even pause the video in order to take notes on important points. And if he misses any part of it or would like to go over it again, he can always rewind it. The instructor, too, has the benefit of being able to reach students in many parts of the world.
Courses at online universities are conducted through websites and email. On registering for the desired class and paying his tuition, the student receives a user ID and password with which to log in. He can then watch each lecture online and take notes as he would the old- fashioned way (with the differences described above). Online courses are divided into sections called “modules,” each with its own topics and objectives. Written assignments are sent by email, which the student can do on his computer and send it to the professor as an attachment when it is complete.
Online learning has become a popular form of education. It gives students opportunity for free expression that they often do not have in a classroom. And less than a month ago, on January 31, MVU announced plans for a new holiday called Digital Learning Day!
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