Blog Article

A week in the life of three online course participants

Friday 14 October 2016

How do people actually use online courses? Everyone is different, has different existing knowledge and different approaches to working. We decided to look at how three people have been using our Online IPSAS Essentials course comprising ten modules. To keep things simple we have looked at one week of activity for each person, not their first or last week of study but a week chosen at random part way through their course. To keep things anonymous we will call these three people Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Ron had six online sessions in his week. The shortest two lasted 5 minutes and 7 minutes but the rest were all just under an hour. He was quite focussed and in each of these longer sessions studied a single topic. On Tuesday, Ron successfully completed the IPSAS Conceptual Framework module after a total of seven and a half hours work over six sessions spanning the previous month. On Wednesday he started the Current Assets module and on Friday he started the Employee Benefits module. He appears to be comfortable working on two modules in parallel. After this week Ron had a period of a month in which he had no time to work on his online learning so there was a gap of a month before taking up his studies again.

Ron infographic

Hermione worked in a similar manner to Ron as she worked either in very short sessions (five sessions of between 1 and 5 minutes) or quite substantial sessions (six sessions of between 44 minutes and 3 hours 15 minutes. Some of Hermione's short sessions seem to be used just to dip in and find out something but it is also interesting that some of the short sessions appear to be used to research what to do next. In one 5 minute session Hermione sampled four different modules, then later that day she spent 2 hours 5 minutes studying one of these four topics - Long-Term Assets. During the course of this week Hermione worked diligently on Long-Term Assets, starting on Monday with a 2 hour 5 minute session, followed by 45 minutes on Tuesday, 1 hour 19 minutes on Wednesday, 57 minutes on Thursday and then a marathon 3 hours 15 minutes on Saturday to complete the module including taking the final exam. So, Hermione completed the entire module on Long-Term Assets during the course of the week over a total time of 8 hours 20 minutes. After successfully completing that module on Saturday, Hermione spent 3 minutes looking at the Employee Benefits module which she then worked on for 2 hours 19 minutes on Sunday. It seems that Hermione's approach is to have a quick overview the day before she starts to commit significant time to study. This is typical of an adult's approach to learning taking time to plan the use of their time.

Hermione infographic

Harry appeared to have three different modes of studying: overview, in-depth and assessment. On Monday, Harry started with a session lasting 1 hour 54 minutes studying the Revenues and Expenses module in depth. He then spent the next 38 minutes conducting an overview of all ten modules, spending a minute or two in each module, then after having viewed each module, repeating the process again but taking less time over every module. On Tuesday, Harry didn't work on the course at all, but on Wednesday he took the final exam for two modules Introduction to IPSAS and IPSAS Conceptual Framework and successfully passed both exams. Harry had studied the Introductory IPSAS module two months previously and had not studied the IPSAS Conceptual Framework module at all. This suggests that Harry was already familiar with some of these IPSAS topics. He spent a short time also studying the Current Assets module on Wednesday before spending longer (34 minutes) on that topic on Thursday. Also on Thursday Harry spent a few minutes each on five other modules. On Friday Harry focussed on the Transition to IPSAS module for 1 hour 26 minutes as well as looking at other modules he hadn't looked at on Thursday for a few minutes each.

Harry infographic

One aspect of IASeminars Online courses that all three of these participants used is the interactive Glossary. All words that are defined in the IPSAS standards documents are automatically highlighted in our courses and all the participants took the opportunity to view the definitions of terms: Ron 5 times, Hermione 10 times and Harry 12 times. This constantly available glossary means that no-one should be disadvantaged by being unsure of the meaning of any technical terminology.

It is really clear from this short analysis of the way three people have worked over a week that everyone has a different approach and that the way IASeminars Online is structured allows people to work in their own way - whether they want to move rapidly between topics or stay focussed on one for hours. Also we have accommodated people with some prior knowledge who want to surf through some topics and dive deeper into others. But perhaps the most significant lesson is that when adults are learning they should be allowed the freedom to organise how they work to suit their own schedule.

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