Reposted from Brain Track: http://www.braintrack.com/online-colleges/articles/the-role-of-self-paced-learning-in-online-education
Kelley Direct’s online MBA includes an on-campus program for new studentsSelf-paced learning courses, in which students work through academic programs at their own pace with no scheduled lectures, assignment due dates or exams, are not a new concept. “Before the Internet, these self-paced courses were known as correspondence courses,” said Dr. John Kruper, president of Alpine Access University. “Students were sent materials in the mail…it could be very isolating and lonely.”
In contrast to online programs where students are required to follow the pace of the class, students in self-paced classes can go as quickly or as slowly as they need to. It is a model used at StraighterLine University, a provider of distance learning courses that offers a variety of freshman level classes such as pre-calculus, calculus, logistics, biology and business writing. “Students can sign up for classes and usually start the next day,” CEO Burck Smith said.
Overcoming Online Drawbacks
Although two of the major drawbacks of self-paced learning models are the lack of direction and interaction, StraighterLine has instructors available to guide students through the coursework as well as a 24/7 academic support line that students can call whenever they need extra help, Smith said. “In the past, self-paced classes were not well supported. Now, students can pace the courses themselves while still engaging in the materials under the guidance of an instructor,” he said.
“Our satisfaction rates are extremely high…when students come to us, they know what to expect,” Smith said.
One of the ways StraighterLine University helps keep their students motivated is through its pricing model. “The way our pricing model is set up, students have an incentive to move through the courses quickly – it allows them to get more value for their money,” Smith said. “It also allows them to stop before they’ve spent a lot of money if they decide that self-paced learning isn’t for them.”
Blended Learning Model
“We’ve found that the blend of self-paced and guided education produces the best results.”
Other learning institutions have opted for a blended learning approach to negate the negative aspects of self-paced learning. This model is being used successfully at Alpine Access University – the operational arm of Alpine Access, which trains approximately 3,500 to 4,000 new employees each year. “Our program highlights the best of the self-paced world and the best of synchronous learning environments,” Kruper said.
According to Kruper, self-paced learning is advantageous because it allows students to be in control of their learning. “Students can move quickly, slowly or repeat parts of the course if they need extra practice,” Kruper said. “It puts them in control of their education…when you are not in control, your learning suffers.”
The blended learning model used at Alpine Access University combines self-paced learning models with virtual classrooms where students can interact to discuss topics, engage in role-playing activities and learn from each other. “In the virtual classroom, students can apply what they’ve learned in their self-paced modules,” Kruper said. “We’ve found that the blend of self-paced and guided education produces the best results.”
“There are so many students who can’t get through a correspondence course because there are no road signs along the way.”
This level of direction is viewed as extremely important to Executive Director Terrill Cosgray and Director of Marketing Darren Klein, both of Kelley Direct – a distance learning program at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business that offers master’s degrees and certificates in programs such as business administration, finance and global supply chain management. “What happens in traditional correspondence course programs, is that because there is nothing there to keep them moving along, students fall off track,” Klein said. “There are so many students who can’t get through a correspondence course because there are no road signs along the way.”
“We provide a unique, self-paced interaction,” Klein said. “Students have work that must be completed, but they can do so at their own pace.”
“There is flexibility and structure within the program design itself,” Cosgray said. “This has led to a very high degree of completion.”
Dr. Steven Sacco, faculty chair of the language school at San Diego State University has a long history in self-paced learning. Today, he uses self-paced tools in his classroom to enhance the education of his students. “We use Live Mocha to bring self-paced elements into the classroom,” Sacco said.
LiveMocha.com, is the world’s largest online language learning community. Online, Sacco’s students utilize electronic flashcards to practice their vocabulary, participate in free language courses, network socially with native speakers across the world and engage in research projects. Generally, students spend between three to four hours a week in Live Mocha, Sacco said. “I’ve never met a student who didn’t see it as beneficial,” he said. “Even if it wasn’t required, I think most of them would still use Live Mocha.”