Online practice makes perfect

The Open University Business School’s BA Honours in business studies allows learners to follow a number of career paths, as it provides a general understanding of business organisations and environments, markets and processes, and how these work collaboratively.

Distributed by eDegree, a subsidiary of Riverbend Learning, which specialises in partnering with private and public institutions to ensure the dissemination of education throughout Africa, the programme is delivered via flexible blended learning, underpinned by a practice-based learning approach where students learn one day and implement their learning the next.

‘Practice-based learning” refers to learning that focuses on working practice in a chosen job or career or profession. This includes programmes and learning activities linked to formal work placements — those which require the application of programme ideas in a work setting and those which build on professional experience.

There are four key components in delivering practice-based learning: excellent materials, personalised tuition from tutors with practical work experience, a reflective action learning loop and the underpinning of logistics and infrastructure.

Specially designed high-quality, multiple-media teaching materials, designed by subject-specific teams, are prepared by the Open University Business School for this form of learning.

These teams typically comprise a combination of specialist research-active academics, specialist teaching academics and tutors, and are supported by academicrelated course managers. This results in the development of materials beyond the often individually idiosyncratic character of traditional lecture notes.

Further elements of practice-based learning are the personalised tuition, student support and learning feedback provided by associate lecturers or tutors, together with well-structured online conferencing support.

The tutors, who are often working managers or business consultants, are trained to ensure a consistent standard of teaching. This means that a current and direct awareness of business and corporate issues is built into the heart of the learning experience.

Students receive potent localisation or contextualisation for the materials, which is particularly advantageous for international teaching.

Linda-Anne Alston, a tutor on the Open University Business School degree programme, believes that the online format presents new opportunities for deep learning as students have to reflect on activities and respond to fellow students’ input. It does, however, require much self-discipline to make online interaction part of their routine.

Student Clare Marie Whalgren adds that the experience of interacting with other students globally on the business studies honours degree programme has provided her with an insight into global issues that ultimately affect the business environment.

The immediate opportunity for students to apply and test new ideas and knowledge in their work, in the tradition of the reflective practitioner in professional learning, ensures effectiveness in integrating theory and practice, as well as an immediate, continual check on the quality of the learning materials.

Practice-based learning comprises highly professional logistics and management that underpins all activities and processes, ensuring their effective integration and delivery to students, anywhere, globally.

Barbara Dale-Jones is general manager of eDegree

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Barbara Dale Jones
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