Online learning at school 'prepares students for university'

Studying a subject online for two years at secondary school prepares young people for the learning expectations of university, research has found

November 2, 2014

A study by researchers at the Institute of Education, University of London, suggests that learning online while at school helps students become confident, capable independent learners, and teaches them online research and communication tools – which the study says are essential requirements for university study.

Researchers looked at students who are now at university, some of who participated in online learning during their time at school. More than 100 university students aged between 17 and 23 were surveyed, with 58 of those having studied at least one two-year course online as part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme while at school.

Some 78 per cent of those surveyed said they considered it important in university to be able to plan and coordinate group tasks using online tools such as calendars, scheduling tools and discussion applications, and 94 per cent said having the ability to find academic resources online was valuable.

More than four out of five (84 per cent) said it was important to be able to set goals to help manage studying time for their university course, and those who had participated in online learning at school said that they had gained proficiency in a range of online learning tools that they were now using as part of their university working practice.

The online learning experience had also helped them to develop confidence in using technology to source information and they were more likely to carry out their research online, the researchers found. 

“Personally, I learned a lot from taking an online course because it helped me prepare myself in terms of scheduling and allocating time,” one student said.

“The research suggests there is a shift from school learning to university study, and that a good online learning experience helps students to prepare for that shift,” said Ed Lawless, principal of Pamoja Education, a social enterprise that delivers the online International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, and which funded the study.

The study was written Martin Oliver, professor of education and technology and head of the Learning Technologies Unit; Myrrh Domingo, lecturer in contemporary literacy; Jade Hunter, research officer at the London Knowledge Lab; Lin Pan, John Adams research fellow; and Lesley Gourlay, senior lecturer in contemporary literacies.

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