This is an archive of the 2013 version of ocTEL.

Keeping up #ocTEL

I'm currently experiencing what it's like to be a student struggling to keep up with a distance learning course due to competing demands of work, family, and a bout of flu. This experience itself would make participating in ocTEL worthwhile, even if the course itself were rubbish (which of course it isn't), simply because its giving me much better insight into what our students go through, and hopefully, how we can help them stay on track, or at least not feel too bad when they don't.

As others have pointed out (e.g Sue Folley here), its important not to let oneself get too stressed. One of the good things about ocTEL (as also pointed out here) is the supportive language that has been used throughout, and the way that the organisers have attempted to help us manage our own expectations of what we can achieve given all of those competing pressures. When updating our programmes for next year I'll definitely be trying to emulate this as far as possible.

Of course there is a difference between a MOOC, taken primarily for professional interest, and for which I don't have to pay, and a full masters degree programme for which someone has paid several thousand pounds, AND for which we have to make sure we are strict in terms of the standards required to receive an accredited qualification. We can't therefore say to the students 'do as much or as little as you like' without being very clear that a minimum standard is required to pass the course. But we should do our best to help them stay on track whilst avoiding adding to their stresses and strains – and if using encouraging, supportive language helps with that then that's an easy win.


Teaching Fellow and Online Learning Specialist at the University of Leeds

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