It started with one student in December 2000 but since then has transformed the lives of hundreds of people across the country and worldwide, pioneering a new kind of higher education.
The University of Nottingham’s School of English Studies is celebrating 10 years of ‘Distance Learning’, providing postgraduate education in this popular subject to increasing numbers of students who would not have been able to study full-time in Nottingham.
And after a decade of growth, from just one student to around 200 on the books today, the School is planning to widen access to its courses further by expanding its use of electronic resources and digital technologies.
Distance Learning in English Studies started with one MA course in Modern English Language. The School now offers six MAs covering Linguistics, Literary Linguistics, English Language teaching, Health Communication and English Studies on a part-time basis. Significant numbers of students enrol from 45 countries worldwide, especially the Far East, and many are already English language teachers by profession.
Students are tutored by full-time staff who have created the modules and are world class experts in the field. It means the student can be reading a text on a particular topic one moment, then communicating with their tutor by e-mail the next. The courses are flexible and students are allowed to work at their own pace over a maximum of four years to finish the qualification. This is a necessity as most are juggling full-time jobs and families.
Professor Peter Stockwell, who set up the School’s first distance learning MA, said:
“Over the past 10 years we have built up a brilliant and innovative programme and some of the best students in the world study with us. We have reached into parts of the world where the diversity of experience of our students has enriched our own thinking. The experience of composing and sharing our courses on the web has enhanced the ways in which we teach in the seminar and office rooms at Nottingham. When it is done properly, web-based distance learning is neither a cheap nor a secondary option and it can only go from strength to strength.”
The first student to enrol 10 years ago was Stephen Lockwood who is now studying for a PhD. He said:
“I chose a 'distance course' because I was working overseas at the time and wanted a flexible studying arrangement which let me to work at a pace that fitted in with my busy personal and working life. My Masters qualification stands out on my CV and I know it has earned me interviews on two or three occasions. In one post I was offered a slightly higher salary as a masters graduate. It remains my crowning academic achievement and I look back on the experience fondly.”
Dr Neal Alexander, Director of Distance Learning in the School, said:
“We plan to create even more flexible modes of study by expanding our access to electronic resources such as e-books and e-journals, and devising new ways of promoting interactivity through our teaching materials. We are also working hard to develop our provision of modules in literature and drama for distance learning students, as well as considering the potential for modules in creative writing. We are also looking into the possibility of offering short courses based on our existing modules.”
Professor Julie Sanders, Head of School, said:
“Distance Learning programmes will be a key future pathway for carrying forward the School of English Studies’ commitment to research-led teaching of the highest order. We will in the near future be exploring through our programmes the various potentials of the Digital Humanities across the wide spectrum of our specialisms in literature and language, historical and contemporary, in drama and performance, and in creativities in their fullest sense.”
Details of the Distance Learning programmes in the School of English Studies are available at: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/english/prospective/distancelearning/index.aspx
Students are invited to an annual free Summer School. Tasters of the sessions as well as videoing students talking about their experiences are available at: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/~aezweb/intranet/Distance_Learning/summer_school/summerschool.html and http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/~aezweb/intranet/videos/ss2010.html
The University of Nottingham offers Distance Learning courses in a wide variety of other disciplines from Biosciences to Business, Pharmacy, Theology, Education and Occupational Health. More details are available at http://pgstudy.nottingham.ac.uk/part-time-distance-learning-short-courses.aspx