Distance teaching at Uppsala University
The University offers a large and varied range of distance courses. Many are freestanding (single-subject), taken by students who wish to supplement their education in a degree programme, for example. At the Faculties of Theology and Languages, whole undergraduate degrees can be obtained at a distance.
The great majority of distance courses are provided entirely online with, for example, recorded lectures and discussions in virtual conference rooms. The majority are half-time courses and some have one or more scheduled get-togethers on the campus for participants, although most of the work and the contact with teachers and other students take place online.
The pedagogics of teaching distance courses, with its emphasis on interaction among students and between students and teachers, has also come to influence campus teaching at many departments.
Interactivity and creativity - for quality
Distance education at Uppsala University is subject to the same stringent requirements as campus courses. In terms of knowledge, study programmes at a distance are to be of the same quality as those provided at the campus in Uppsala or Visby, Gotland.
However, distance courses need to be designed with the limitations and possibilities of their format in mind. For example, having all or most of the communication of the course take place online places greater demands on clarity in terms of structure and instructions. Distance students have less access to informal exchanges with their fellow students compared to those taking a course on campus. The teachers may therefore need to work more purposefully to encourage collaboration and, for example, set assignments that involve having a group of students create material to be used as a resource for all course participants.
Good planning and well thought-out educational methods are thus the most important factors for quality, rather than the campus or distance form of education as such.
Distance teaching in figures
The University’s range of distance courses is extensive. In the spring semester of 2015, there were a total of 7,577 students registered on 283 distance courses, 80 of which were based at Campus Gotland. For the spring semester of 2016, there were 375 courses available, 270 of which were provided entirely online, i.e. with no physical meetings at all in the study location. Fifty-six courses were at an advanced level.
The faculty with the most distance courses (104) for the spring semester of 2016 was the Faculty of Languages. In total, 269 courses were offered in the humanities and social sciences, 68 in science and technology, and 38 in medicine and pharmacy.
Services for distance students
Communication among students, like that between teachers and students, can often be more intensive and extensive on a distance course than on a campus course. Digital technology has radically improved conditions for distance students, but there are still matters — such as library-related issues — that may be more difficult to arrange if one is not physically present on campus. The University Library therefore offers services for distance students as well, such as the option of having questions answered by a librarian through online chat.
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