So what is this article about? Its been written to try and explain the phenomenon of MOOCs and how it is sweeping the higher education world – not just in the UK, but around the world. I hope you find it useful.
So what are MOOCs?
A MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. In its very basic form a MOOC provides access to anyone who cares to join up to a particular course provided by a university. The ‘massive’ bit is because literally thousands will join up at one time, while the term ‘online’ speaks for it’s self. These courses tend NOT to be accredited i.e. able to provide a formally recognised university level qualification, although some providers are experimenting with certificates i.e. to confirm the student has studied and completed certain elements of a subject area.
One main attraction of many MOOCs is the fact that much of the course materials studied by students are written by top academics in their field and from top institutions from around the world.
MOOCs – a potted history
As with many new initiatives in education this one has come from the States and spread throughout the world including the UK.
So who started ‘MOOCs’?
The term was first used by an American academic Dave Cormier of the Prince Edward Island University. The course he used the term for was ‘Connectivism and Connective knowledge’. I won’t bore you with the details of what the course content was about (something about technology), but suffice to say 2200 online members of the public from around the world took up the course for free.
From there the concept of MOOCs became more and more of a sea of change that many institutions in higher education felt they had to be involved in. However it could be argued that the next main development of MOOCs was the syndication of courses run by consortiums of universities such as Udacity, Coursera, edX. These organisations offer a variety of courses from institutions not just from the States, but from other countries around the world. More on what’s available in the UK later.
What next for MOOCs
Some of these organisations have now started to move into certification of their courses. What will come later (and to an extent it already has) is how to monetise MOOCs that are for moment, being given away for free.
Therefore it’s unclear how MOOCs are sustainable in the long term. The initial egalitarian notion of free study from some of the top universities from across the world is one thing, but higher education still costs, and some of these courses are run and materials written by top academics in their field. Somehow all this needs to be paid for.
So how might this be done.
Naturally it’s the American providers that are pushing the boundaries of innovation in relation how this could be achieved. Everything from franchising courses to third parties to charging for ancillary services such as CV preparation and job match help are being looked at as ways of funding courses. An obvious way is to charge for the certificates at the end i.e. don’t want one? That’s fine – you’re free to still take advantage of free study etc, but if you want it formally recognised, then its going to cost you.
So why do a MOOC in the first place?
There’s no one reason for studying a MOOC – apart from one undeniable fact – if there is a thirst/interest/need to be educated about something or other, then a MOOC is a great way of doing it, by studying with some of the best minds in what ever field you care to think of. For some it’s the interest in a particular subject area, perhaps one that is not widely available via main stream study. For others there may be the need to cover a particular subject for work or as part of other current study.
Of course for some in parts of the world where the possibility of studying something linked to a top western university is pretty much impossible, the option of the MOOC is a no brainer. And from the other perspective i.e. that of the academic, the idea of literally thousands of students studying and completing a piece of work written by them must be pretty awe inspiring.
But what do employers think of MOOCs?
That’s a difficult one to answer at this stage. The fact is this relatively new phenomenon has yet to appear on the radar of most employers. And when it’s remembered we (in the UK) tend to be behind the USA at the best of times, our employers probably won’t have a clue about them for a while yet (am I being unkind here?).
This makes it difficult for anyone to compare like for like. For an employer it’s difficult to see how they’re going to be able to tell if a MOOC is a great piece of work or a worthless piece of paper. Bench marking is something that needs to happen here. This goes too for other educational institutions. It’s not clear how a MOOC completed at one institution would be viewed elsewhere. Comparison between courses provided by different institutions is not easy. However at the moment it seems many students are happy to use a MOOC as a way of securing a place on a formal qualification at the same institution, using the MOOC as a kind of access module.
The issue of quality is in a sense directly related to the earlier point raised in this piece about recognition of MOOCs by employers. There is an issue of the quality of what is being studied and presented as the result of this work. How is this to be done and by whom?
Apparently (in the UK) the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA is a kind of OFSTED for universities) is looking into how benchmarking can be achieved for MOOCs. This would go some way to alleviating fears for students that all their hard work is not for nothing if wishing to progress education elsewhere or possibly use it for work.
So how are students doing with MOOCs?
Well it has be said that completion rates aren’t great. In fact they are pretty dire. But this is common for distance learning anyway. Completion rates for distance online study is nowhere as successful as for campus based study – not even half. The rates for MOOCs are worse still; negligible in some case e.g. maybe a few dozen out of thousands of starters are not uncommon.
The fact is this style of self regulatory type of education is simply not for anyone. Despite a plethora of different types of study options e.g. SKYPE, books, email, online tutorials etc, self motivation is difficult to do ones self. And besides, many students will be taking these courses purely out of interest in a subject area and to enhance their personal understanding of a particular topic.
So are SPOCs any better?
But first of all what are SPOCs? SPOC stands for Small Private Online Course. Again created in the US, these courses support much smaller numbers of students. Also although online teaching is still very much part of a SPOC, classroom interaction can also be an intrinsic element of this type of learning. In fact the OU has been a fore runner of this type of ‘blended’ learning for years. The mixture of tutorial, video, dvd, Skype type communications, student tutorials, phone etc has been a staple diet of the OU’s offering for quite a while, except they call it Supported Open Learning.
Universities such as Harvard, Berkeley and MOOC consortiums such as edX were the first to start to experiment with SPOCs. So how do they control numbers? Well for a start SPOCs tend NOT to be open for all in the same way that MOOCs are. Registration on a SPOC tends to be by invitation only or some form of assessment or test set by the institution to be completed and submitted by the student. The result will determine entry.
So are SPOCs the more likely of the two study experiences to survive and be adopted in the longer term? Well MOOCs are extremely successful if total student numbers are taken into account. For example some of the consortiums in the States have had more students for one MOOC than they have had for their entire traditional student cohort – ever.
However another method of measuring the success of either a SPOC or a MOOC is that of completion rates. Evidence so far points to SPOCs being far more successful in this respect and also that of satisfaction levels. It’s not difficult to see why.
SPOCs offer more rigorous teaching and assessment of a student’s work than a MOOC, which because of their huge numbers of participants (often from across the world), struggle to retain involvement in the materials and ultimately allow the student to achieve the course’s objectives.
In the UK the leading provider of MOOCs is the Future Learn consortium. Headed by the Open University, the Future Learn consortium is a non for profit provider with a number of higher education institutions involved including Warwick University in the UK, Trinity College Dublin and Monash University of Melbourne Australia.
So what of the future?
So there you have it – a quick run through MOOCs and SPOCs and what they have to offer students from around the world. So what of their future? Well this will depend on good old fashion economics. Despite the exciting potential of this new way of studying (access for all?), completion rates, recognition of completed study and above all making them pay are all issues that will need to be dealt with at some stage. In the meantime MOOCs and SPOCs continue to evolve and grow while at the same time shaking up the established model of higher education learning.
The Open University (Open Education – What are MOOCs)
BBC (SPOC in the news)
“One of the most standard practices expected from the writers of any article or research paper is the proper referencing of the resources”
The key difference between Harvard referencing and APA citation
One of the most standard practices expected from the writers of any article or research paper is the proper referencing of the resources wherefrom the ideas and thoughts have been taken to develop the piece of text. The citation must be done methodically and by following standard set of rules so that every resource could be found by the readers or the examiners of the writings.
The citation is important to reflect the depth of the research of the writer in forming the piece of text and, for a student, it is also important to save the dissertation or the research project from being marked as plagiarised by the examiners of the papers.
There are mainly four kinds of citation systems which are used by the writers for referencing purpose.
American Psychological Association developed the APA style of referencing to use it mainly for education, social and behavioural science.
MLA format of referencing has been created by the Modern Language Association and is used frequently by the writers working in the field of humanities and literature.
The Chicago referencing style also known as the Note and Bibliography (NB) system is widely used by the writers dealing with the subjects of arts and humanities.
The Harvard referencing system is used for the citation of the source materials especially in case of scientific writing. Every referencing system is different from the other in some way. Here we will be discussing few differences in between the Harvard and the APA referencing system.
a) “Reference List” is used in the Harvard system to list out the references at the end of the piece of text, whereas the same is indicated by “References” in the APA system of referencing.
b) Any edited work are cited by using “ed[s]” or “edited by” in the Harvard system of referencing whereas the APA system used the “(Ed[s])” for the same purpose. In Harvard referencing the names of the editor[s] are put after writing the title of edited work, whereas in the APA referencing the same is put before the title of the edited work.
c) In the APA system the page numbers are cited by “(year: page number)”, like (2010:82). The same is referenced in the Harvard System as (2012, p.82).
d) In case of referencing the chapter of a book which has not yet been edited, the Harvard referencing system is used as follows –
Chandra, P. ((2010). The Financial Management. Chapter 10 in the Management of Receivables. Kolkata: Tata McGrew & Hill. The same is referenced as follows in the APA system –
Chandra, P. (2010). The Financial management. The Management of Receivable (pp. 350-381). Kolkata: Tata McGrew & Hill
e) For referencing the electronic source of the ideas used by the author, the Harvard referencing system uses the following approach – Pandey, M. (2010). The Principles of Financial management. Available from:
Difference between Harvard & APA>(Accessed 10 January 2014).
In the APA system the same is referenced as follows –
Pandey, M. (2010). The Principles of Financial management. Retrieved January 10 2014 from: Difference between Harvard & APA>
f) For referencing Booklet, pamphlet or leaflet, the Harvard referencing system uses the following approach: Centre for Social Research and Development. (2010). Effect of environment on the society (Brochure). 4th edition. Amy, Pandey.: Author
The same is referenced in the APA style as follows:
Centre for Social Research and Development. (2010). Effect of environment on the society (4th ed.). [Brochure]. Amy, Pandey.: Author
g) For referencing conference proceedings without any author or title, the Harvard system follows the following approach of referencing –
National Nuclear Conference. (2010). Conference proceedings held at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, 10-20 May 2010. Conducted by Department of Nuclear Physics. Mumbai: Indian Institute of Technology.
In the APA system the same is referenced as follows –
National Nuclear Conference. (2010). Conference proceedings held at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, 10-20 May 2010. Indian Institute of Technology.
There are quite a few tools for referencing like Harvard Referencing Generator and APA Citation from the ‘Home of Dissertations’ which is easy to access and free to use.
Jake Philip from the Home of Dissertations
Apprenticeships – what you need to know
What are apprenticeships?
An apprenticeship is basically a job with training. Trainees are usually supported by both the employer and a training provider who makes sure the apprentice is covering the proper content while in the workplace. Apprentices usually receive some form of allowance or wage (more later). The length will depend on the type of apprenticeship undertaken, but they can last anything from one year onwards. Open to 16-year olds and over, apprenticeships are available in just about every occupational area you can think of – far too many to list here, but popular areas include Engineering, Construction trades, Hairdressing and Childcare to name a few.
Why do an apprenticeship?
Because it’s a great way to get into a career with both training and earn money at the same time. An apprenticeship can gets hands on work experience with an employer than will often lead to a full-time job at the end of it. According to government sources someone on an Advanced Apprentice can earn up to £117,000 more during the course of their career than someone without one.
What type of Apprenticeships are there?
There are four main levels of apprenticeship.
For those with under 5 GCSEs A-C grades at the start. Pay can start from £2.73 per hour (Oct 14), but this is a minimum and can be higher with some employers. Progression onto further levels of training is a possibility. Successful completion of training at this level is the equivalent to GCSE 5 A-C grades.
For those with 5 GCSEs A-C grades at the start. Pay can be up to £200 per week and even more depending on the employer. Progression can be onto further levels of training and qualifications. Successful completion of this level of training is the equivalent to two A levels.
For those with good A level results at the start. Pay can be up to £25,000 per year at completion of training. Progression can include going onto higher education e.g. Foundation degrees and beyond, as well as professional recognition for certain industries. Employers involved include Rolls Royce, IBM, Deloitte and PwC. The cost of the training is met by the government and the employer, so there is no university debt to pay at the end of the course.
The Degree Apprenticeship still in their infancy but is taking off fast. They have been designed to be comparable to a traditional Hons degree from a conventional university. The cost of the training is met by the government and the employer, so there is no university debt to pay at the end of the course. Occupational sectors covered include IT and Manufacturing to name a couple. Companies involved include BT, Fujitsu, Ford, Glaxo and the Lloyds Banking Group while the some of the higher education partners are Exeter, Aston, Loughborough, Manchester Met and the University College London.
The idea behind them is that an employer will be able to ‘grow their own’ staff to degree level, so by the time they qualify, they will have the critical thinking and analytical skills developed as part of their study, but also have the practical hands on experience of working with the employer.
So, should I do an Apprenticeship?
That depends on you. What type of person are you? What type of career are you looking for (you can’t be doctor through this form of training)? Do you like the idea of working, training and earning an income at the same time? Then an apprenticeship could be for you. However you’ll need to understand that an apprenticeship is a job, albeit with training, but a job nevertheless. You’ll get a minimum of 20 days holiday, so not the weeks and weeks off that your students at college and university will get. Also, the nature of work will be different to what you’ve been used to. That’s not to say there are endless cups of tea to make and floors to continuously sweep, but you won’t necessarily be doing cutting edge activities all the time either.
Apprenticeship Vacancies – Still Interested?
So, if you’re interested where do you find out where the vacancies are and what in?
One of the first places to look is the government’s own apprenticeship vacancies list. See below
The National Careers Service offer useful help and guidance on creating a good application form.
“Students have always gone to study abroad. There’s nothing new in this. But recently there does seem to be more of an interest amongst the young.”
Ten Great Reasons to Study Abroad
Students have always gone to study abroad, even more so now. An obvious reason for the increase in interest is probably down to the rise in tuition loans which have affected those wishing to study in England.
But this is not the only reason why students may choose to spread their wings and study outside of the UK.
Here we’re going to look at the ten great reasons why a student may decide to study elsewhere.
Bright Lights – Big City? How about the US?
1.Develop Your Language Skills
Strangely enough universities in Europe are beginning to offer undergraduate study in English. Study in Germany, Sweden and Holland is beginning to be offered in English as universities on the continent take advantage of England based students looking for a cheaper option.
And whether you like it or not you’re bound to develop your language skills. If it you don’t, then you’ve missed one of the most basic advantages of studying abroad in the first place.
Of course there are cultural benefits of studying abroad. If your long term careers objective is to work in Europe, e.g. with the European Commission, then to study in Germany or France could be seen as bit of a coup. Both the language and cultural benefits of spending three to four years in Europe are going to be seen as a big plus.
But what about further a field? For example how about study in China? What could be better than immersing yourself in the culture of what is going to be arguably the most dominant nation of the latter part of this century?
3.Got the Travel Bug?
China, America and Australia are vast countries with much to see. Travel across these massive states takes more than a couple of weeks of an annual holiday. Being based in one of these places as an international student is a huge advantage as you will be able to travel further a field outside of term time. And of course many of these countries are an excellent spring board to more travel e.g. Central and South America when studying in the US.
4.Friends and Family – Home from Home
No, not a mobile phone option! Being away from home is difficult enough for many students. So no better option for those determined to study away from the UK than to choose somewhere where the student already has family or close friends. If you already know people in the US, Canada or Australia, or perhaps you have close family in Ireland or continental Europe, how about looking at these countries as a study abroad option?
You can still go away to study knowing that you have the back up of friends or family in the unlikely event anything should go wrong.
5. A Different Style of Study
At university level there are different methods of studying and for many students, this choice is important. For example, in the US, study at degree level is far broader than undergraduate study here in the UK. The study of the Arts is very much integral to overall degree study and students are able to keep their options open far longer and to a much greater extent than their UK counterparts.
See our article from UES London for more on applying to study in the US.
At Maastricht University in Holland students are encouraged to do much of the work themselves by working together posing problems and solving them in groups. This way the student is very much in charge of their own learning – and amongst fellow students from a variety of different nationalities and cultures from across the world. The development and appreciation of these different learning styles can do nothing but benefit a budding international student who is looking for something different.
6.Dry Run for Making A Life Abroad
There are literally hundreds of examples of where experience of studying abroad can have a positive effective on one’s career whether your plan is to live in the US, Australia or even China. Having studied there in advance will stand you in good stead.
7.A Career Working Abroad?
This one’s a no brainer. If you’ve studied many employers in the UK will look upon your CV with great interest. They’ll be looking at the skills you’ve developed and potentially the contacts you may have made. For an organisation interested in developing their business abroad, having someone who has been there, knows the culture and even speaks the language, you’ll be a great asset – worth your weight in gold.
8.Keeping Study Costs Down
Of course this is a reason, and for many a pretty big one! With tuition fees in England hitting £9000 per year studying somewhere cheaper is a massive pull for many. As mentioned under Language, many institutions in Europe are beginning to offer courses in English.
Even France, the last bastion of anti Anglo Saxon sentiment is flirting with English language based study in order to stabilise its postgraduate base. But beware! Although the courses may be cheaper, you’ll still have to find living costs, flights home, medical insurance etc – and you won’t have the benefit of a student loan to help pay for it.
9.Gain an International Perspective
It may be you don’t have a particular reason to study abroad at all. It may be that you’re just interested in a different perspective on or in a particular subject. Your choice doesn’t have to be directly career orientated nor anything to do with future plans to live abroad. It could be just be you want something different – something to remember for when you get back to your life back in the UK.
Okay – not a formal reason to study abroad – but why not boast to friends and family that you’ve been there and done that? Whether you intend to utilise your experience or not, the fact is you will have done something few of us ever manage to do – to experience something that is unique and will give you something to discuss down the pub for a good many years to come!
But is Study Abroad even worth it?
Who’s to say? Those that study abroad generally rave about their experiences – and who is to doubt them. The important thing is why. It’s important that students who choose to study in Europe, the US or elsewhere do so for the right reasons. There has be a definitive reason for doing so, otherwise the expense could prove to be worthless. Some questions to ask ones self include;
- What are your career objectives?
- How you do intend to utilise a degree or postgraduate study?
- How is it going to benefit you in the longer term?
- What are you going to get from this overseas qualification that you couldn’t get from study in the UK?
- Will this make any difference to your chosen profession?
- Will this experience enhance you in the eyes of a future employer?
So there you go… Ten Top reasons for studying abroad – and a lot else to think about besides… See our directory of organisations that can help you plan and get the most out of study abroad. Good luck and bon voyage!
Use our list of study abroad agencies to get further information on issues such as student visas, study abroad scholarships and which institutions are the top universities to aim for.
Careers advice is important, of course. But where to get it. Careers advisers, publications and government sources are all out there. But here we add some more….
The need for good careers advice is essential when deciding on which is the right career for you. Obvious? Probably, but it’s surprising just how little effort some people make in investigating something they could be doing for the next 40 years!
So we’ve put together some top tips to help you find the careers advice you’ll need to make the right choice.
1.Use those around you
Sounds obvious? – That’s because it probably is…
Friends and family
In fact this is how many people find out about different careers and jobs. After all, if you can’t trust your family to give you the real low down on a job, who can you trust? Having said that, it’s fine if those closest to you do something that you’re actually interested in. If daddy is an account and mummy is a lawyer, and these are areas that you feel may appeal to you, that’s fine.
But many people may wish to look for something a bit different, perhaps less established, fresher and more modern. How many people do you know who work in developing video games or in renewable energy? – two examples of the types of jobs that won’t necessarily be common amongst those closest to you. But still, this doesn’t detract from the fact that family and friends are still a very valuable source of information, if used correctly.
Those that do the job
Similar to family and friends, this could be neighbours and those around you e.g. talking to a teacher at school about teaching or your local GP about medicine. Another advantage is that if you’re lucky you might even end up with some work experience to see if this careers will suite you. You never know, it could be a possibility.
But in order to use these sources of careers advice you’ll need to be prepared.
What are your objectives? – What do you want to know?
Are you prepared to hear the negative as well as the positive? If you’re already keen on a particular job, it can be human nature to ignore the downside to your chosen career. Also how will you verify what you have been told? Entry to many careers and professions change over time. The route one person took many years ago may have changed by the time you try and enter into that field today.
Tips for approaching others for careers help.
Be positive – people like to talk about what they do, so be enthusiastic about their job/career
- Be clear about the information that you require e.g. what qualifications are needed, how long is the training, what are the future possibilities etc
- Do some research beforehand, show that you know something about what you are asking about.
- Share your plans, what do you intend to do in the longer term
But be careful – steer clear of asking what they earn…. This is never a good idea as it’s a bit personal!
There are a huge number of extremely useful publications offering careers advice from books. WH Smith, Amazon etc are heaving with books relating to various professions, careers, jobs and occupations e.g. How to be a Doctor or get into Law etc. There are also plenty of publications available that look specifically at helping people actually choose a career in the first place i.e. looking at personality traits (see personality tests mentioned later).
Many professional bodies have published their own careers related materials which they offer through their own on line shops. Some even provide online careers advice e.g. the Law Society provides careers support for getting into Law e.g. qualifications and training required.
3.Career adviser/consultants and
Unfortunately the excellent services provided by many of these practitioners is not free. You’ll need to pay. But if you get the right one, their help and support will be invaluable and could save you an enormous amount of time and cost in the long run.
They offer a range of services including careers advice, retirement planning, redundancy support, advice for careers changers and CV planning. Consultants are usually (or at least should be) trained with a relevant guidance qualification. Some will even have Chartered Occupational Psychology status.
However such sessions can be quite expensive, especially in London and the South East. Five hundred pounds for a typical session is not unusual, although this may include a follow up session and be significantly cheaper elsewhere in the country.
For a full list of careers advisers near you, check out our Careers Advice Directory here.
Psychometric tests are often provided by the private careers advisers/consultants mentioned above as part of their paid for services.
But first, what are psychological tests?
Psychometric tests are a series of exercises that test areas such as e.g. numeracy and verbal reasoning. The results of such tests are often used by employers to help in the selection process of new staff. But they are also used to help individuals determine a career that matches their strengths, abilities and area of interest.
A more formal description of these test is as follows: “Psychological assessment can be said to be the assessment by the use of psychology through various exercises and similar, to determine the cognitive ability of an individual, in this situation in relation to capacity and aptitude to perform certain tasks and therefore do certain jobs and occupations.” These are far more in depth than the more straight forward personality tests mentioned below. They will usually be accompanied by a guidance session in order to help the client make sense of the results and match their strengths and abilities to the best types of career for them.
What kind of person are you? Are you the life and sole of the party? Or are you happy for others to take the lime light? Are you someone who is good at detail, or are you more of a grand ideas type of person? The answer to questions such as these may have an impact on the type of job that will be suitable for you.
Based on the science of psychology (some would say very loosely) these tests are framed around a series of questions about your likes and dislikes and strengths and weaknesses.
Many tests are available on-line or in careers related publications. However they need to be treated with caution. Accuracy is difficult when conducting these test on your own. It’s often difficult to be impartial from one’s self and not fall into the trap of answering questions in the way we want the outcome to be.
Furthermore these types of tests should not be confused with psychometrics mentioned above. Psychometrics are far more involved and require trained professionals to implement and interpret the results of the test. But personality testing can be a useful way to start the journey to finding the right career for you.
5.Government funded Advice and Guidance (free)
Career advice and guidance for young people.
Despite recent cuts (e.g. demise of Connexions) there are still some places where you can get free careers advice. Some young people may still get support via their school in some cases, but it does vary from place to place. The provision of careers advice and guidance in schools is now the responsibility of schools themselves.
Unfortunately uneven provision of service across England is the result with some young people getting a better service than others. Young people and certain other groups e.g. the adult unemployed may have access to local advice and guidance centres. These initiatives tend to be funded on a regional and local level e.g. Job centres, local charities etc, their purpose being to facilitate certain disadvantage back into in to education or training. You will need to check locally to see what is still available in your area.
Government funded websites
Across the UK there are also a number of nation based careers based sites that provide a mixture of online careers information, advice and guidance. Some offer a telephone service, video profiles of certain careers, case studies and many other services to help individuals make sense of the huge variety of careers opportunities out there.
- National Careers Service (England)
- Careers NI Direct (Northern Ireland)
- Skills Development Scotland
- Careers Wales
See their contact details here.
As you can see there are many different forms or sources of careers advice and guidance. Which you choose will depend on what situation you’re in, young person, adult, in work or out of it. Some may have to pay for advice, where others may get it for free. Either way we hope the above is a good place to start.