The global pandemic has brought with it a boom in online education, increasing its market value to an estimated £216 billion by 2025. With a dizzying array of courses on offer, understanding the differences between online learning and streaming can help you identify the right one for you.
By Elena Carruthers. Published 29 March 2021. Last updated 11 January 2023.
The events of 2020 saw universities and training providers rapidly adapt, moving their courses online. Now we have gone a step further by improving existing e-learning programmes and creating ULaw online campus while discovering new ways to keep students engaged and inspired. When thinking about studying online, it is important to explore the benefits and challenges of ‘online learning’ versus ‘streaming’. Some courses will carefully integrate both these experiences, while others will favour one approach to the learning journey. Being aware of how you work best is key.
The greatest benefit of online learning is the freedom to use time flexibly, learning your way, anywhere, and at any time. Online courses are delivered asynchronously, meaning students can schedule their own learning. This means accessing library materials, reading, and understanding and testing knowledge at your own pace, without the commitment of attending regularly scheduled classes. It is the right choice for busy people or digital nomads and those who wish to work while travelling. People who work or have child-care or other commitments often turn to online learning as a flexible lifestyle solution.
Platforms or ‘campuses’ used for online learning will offer varying degrees of interaction - some will provide real time chat options and social tools, giving opportunities for instant feedback. Others will feature collaborative discussion forums and email, or activities that adjust to your learning style via sophisticated technology.
Streaming provides virtual, face-to-face interaction with tutors and/or coursemates at set times. With options of live-streamed seminars and 1:1 tutorials, it creates a sense of community while allowing you to observe coursemates’ queries and tutors’ explanations. Much of our communication is non-verbal and happens through body language or tone, so the option of seeing or hearing a tutor can be highly valuable to some learners.
A live stream might also offer specific inclusion options such as a signer or subtitling. Interactive streaming may include teamwork via video platforms to encourage discussion and peer-to-peer learning. Online learning also offers shared learning as everyone is in a class and encouraged to learn together, and during live classes, students can meet their instructor to discuss different topics or problems.
One factor of online streaming is that life has a habit of interrupting. Most parents and pet owners will have stories of little ones or furry friends joining virtual meetings uninvited. So, planning how to make quiet time could be a constant theme of your learning experience. That said, most of the content will be recorded despite being a real-time stream. Tutors can make the recorded material available for viewing, with the bonus of buttons that allow pausing, fast-forwarding and rewinding the video. A great help for those unable to follow the live online classes or who wish to revisit them.
Regardless of how you choose to learn online, e-learning is a cost-effective way of gaining recognised qualifications that could set you up for success. It erases the normal issues of logistics, making high-quality education accessible in rural or challenging environments. (Although, you will need a reliable WIFI connection). As public access to technology in the UK improves via libraries and government schemes, not owning a computer should also become less and less of a barrier.
Leaders in the field of e-learning and research are also discussing how online education is narrowing the gap between social-economic groups. In 2020, Harvard University took the opportunity to widen access to several of its elite courses when moving online. ULaw is also dedicated to widening access, diversity and inclusion and specifically integrating employability and social clubs into the Online Campus, helping e-learners nurture careers and networks from a distance.
Importantly, both online learning and streaming put the student in the driver’s seat, allowing you to learn your way, in your environment with the benefits of group learning and expert support.