Liverpool milestone for online course

The University of Liverpool this week gained its 1,000th online student for its two online MBA and MSc technology programmes,...

The University of Liverpool this week gained its 1,000th online student for its two online MBA and MSc technology programmes, writes Nathalie Towner.

IT consultant Phil Knott says he would never have got round to enrolling for an MSc course if he had been required to commit to a fixed schedule.

"If the course hadn't been offered in an online format I would never have done it," he says. "You get direct feedback, you can network and I am also able to connect from work as well as from home."

Modules on the course, which has been available for the past year, include programming on the Internet, database design and a recently added module in security engineering.

Yoram Kalman, senior vice-president for academics at KIT eLearning, the university's e-learning partner, says 90% of the students on the MSc in IT course are already established IT professionals.

"They are from completely different backgrounds in IT as well as at different stages in their careers. We always try to get a good mix of people in every module to make it more interesting," he says.

"The general requirement is for an honours degree but we will also accept people onto the course without a degree if they have a strong CV," Kalman adds.

Knott has been working in the IT industry for more than 20 years but until now had no degree or specific IT qualifications.

His specialist area is Sequel Server DBA but he was more interested in gaining a qualification that would give him a broader knowledge of IT along with a grounding in management skills.

"It took a while to get into the course and the first two weeks were a real shock. I wasn't used to the idea of submitting work to someone I didn't know and will probably never meet," Knott says.

The course requires students to log into the virtual classroom four days out of seven and a programme manager monitors their attendance. Each module lasts eight weeks and the work is assessed at the end of each week.

Knott estimates that he puts in two hours work every day and explains that when he isn't online he is working from the textbook.

"At the beginning of the week I post my work on the shared area and then I read through the other students' comments and we exchange ideas," he says.

There are usually about 13 students working towards the same module at any one time and Knott has managed to build up a strong relationship with three other students he met online in an early module.

"One lives in Singapore, one in London and one in Cheshire, we e-mail each other a lot about how we are finding the different modules," he says.

Although all the studying is demanding and time consuming Knott is thoroughly enjoying the course. "At the end of each module I really miss the reading and the exchanging of ideas," he says.

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