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Study abroad : Applying to University

'Online now, on campus later': The learning model explained

Universities around the world have been re-designing their learning models and offerings in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Here we investigate the 'online now, on campus later' model being offered by many institutions.

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The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted the ways of the world, but we are slowly learning to work around it. It has affected all spheres of life and the higher education sector was not spared. However, new methods are being developed to adjust to new realities. The improvisation of already existing techniques and technology has aimed to ensure an uninterrupted academic experience for students.


While some universities are determined to open their gates for on-campus learning by as early as autumn 2020, others have decided that the best way to go in the interim is online. There some who are still deciding on their plan of action, however, one of the more common approaches universities have decided to go for is the ‘online first, on-campus later’ model. We delve a little deeper into what the model entails and how it may impact your study plans.


What is the ‘online now, on campus later’ model?

The prospect of studying abroad or even attending college at all might seem uncertain at the moment. What if you were offered an opportunity to start your studies online and move to on-campus learning as soon as circumstances allow? That way, your studies won’t be interrupted, and you still have the chance to study on campus.


While it is true that about 69 per cent of students favour face-to-face learning, 31 per cent of international students indicated that they would be happy to start online and transition to on-campus learning at a later stage. Added to this is the fact that 69 per cent of international students said they intend to start their studies as planned in 2020 (IDP Connect Student Survey). This is in keeping with the undertakings and plans of many institutions.  Universities in the UK, New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. have all underlined their commitment to keeping learning on track in 2020, with online learning options made available and plans to phase the return of students being discussed and implemented.


Students learning online

How is the new model different from online learning and hybrid learning?


Hybrid learning combines a live classroom with remote learners and online activities. Some students attend the classes on campus, while others attend the class remotely. The ambience is different in that the lecturer is facing an actual class while conducting the sessions and is not facing a computer.


This method greatly extends the reach of training. The online learning model involves teaching, learning and the delivery of a programme or course exclusively online. In this case, there is no physical presence on campus.


So what is the ‘Online now, on-campus later’ model? This model draws on a bit of both the aforementioned methods. It begins as online learning exclusively with all activities happening online, supported by learning resources, materials and assessments, usually hosted on a learning management system. Naturally, the course structure will be tweaked, keeping in mind the prospect of resuming on-campus learning down the line.


In addition to the provision of programmes and courses, virtual events are also arranged to enhance the student experience and cultivate a sense of community. Once universities are ready to transition to face-to-face learning, you’ll be able to join the class on campus.


This would mean that the institution is ready for the phased return of students and support for different learning modes, be it handling online classes or making a seamless transition to on-campus classroom learning.


The University of Cambridge, San Mateo County Community College District and California State University are some of the institutions that have declared that their autumn semester will be conducted exclusively online. This is aimed to limit the exposure that students and staff have to the virus.


All lectures happen online, but some universities like the University of Cambridge might allow limited on-campus activities, such as small workshops and tutorials, under strict conditions. There is very little possibility that universities will reverse such policy decisions, even if the situation becomes favourable for on-campus classes to return.


Which institutions are an example of the ‘online to on-campus’ model?

La Trobe University in Australia is an example of a university that has decided to adopt the model and begin its classes online. The university will be covering the same course content as they would do on-campus.


Students will be given access to online resources and the learning materials will be made available online. They also have a library website for students to access if they would like to refer to journals and research papers.


The institution has designed its programme with the intention that online learning will prepare students for on-campus teaching and equip them with the relevant skills. They are also focusing on bonding activities like virtual movie nights so that students get to know their peers and build a network of friends by the time they transition to on-campus classes.


The focus will also be given to healthcare and on-campus facilities prior to students transitioning to campus so that they are adequately prepared. Careful thought is given to the efficiency of online learning and hence the availability of some subjects will be adjusted accordingly. The opportunities for work-integrated learning might also be limited, but this can be mitigated by a return to campus at a later stage.



Learning online


The accreditation and quality assurance of the learning programme remains central.  Other examples of institutions adopting the model include Green River College in the USA, which is currently urging students to stay at home and study online, later joining the campus once face to face learning resumes. The University of Sydney is inviting applications for semester two and they will be starting classes online. Face to face lectures will follow later.


Understandably it is not clear as yet, for many institutions, when a full return to campus will happen or be possible. However, in a recent survey of UK universities conducted by Universities UK, 97 per cent of institutions indicated their commitment to providing uninterrupted learning opportunities for students and in some cases an intention to return postgraduate students to campus in January 2021 where possible. 

Our number one tip would be to do as much research as possible into your prospective university and communicate effectively with them. 


What are the benefits of the new model?

The primary benefit would be that it ensures an uninterrupted academic experience for students and the ability to start a degree programme for the 2020 academic year. It is also expected that the institutions will be able to make a quicker transition to face-to-face learning when it is favourable to do so, with travel restrictions relaxed and government guidelines permitting.


The model is of immense value to international students whose aim is not just to study their desired course, but also to gain the experience of studying abroad and not having to defer their studies. ‘Online now, on-campus later’ would mean that there is a higher chance of experiencing campus life at a later stage.


How can we help you?


Considering the opportunities that it offers, you might want to check and verify that a university offers this model of learning prior to applying or enrolling. Why not check out our comprehensive search tool that will give you clear information on universities and the courses that follow this model?


Times are changing and we’re all adapting. This new model of learning might just be the right way to seize an opportunity while remaining hopeful for the future.

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