The new distance learning gets up close and personal

Jennifer Feschuk already had one degree when she started at Royal Roads University in Victoria last year, but she still had some pre-school jitters before her classes began, The Globe and Mail reports.

The first day involved the typical tour and meet-and-greet with classmates, and she was given time to look around and get her bearings. But unlike her first postsecondary experience, this wasn’t taking place in person – it was all being done online.

Instead of scouring the halls of a building, Feschuk and her fellow students were exploring every nook and cranny of Moodle, an open-source program that would become the online hub for all her coursework.

Meeting new friends involved uploading a picture, filling out a profile and then chatting in online discussion forums. “You get to play around on the website and get to know it,” she says. “It’s an exciting start to the program.”

While people have been taking online courses for several years, advances in technology have made distance learning much easier and, as Feschuk learned from Vancouver, a more social experience.

One aspect of online learning that Feschuk has enjoyed is the “classroom” discussion. Moodle lets students interact in online forums; you can even break up into teams and work on projects together, all through the site. Her group also does work over Skype when they need to actually see each other.

It’s a much more social experience than she imagined it would be. “Everything is interactive,” she says about Moodle. “It’s like Facebook.”

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