Liverpool University offers first online degree

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11th Aug 2000
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Yesterday TrainingZONE reported that a lecturers union on the USA had voted to veto degrees offered entirely online. Undaunted by this, Europe's first online IT degree has been launched by the University of Liverpool.

A collaboration with Dutch education specialists K.I.T. eLearning, The Master of Science (MSc) in Information Technology (IT) which is accredited by the University aims to combine flexible learning and an industry-focused curriculum with 'the rigorous standards and professionalism of a British university postgraduate qualification'.

Students will join a ‘virtual classroom’ of 20 students and be allocated a personal tutor (lecturer). Communication through the virtual classroom will be via e-mail, with the students supporting each other and sharing ideas, and tutors responding to all questions and queries. A 24-hour helpdesk will be available to provide instant advice on any technical issues related to course delivery.

It will take an average of 18 months to two years to complete the degree, which will cost around £8,000 to complete. Between eight and twelve hours work a week will be required, with weekly assignments and assessment through personal and group assignments. Accreditation will be given for prior learning and work experience, equivalent to up to one third of the degree. IT companies have been consulted widely on the contents of the programme to ensure relevance to the industry.

The new degree has been developed using expertise provided by US education services company Sylvan Learning Systems, and has been designed to suit the needs of IT professionals who have a first degree in a non-IT related subject and are now working in full time positions in database administration, software development and systems managers. K.I.T eLearning estimates that there are a potential six million potential students worldwide.

Technology systems provider Convene.com is also involved in the formation of the degree, which is already being delivered in the Netherlands to a group of 20 employees from IT consultancy Randstat.

Says John Latham, the Universities academic secretary, "we are removing some of the traditional barriers to graduate education for people who have families and mortgages. We have taken away the financial impact of having to live near a university and lose two years' earnings," he adds.

Shai Reshaf, chairman of K.I.T. eLearning says that "from consultation with the industry, we are confident the degree matches employers' demands for IT staff to develop a broader vision and expand their skills. We anticipate that companies will offer it to motivate and retain staff."

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