About online distance learning

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					About online distance learning

                   There are many ways in which online
                   distance learning is different from
                   traditional classroom-based teaching, and it
                   is important that you understand how it
                   will work.
                   Presumably you have already anticipated
                   some of the advantages of distance
                   learning, otherwise you would not have
                   joined this programme! However, we will
                   identify a number of the more commonly
                   mentioned ones, just to make sure that
                   you are aware of them.
                   There are also some disadvantages to
                   distance learning in comparison to
                   attending a campus-based programme,
                   and we will also identify some of these.
                   Having an awareness of these will help
                   you to study more effectively. Most
                   importantly, we will indicate where in this
                   handbook you can get more information
                   about how this programme has been
                   designed to help you overcome these
                   potential difficulties.

                   The advantages of an online
                   distance learning programme
                   Whatever your reasons are for choosing
                   distance learning, the following
                   advantages of participating in an online
                   distance learning programme will apply:
                   The primary advantage of distance learning
                   is that it allows you to study from the
                   location of your choice. You do not need to
                   leave your home, your family, or possibly
                   your country in order to complete the
                   programme. Distance learning allows you
                   to plan your studies around your other life

                                                                  • Programme section • 2009–2010 17
                                    Pace                                           interactive activities. Online seminars and
                                    You can study in your own time, at your        discussion areas provide you with the
                                    own pace. Although there will be some          chance to discuss the content of the
                                    timetables and deadlines in place (for         programme with fellow students and
                                    example, for online seminars and               tutors. We hope that the use of different
                                    examinations), in general you can plan         techniques means that people with
                                    exactly when you want to read the study        different learning styles can all learn about
                                    materials and conduct the necessary            Information Security in the way that most
                                    further reading.                               suits them.

                                    Access to materials                            Learning from your peers

                                    Study materials are always available. If you   One particular advantage of online learning
                                    attend a programme at Royal Holloway           is that it encourages you to take the
                                    and you miss a lecture, you may struggle       opportunity to learn from your fellow
                                    to catch up or obtain a copy of the lecture    students all around the world. These
                                    notes. With an online programme you can        discussions can take place in open
                                    access the materials over and over again.      environments where they can remain for
                                                                                   the duration of each programme, so that
                                                                                   you can always refer back to them for
                                    For many students, the process of online       ideas and inspiration.
                                    distance learning helps to develop
                                    confidence. Studies have also shown that       The disadvantages of an
                                    students who may be shy about offering         online distance learning
                                    opinions in a traditional classroom often      programme
                                    feel less reticent about expressing            There are also some difficulties associated
                                    themselves in an online discussion.            with distance learning and it would be
                                    Monitor your progress easily                   unwise to underestimate their potential
                                    The study materials have been designed in      impact. By making them clear to you now,
                                    order to provide you with frequent             we hope that you will be able to recognise
                                    opportunities to gauge what you have           them and consider which ones may affect
                                    learned and what you haven’t. Many study       you. One of the purposes of this
                                    units include elements of self-assessment      handbook is to provide you with advice on
                                    which help you to monitor your                 how to overcome some of these potential
                                    understanding of the issues under              difficulties.
                                    discussion.                                    Technology
                                    Suits different types of learner               One of the most obvious challenges for
                                    The programme has been designed to             online learners is technology. Due to the
                                    give you the opportunity to learn about        nature of this programme, most of you are
                                    Information Security in a variety of           probably fairly familiar with using
                                    different ways. Study materials use a          information technology. However,
                                    combination of text and audio with some        technology does not just cause problems

18   • Information Security handbook • 2009–2010
to inexperienced users. You may also             of all opportunities to meet and work with
encounter difficulties because:                  both the tutors and your peers online.
• technology doesn’t work properly (you          Keeping motivated
  encounter computer or network                  Any type of distance learning requires a
  difficulties)                                  high degree of self-motivation. It takes a
• slow or expensive Internet connection          lot of effort to study on your own and
  limits your access to materials.               keeping your motivation high may be
We have implemented various strategies           difficult over such a long period of time. It
in order to avoid or overcome these              may help you if you identify some short-
challenges:                                      and long-term goals to aim for during your
• We have provided an Induction module
  so that you can familiarise yourself with      Organising your study
  the Virtual Learning Environment before        Online distance learning is probably
  you start studying.                            different from any other learning
                                                 experience you have had before. Unlike
• We have specified a minimum set of
                                                 traditionally campus-based programmes,
  computer, application and Internet
                                                 which provide a rigid structure of lectures
  connection specifications that you
                                                 and seminars, the distance learning MSc
  should have accepted before enrolment
                                                 only gives you fixed dates for online
  on the programme.
                                                 seminars and examinations. Although the
• We will provide the bulk of study
                                                 study materials are structured carefully to
  materials on CD-ROM so that you do
                                                 give you an indication of how much time
  not have to remain connected to the
                                                 you should spend on them, you will need
  Internet in order to study.
                                                 to plan your own study timetable and to
• We provide technical support so that           decide how much study you will do each
  you can get help if you experience             week. It is best if you develop a steady
  technical problems when accessing our          commitment and apply self-discipline to
  web site.                                      create a habit of regular study.
Isolation                                        Mixed mode study
The greatest challenge with distance             Students registered for the MSc or
learning is probably the potential for           Postgraduate diploma may be permitted to
isolation, and the lack of face-to-face          study one or more modules on campus at
interaction with staff and other students.       Royal Holloway, University of London
We have thus designed the MSc/Dip to             through mixed-mode study. Mixed-mode
offer plenty of potential for interaction with   study enables students to study some
other people involved with the                   modules by distance learning and others
programme. It is your responsibility to use      on campus at Royal Holloway.
the tools and activities provided to reduce
                                                 Whilst on campus, students may study a
any sense of isolation you might begin to
                                                 module over a single term, or over a
feel. We encourage you to take advantage

                                                                                                 • Programme section • 2009–2010 19
                                    concentrated period of time (normally one     match with those on campus. The policy
                                    week). Full details relating to the modules   of the Information Security Group has
                                    available as on-campus study and the          always been that content will be updated
                                    method of application for mixed-mode          for sound academic reasons rather than
                                    study can be obtained from the                for purely presentational ones, a principle
                                    Programme Director.                           which is supported by our institutional
                                                                                  partners in the security industry.
                                    Differences between the
                                                                                  Is the MSc qualification the same?
                                    campus and distance learning
                                    programme                                     It’s the same syllabus, the same degree,
                                                                                  taught by the Information Security Group
                                    We are continuing to offer the MSc in
                                                                                  at Royal Holloway. The only difference is
                                    Information Security as a taught
                                                                                  delivery. Yes, in our opinion it is exactly the
                                    programme on campus at Royal Holloway.
                                    We regard the distance learning MSc
                                    programme that you have enrolled for          Upon successful completion, you are
                                    simply as a different way of teaching the     awarded a University of London degree.
                                    same degree.                                  There is only one University of London
                                                                                  degree, and it is awarded both to students
                                    Is the quality of teaching the same?
                                                                                  attending Royal Holloway and to External
                                    Some of you may also be concerned             System students.
                                    about whether you will receive the same
                                                                                  The final diploma indicates that the
                                    quality of teaching as students studying at
                                                                                  student was registered with the University
                                    the Royal Holloway campus. We believe
                                                                                  of London and awarded a University of
                                    very strongly that you do, and in fact that
                                                                                  London degree. It also gives the name of
                                    in some respects you gain significant
                                                                                  the College which conducted the
                                    advantages by studying in this format (see
                                                                                  examinations. There is no reference to the
                                    ‘The advantages of an online distance
                                                                                  fact that you studied as an External
                                    learning programme’ earlier in this
                                    We develop the campus and distance
                                    learning programmes together, and keep
                                    their syllabuses as closely matched as
                                    possible. Royal Holloway and the
                                    University of London subject all
                                    programmes to rigorous quality
                                    assessment to ensure that the same
                                    academic and teaching standards are met,
                                    both for students studying at Royal
                                    Holloway and those studying at a distance.
                                    Distance learning teaching materials will
                                    be updated annually to preserve the

20   • Information Security handbook • 2009–2010

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