Taking an online course is hugely different today than it was five years ago, and this is even more true when studying at an online institution like the University of Europe Laureate Digital. While most students are familiar with studying in a classroom environment, the workspace of these courses are mainly online. This can be a challenge at first for students unfamiliar with online learning, or those who are new to higher education. But there are many advantages to learning within a digital environment, from peer-to-peer learning to gaining experience in online platforms.
Filipe Castro Soeiro, Academic Director at the University of Europe Laureate Digital, shares his advice for students embarking on their first year of digital education.
An open-minded approach
“I would reinforce the importance of being open minded,” Filipe says. “We offer a learning journey that is supported by a highly innovative, socially interactive experience. We aim to promote self-discovering learning processes using hands-on experience.”
This is the keystone of the University of Europe Laureate Digital’s approach to learning, and to properly prepare for the experience as a student, it’s important to understand exactly what this approach means in real terms. Courses combine both virtual and real-world learning resources, designed to work together in the most effective way on a per-student basis. While traditional mentors and tutors are, of course, essential, University of Europe Laureate Digital courses also aim to make students invaluable resources for each other.
“We want to capitalise on new ways of thinking, and find solutions using social learning network systems that aim to help generate these different ideas. It’s peer-to-peer learning,” Filipe says.
Peer-to peer learning
There’s no denying that the social aspect of universities and colleges is a melting pot for business, culture and networking in general. At the University of Europe Laureate Digital this is no less true, and given the instantaneous nature of online social networking and the technology the university has in place for students (and tutors), any potential barriers are removed. This means that students can connect with anyone, not only people from their course. There are also a number of opportunities to forge new professional, social and educational connections with people that you might never have met at a traditional institution, such as people with different interests or social circles.
As an educational resource, there’s no denying this is a powerful concept, and one that new students quickly and easily embrace. Using fellow students as sources of help, knowledge and advancement is part of ‘digital knowledge spill over’, a crucial element of the learning process, according to Filipe, and part of peer-to peer-learning. Like osmosis, new knowledge works its way naturally through the student network.
New students should, of course, expect plenty of advice, guidance and help from traditional mentors and tutors, but also be committed to making use of the vast resources that they can offer each other — using the network as a whole to elevate each other’s knowledge and learning.
Digital, dynamic classrooms
The classroom is probably the first thing a new student will think of when enrolling on a new course. It is, after all, fundamental to any learning process. This is no less true at the University of Europe Laureate Digital, the only difference is that our classroom spaces are virtual.
“The entire classroom is dynamic, and we have different learning spaces based around collaborative, peer-to-peer learning to capitalise on the possibility for students to learn from faster students. We also have personalised learning spaces for one-to-one mentoring and coaching, which are much more oriented to individual learning,” Filipe says.
It’s also possible for students to connect to the vast global learning network at the University of Europe Laureate Digital, and discuss topics with students from across the world. This means that while classroom-based learning is still at the core of our methodology, it has been adapted for the digital space.
Filipe is confident these innovations will pave the way for new methods of learning: “All in all, we are really pushing ahead with our vision of how digital higher education is able to not only discover new ways of creating knowledge, but also to transfer this knowledge in real terms, through contextual challenges.”
Students at the centre
Flexibility is another aspect of University of Europe Laureate Digital courses that students new to this kind learning process might not be familiar with. While there are certainly a large number of courses run by traditional institutions that offer some degree of flexibility thanks to a modular system, the digital framework allows the University of Europe Laureate Digital to capitalise on this much further.
This can be extremely advantageous to students, as Filipe explains: “As they are part of a network, programs can be very flexible and customisable. While we are offering the programs on our digital platform, we are also working together with local campus partners. This means on the one hand it’s a global digital network, but on the other hand, very focused on local culture too. Local culture and economy influences demand, so we want to design programs based on these local needs, expectations and culture.”
Therefore, new students can expect to find slightly different programs based on their location, which will be designed to fit around local cultural requirements (time frames etc), as well as offering different costs and term lengths. In Spain, for example, 60 different MBA course configurations are currently possible, with up to 90 in some countries, depending on local regulations. This gives students the chance to construct a modular course from the ground up, based around their educational goals.
Secondly, the student is, as Filipe says, “at the centre” of any University of Europe Laureate Digital course. There is an extensive student support service focused on the needs and priorities of students, and mentors add to the personalised, customisable network. In essence, students are in much more control of how, what and when they learn compared to more traditional approaches.
Learning by doing
Hands-on learning is another key part of University of Europe Laureate Digital courses. Learning from simulated, shared experience means that students have already gathered knowledge about real-life situations and scenarios. And this stretches further than classroom exercises. The whole concept of a University of Europe Laureate Digital course is designed to place students in a microcosm of complex social, business and educational systems and networks that mimic what is fast becoming the larger global reality. Our students will already be familiar with, and able to adapt to, an increasingly changing digital environment.
“We’re offering students the ability to actually implement and challenge real business approaches, but also ways to overcome personal challenges, and add structure to their personal and professional lives. We want students to take that knowledge spill over into the real world and put them into practice seamlessly.” Filipe says.
One final point of note for new students is the importance that the University of Europe Laureate Digital places on non-traditional skills, talents and innovative thinking. Emotional intelligence is one example, as Filipe explains: “The importance of communities, groups and even the importance of differences is key. Communities are open systems, influencing and influenced by suppliers, so emotional understanding and intelligence when applied to these communities is very important.”
Education for a new digital world
Overall then, new students should expect a forward-thinking, socially focused, innovative experience. Building relationships will be fundamental, but learning can be taken at the student’s own pace thanks to the extremely flexible and localised programs on offer. Standard forms of preparation for any form of study are still relevant too, of course, but the ability to have a simultaneously centralised and globally connected academic resource makes things much more convenient for students.
New students should also be ready to start engaging with problems in new ways, collaborating with others to find solutions that change and redefine traditional ways of thinking. They should be ready to challenge and push traditional and personal academic and business boundaries.
For those considering a course at the University of Europe Laureate Digital, Filipe outlines why it’s not only an exciting, cutting-edge option, but also a valuable one. The world is becoming more digital, and the edges of the virtual and real worlds are increasingly crossing over. Being prepared for this new digital world is crucial for businesses: “I would say to students: Come and discover new learning paths. Come and develop process-based learning techniques, use augmented reality and digital simulators, and become part of the collaborative and peer-to-peer learning systems. Reach your next level.”