January 20, 2017 at 12:57AM

Online study is booming and technical innovation in the field has allowed universities to offer more unusual and specialist courses than ever before.

So, if you fancy delving into the mysterious world of art crime, becoming a skilled food technologist, or even becoming a space scientist, you can – without even leaving the house.

Donna Yates, who teaches the University of Glasgow’s online postgraduate certificate in antiquities trafficking and art crime, which launched in 2016, has been pleased with the format so far. “Online courses attract some amazing, high-quality and diverse students – students who can’t travel all the way to Glasgow but are totally engaged with the topic,” she says.

“Our real-time chat seminars are the highlights of my week,” adds Yates, who notes that the course attracts a mix of professionals who work in law or museums, as well as students interested in the academic side. The goal of the course, she says, is to move art crime away from being a Hollywood plot line and “towards a deeper, nuanced, academic understanding of its causes, effects, and meanings”.

Students enrolled with the Open University (OU), meanwhile, can now conduct virtual lab experiments from their laptops via the university’s OpenScience lab.

“It’s great because practical science has always been hard to offer to distance learners,” says Nick Braithwaite, professor of engineering physics at OU. “There are aspects of an online approach to laboratories that make it virtually better than the real thing.”

The OpenScience lab will soon be used for an online MSc in space science and technology, giving students from around the world access to telescopes in Tenerife, plus a satellite tracking station and a robotic rover in an artificial Mars environment on campus in Milton Keynes.

The nature of learning online is particularly handy for jet-setting students. Travelling between her native Australia, her home in Yorkshire and her work abroad, motivational speaker and former Paralympian swimmer Elizabeth Wright has been studying on the world’s only MA in character education online.

The course, run by the University of Birmingham’s Tom Harrison, teaches how to build-up children’s resilience and character, and improve their wellbeing.

“I have been enjoying the ability to work at my own pace,” says Wright. “I can structure my day around my work diary, which can be hugely varied.”

“I also enjoy its uniqueness – there is nothing like it out there. It’s helping me expand my understanding of the work I do and is enabling me to use better concepts and techniques in delivering my content when I speak in schools.”

But are online courses for you? If you have a hobby or professional interest in an unusual field you might be surprised to discover the sheer wealth of options on offer. “Studying long distance like this is flexible and you do get the required support,” says Wright. “It might develop you in ways you never dreamed possible. I’d recommend it.”

from Education | The Guardian http://ift.tt/2j2wqLc