Spotlight on online learning at education expo

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 May, 2001, 12:00am

Distance education just might be the answer for those suffering a hangover from the Asian financial crisis.

If you consider yourself lucky to have held on to a solid job right through the period of economic turmoil, you may be less willing to toss your financial security aside to pursue higher education qualifications.

Fortunately for those who are sticking by their jobs, new advances in technology and a greater array of course materials have made distance learning a viable pathway to higher-level studies.

In fact, distance learning is one of the fastest-growing segments of the education market, as a growing number of Asians are choosing to study from home, according to Grant Collier, marketing manager of Nexus Media, organisers of the Distance Learning Fair which opens today and runs till Sunday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

Mr Collier said the distance learning industry had grown dramatically in recent years, largely because it offered a convenient approach to education, and was less disruptive to the career development of mature students.

'Because of the Asian financial crisis, people are reluctant to give up their jobs,' Mr Collier said. 'This has led to an increased need for distance education support and online learning options.'

The expo will feature courses and learning models from leading universities and private institutions from Europe, North America, Australia and Singapore. More than 30 exhibitors are expected to take part, showcasing graduate and postgraduate degree programmes, certificate courses, diplomas, and MBA programmes.

There will also be demonstrations of the latest online learning programmes.

'With advanced technology come online study options, as well as virtual classroom and real- time learning via the Internet,' Mr Collier said.

Five seminars will be held each day of the expo.

In his seminar on Sunday at 4 pm, Chris Jenny, head of admissions, University of London, will help prospective distant learners discover if they are of the right personality type. Another seminar is 'Choosing a Distance Learning MBA', presented by Dean Woodgate, marketing manager, the University of Southern Queensland.

Illustrating just how quickly the distance education field has developed, Mr Collier pointed out that this was the first time his company had organised a fair in Hong Kong dedicated exclusively to the subject. Nexus Media is considered one the world's largest education fair organisers.

The company is a wholly- owned subsidiary of Highbury Communications, one of the world's largest media groups, publishing more than 300 books, magazines and journals.

Mr Collier said Nexus Media decided the time had come for a separate distance education fair, following a survey of the company's student data base which revealed that 72 per cent of respondents were keenly interested in learning more about options in this area.

'From feedback we've had, the trends are moving towards opening up more and more distance and online learning courses, as well as traditional postal correspondence,' Mr Collier said.

'There is also an increase in the number of locally taught courses run by satellite institutions, such as the University of London.'

He said the popularity of distance learning programmes is driven by advances in telecommunications and Internet technology. Better graphics and more interactive learning modules are changing attitudes and helping a generation of students discover new benefits.

'The advances in technology have had a tremendous impact,' Mr Collier said. 'It is expensive to go overseas and study on campus, so more people are thinking: 'Right, I won't change my job, I'll just study over the Internet'.'