Every time reference is made to facilitating access to postgraduate studies, we must clarify the scope of this phrase that is often used too superficially. Because the concept of “accessibility to postgraduate studies” covers much more than we can suppose.
The priority, more in times when thanks to vaccines in our European environment allow us to predict a planned exit from the Covid-19 crisis despite the fact that we will have to learn to live with the coronavirus during the next few years, it is not giving in the search to guarantee that all students can access the postgraduate course that they are interested in doing by vocation, or because it is essential for them to progress in their current job, without forgetting a key piece in the current moment of digital transformation, which is access digital learning materials and activities with the right courses and also, in the right institutions.
As for the economic facilities, this depends on many factors, such as the existence of scholarships awarded by both public and private institutions in each country, or programs of greater scope such as Erasmus at the European level.
But the facilities, as we have said have a very broad scope, for example, the “Department for Continuing Education” of the University of Oxford, in terms of facilities for postgraduate students, details these aspects: “Graduate students studying in Continuing Education have access to a wide range of study, social and sports facilities within the Department, the University and their individual faculties. At Rewley House, graduate students have access to the library, computer resource room, common room, bar, dining room, and Grad School lounge with study space, printing facilities, lockers, and refreshments. Within the University in general, students can use the facilities in the Bodleian Libraries or in the University Club or in the common rooms of the various faculties”.
Another case, for example, the University of Bristol, which is showing a concern for expanding participation and is committed to diversifying its graduate student body. He expressly says that “we recognize the value of a varied cohort and we want to encourage people of different origins to apply for graduate studies with us”, for which a policy has been established that is called “Access to the graduate scheme” in which it is held that “As a prospective graduate student, you may have reservations about the time, skills and resources required to access graduate studies. The Access Postgrad program offers mentoring and peer skills development sessions to help current college students at the University of Bristol decide whether postgraduate study is right for them. We are pleased to be able to offer funding in the form of a small waiver of up to £ 5,000 for postgraduate tuition fees to support 10 Access Postgrad participants.”
In the case of the University of Oviedo, it expressly explains its policy for scholarships and grants, which are available to university students to support their studies. The catalog is extensive and ranges from graduate enrollment to materials, per diem, accommodation and national and international mobility.
Allow students to complete their training by calling for collaboration grants in various university services and internships in companies and institutions to facilitate their incorporation into the labor market once they have completed their studies. Encourage the participation of students in different university environments. Both the national programs and those of the University of Oviedo include undergraduate, master and doctorate scholarships, as well as the University’s own degrees. In addition, some specific calls are intended to promote sport and academic excellence.
The University of Oviedo also has a specific program of collaboration scholarships for students to reconcile their studies with work in the University centers, departments, institutes and university services.
Facilitate online training
The fundamental objective of online training is that there are no differences in the quality of the teaching provided when compared to conventional face-to-face training. Some students will be unfamiliar with distance learning as they may be concerned about how it will work and may experience learning barriers that are unique to this context.
Therefore, all kinds of barriers that may arise for this type of training, business schools and any institution that has postgraduate training must take some actions to avoid such obstacles.
The aim is that programs should be designed to ensure that all students are able to identify and communicate their learning needs and to keep them motivated to learn about what they are expected to do and are confident that they can participate and encouraged to do so because they are ensure that they will be able to fully access the learning materials.
An important aspect from the operational point of view for an online course, is to consider if any of the students are in a different time zone or that they have limited or no space in their current home, or that they are in areas where are isolated with little or no social contact, who have poor Wi-Fi signal or limited computer access, or who have a disability or additional learning needs that affect how they will need to participate in remote learning, rendering them lacking confident in online interactions and technology and are emotionally struggling with the transition to remote learning.
For the responsible administrators of a business school, these situations described can arise at any time.
Therefore, it is good practice for a business school to anticipate these needs, regardless of what it knows about its students. Make a space in the teaching given to interact personally with your students and discuss the new teaching and learning environment.
As a business school, recognizing the challenges of working through technology, you may need to ask for patience in advance if technology does not work as planned, bearing in mind that all of your students are adjusting to a new environment. and it will take time.
Make it clear to students that you want to know their specific learning needs and if they are willing to share them.
Flexibility for the incorporation and use of technology
Be flexible in the way students are allowed to engage and use technology, while establishing ground rules for discussions. For example, a student may prefer to write his responses rather than using the microphone or video.
Students with disabilities may need specific technology in order to access learning.
Different personal expectations Students have different expectations about how they should participate, complete the work, the desirable qualities of the work produced, how they should use resources such as reading lists, etc.
These differences are likely to be particularly acute in this new learning environment. It is important to be clear and explicit about how the teaching will be delivered, what the objectives are, what is expected of the students, and how the feedback will be given.
No two students are the same
They vary in academic backgrounds, learning styles, levels of motivation, personalities, and cultures.
Each time a new group of students is organized, it is key to find out if there is any information about disabilities, mental health or special educational needs, because it will be essential to make adjustments to the planning and implementation of the course.
The added problem of distance
Keep in mind that distance and / or isolation can make it difficult for students to engage in their learning. For postgraduate students who are accustomed to exclusively face-to-face training and therefore to moving around intense social environments, the sudden change can alter study patterns and practices and their level of motivation.
A personal word of encouragement and an acknowledgment of these feelings can make a big difference.
Talking with students at the beginning of the course about what interests them the most in terms of subject matter, so that these preferences can be incorporated into teaching, is likely to foster greater engagement and a sense of togetherness.
Teachers must find out personal interests
It is a very important policy to systematize the interests of graduate students, to know from each student what issues they are interested in, and then try to include each of these topics throughout the course, either in ordinary classes or in special seminars. This means that the course incorporates the diverse interests of the group and that students see themselves as co-creators in designing the curriculum.
Live session backup
Make sure that “live” online sessions are supported by learning materials provided in advance. This can include handouts, PowerPoint slides, and details of the exercises to be done.
It is also good practice to provide a plan for the session in advance (for example, a set of questions to discuss or a list of topic areas to cover). This will allow students to prepare and be ready to contribute, and is useful for those who have to miss or cannot contribute to the session due to a poor internet connection or time zone difference.
By planning some discussions to take place through discussion forums, or by setting up exercises for students to carry out outside of the tutorial or class, independently or collaboratively (for example, students could collaborate on a document from Google where they can see others’ responses over time), makes remote learning more resilient, and adds structure and variety to self-study.