Topic ID #29959 - posted 10/12/2013 4:39 PM

Leicester Distance Learning (initial impressions)



mselheimer

I have seen some rather old postings about the Leicester distance learning program and thought I would provide a current viewpoint.

I recently applied to the MA program in the Classical Mediterranean and was admitted with the additional requirement to complete a Level 2 bridging module. It's been quite a few years since I completed my BA degree and post-bacc (1994 and 1995, respectively) so I thought this was a reasonable request and agreed to the conditional acceptance with the bridging module requirement.

The course I am taking is the Age of Augustus, which is perfect since Roman history and archaeology was my focus in undergrad and where I would like to keep my focus in the MA program.

So far, the interactions with support staff have been excellent with prompt follow ups via email as well as interactions over the phone to complete my enrollment and arrange payment. Materials were sent DHL overnight and I have been very pleased with them so far. The course includes two textbooks (Eck's Age of Augustus and Zanker's Power of Images in the Age of Augustus). The workbook directs students to read additional primary sources freely available online (at Lacus Curtius) and also includes a number of excepts and photocopies of additional primary and secondary sources. Finally, some readings are available online through the University library (e.g. JSTOR articles). 

I have just completed the first week's readings and found them to be very comprehensive and on point. This is a period of Roman history that I know well and have continued to study on my own, so while I am familiar with it at a good level of detail, there are some primary sources I have not read before (e.g. Paterculus, Appian). The workbook is well organized for weekly study, includes discussion around the theme for each week as well as commentaries about the readings, and also ends each week with a few study questions (and suggested responses in the back for each).

Finally, there is a Blackboard site for the course to enable interaction with other students and tutors. I have been able to log onto Blackboard successfully, but it seems the University staff forgot to associate the course with my account so that part is not yet available for access. I've sent them an email today to have it corrected and will provide an update when it's fixed and how long it took.

To summarize, I have been very impressed so far with the quality of the course materials, and while there is no substitute for in-class discussion with a professor and fellow students, I feel I am getting a very good experience and quality education so far. The ability to take the course while working full-time is very convenient.

I will post a couple more times about the course, including my experiences with the written assignments and grading.




Post ID#20293 - replied 10/20/2013 4:31 PM



MATrickett

Have you considered a technology-facilitated classroom environment?  While I would imagine that such things--Google Hangouts, Facetime, Webinar meeting rooms etc.--are difficult to organise because of different time zones, more so if one wanted to get the professor/lecturer involved, it might offer a bit more of the "classroom environment" without the class?

Post ID#20299 - replied 10/26/2013 9:03 AM



mselheimer

Most important to me was that the instructors/curriculum were of high quality and the program is accredited. Leicester seems to fit that well. I'm busy working full time so even if there were more options for Google Hangouts and the like I probably wouldn't be able to participate in them regularly, and if it was required it would have affected my grade.

Regarding my first post, the Leicester team had my course updated in the Blackboard application within one business day of my logging the help request.

So far the readings continue to be top notch including current scholarship (it's clear the workbook has been kept current by the selection of readings) and the discussion sections help to elucidate where there are current debates among scholars as well.

I continue to be pleased with the course.

Post ID#20300 - replied 10/26/2013 10:25 AM



Dwarmour

That's good to know.  Questions regarding this program occasionally pop up and its good to have some reviews.  Anything you may not like about how the program is administered?

Post ID#20341 - replied 11/16/2013 10:11 AM



mselheimer

A quick update that I turned in the first assignment for the course this week -- a 1,500 word source criticism.

Two passages were given to select from: 

1. Augustus' Res Gestae 5-6
2. Suetonius Life of Augustus 34

Guidelines for proper formatting, best practices for source criticisms, and how to submit assignments online were easily accessible through Blackboard and submitting the assignment electronically was not an issue. I am now awaiting the marks.

Additionally, as I've gotten further into the workbook, there have been more readings required that need to be accessed through the University library or JSTOR. I've had no difficulty accessing what I need, although, I would say someone who is a new undergrad might have needed some assistance from the distance learning team. But since I have taken master's level work before, it wasn't any issue for me to login, do the right queries and access what I needed. 

Post ID#20402 - replied 1/24/2014 6:36 PM



mselheimer

Here's a final update on the course.

I received the marks for my first assignment about two weeks after it was submitted. The feedback was comprehensive with both a summary sheet that had various categories of feedback (general comments, content, discussion and analysis, justification for mark, referencing/bibliography/presentation, points for further consideration) and a commented/marked up version of my assignment in word format. The comments were useful and I followed up with the course coordinator to clarify a couple of them and he was very responsive. The coordinator for the program holds a Ph.D. from Cambridge by the way and was not a teaching assistant.

The second assignment was an essay of 3,000 words intended to illustrate substantial learning from the course. There were about a dozen essay questions to choose from. The assignment was read by another member of the faculty, also carrying a Ph.D. The feedback included another summary sheet with the same headings as well as a marked up/commented version of my assignment.

All in all, I felt the course was very effective for a self-motivated learner with quality materials, good online library access, and Ph.D. level course tutors available for questions and who provided useful feedback.

I am looking forward to starting the MA next month.

Post ID#20404 - replied 1/27/2014 6:32 AM



artemis


Hello, I am new here and just read your post. I looked up the university and discovered it is in the UK. Is this the same university you are referencing? I am in the US and am wondering if this might create compatibility issues with computer programs, time differences, etc. I am rather excited at the prospect of online learning for archeology but it really sounds too good to be true.....

Post ID#20436 - replied 2/15/2014 11:42 AM



mselheimer

Artemis,

Yes, Leicester is in the UK.

The program is not an online program. For each module you receive a workbook broken into study units. Each study unit includes a set of assigned readings and written discussion around the topics raised in the readings. The readings are provided via textbooks mailed with the workbook and online eBooks and journal articles (available through the Leicester University library website or through the university's blackboard site -- only accessible by currently enrolled students; you can also request materials that are available in hard copy only be lent to you, although I have not found that to be necessary so far for any of the assigned readings).

Because our professional careers as archaeologists and faculty focus on writing as a benchmark of academic proficiency, each module includes two assignments, which are written (there are no traditional exams). At the post-graduate level, the written assignments are usually 3,000 words mid-course and 5,000 words at the end of the course. There is a tutor assigned to each module that you can email with should you have any questions or problems during the course as well as to converse about the assignments prior to turning them in. You can also arrange phone appointments with your tutor. So far all my tutors have been full-time faculty holding Ph.D.s (no TAs). Their feedback on assignments has been detailed and helpful.

I have not noticed any issues with the time difference. Normally, I email and receive a reply within 24-48 hours. There are no online discussions required, so you don't need to worry about the time difference there, although there is an online discussion forum available. The activity on the forums is pretty light.

The best way to view this is that it is a guided self-study program, more or less an individual study with tutor support. The quality of the faculty and staff at Leicester are top rate (take a look at their bios on the department website here: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/archaeology/people)

I am very pleased with the quality of the program so far and the flexibility that it provides to continuing my education. If you are looking for more of a classroom or traditional online experience then I would say this isn't a good fit. There is one module that is a study tour where you do spend two weeks in locations in the Mediterranean with staff and other students.

Hope this was helpful and if you have further questions, don't hesitate to ask or contact the distance learning coordinator at: artshumsdl@le.ac.uk

Matt

Post ID#20437 - replied 2/15/2014 3:41 PM



mselheimer

By the way, I forgot to say that I am in the US too. US English is acceptable for the assignments, so you don't need to worry about spelling.

The only thing that will be different is the grading system. It's numerical and not letter grade, and quite different from the US. For example a 70+ is basically an A with 60-69 being the equivalent of a B. You can google search to get lots of tables from different schools that translate US and UK university grading systems.

Post ID#20554 - replied 9/8/2014 11:50 PM



archaeologist1840

One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet on this thread is leave of absence. In the MA program, you are allowed to take a total of 12 months leave and this can be broken up in to 4 month blocks as the classes always start in February, June, and October. You just have to finish the particular module that you are in and cannot take a leave in the middle of the module. Also, the maximum time limit for the entire program is 4 years.

One thing that I have seen some people ask on these forums is whether the MA program is accepted for employment here in the U.S. I can tell you that the first thing I did before I even applied for this program is that I called the RPA in Baltimore, MD and asked them about whether they accept a degree from this school towards qualifying for the RPA license/certification. They said that they have about 12 people per year that apply with a degree from that institution and that they are already familiar with the program and that it is fully accepted. Furthermore, the RPA does not require a copy of your entire thesis but only requests the table of contents.

Post ID#20582 - replied 11/6/2014 3:24 PM



adtarr


I have been lurking on the site for a while and reading all of the info I can regarding the University of Leicester.  I would really like any feedback on this potential course of action I am going to embark on.

First, I am employed full time within the federal government and my pursuits will not be relied on for supporting my family.  Also, my current career has nothing to do with archaeology and I am in Colorado.

I have also never attended college and have close to 20 years in my current profession. I have always been very interested in archaeology and would like to pursue formal education and attend field schools to participate in mostly a volunteer capacity in future field work.

I am leaning towards the University of Leicester undergraduate distance education program with the plan to attend field schools one or two times a year until the degree is completed.  At which point I may pursue the MA and continue with the field schools a couple times a year.

Eventually once my education is done I would like to participate on digs and further research as my time allows and possibly work as a full time volunteer when my time in the government is done.

Does this sound feasible?  Should I look for a US based online undergrad program? Any thoughts or ideas on this plan would be greatly appreciated. I am looking at starting the undergrad program this Spring and becoming part of the archaeology community.

Thanks, Adam

Post ID#20585 - replied 11/21/2014 12:54 PM



MATrickett

Hi Adam.

Apologies to the OP if this constitutes "thread-jacking," but I thought that I would take a quick second to respond to this.

First, let me say that if you're interested in volunteering in archaeology you can already do that without any education in archaeology. There are a number of programmes out there that support volunteer participation, though many of them are donation-based, i.e., you pay money. At the very least it might be sufficient to further wet your appetite.

Second, on the volunteer and education front, have you looked into archaeology societies that may be present in your state? For example, in the state that I currently live you can check out the Archaeology Society of Virginia (ASV). In some cases the practical education you can receive in accreditation through such programs can rival and surpass the more generalised education that one might receive in a traditional college/university programme for anthropology/archaeology. 

Third, don't forget about online education tools. While MOOCs can sometimes be a bit difficult to motivate yourself for, especially the asynchronous ones, they can be a great way of dipping your feet into the archaeological world. Just without the mud.

With that off my chest, to answer your question what you're suggesting is entirely feasible and, more, entirely reasonable as you're not looking into adopting a career in archaeology. (As Paul Bahn suggests: "Archaeology: a career in ruins from the start.") With the career-seeking aspect out of the way many of the traditional arguments against distance-based learning, and a UK-based education for a US-resident, tend to fall by the wayside. Here more mundane matters such as how much out of pocket you're going to be might come to the fore, in which case UoLeicester is quite appealing. 

Advantages for the UoLeicester degree over an American-based DL course include but are not limited to:
  • Cheap. The cost of a BA is quite reasonable, all things said and done, and broken up into manageable chunks (~$1,500 per installment, ~$21,000 total).
  • Course materials. As far as I know, Leicester sends out core reading materials.
  • Focused. If you're interested primarily in archaeology, the UoL course might make more sense than taking a traditional four-field American degree where you're splitting it between cultural, linguistic, and physical anthro.
I maybe a little biased, though. Leicester is where I received my BSc. from those many moons ago and I've worked with a number of the people there. My wife also received her MA in Museum Studies by DL from there.

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