Accessibility statement

Our approach to learning

Information for prospective students

Our approach to e-learning is distinctive and may be different from your general perceptions about this mode of study. The structure of the course and the support available are highlights of the way we do online study here at York.

“Very participatory and really fun! I’ve already recommended [the course] to lots of people.” (Ifeoma Nwakamam, Nigeria)

Key points

The key points about our approach are:

  • These are not self-study programmes which leave you on your own. You will be part of an active learning community with regular contacts and activities.

  • While the e-based approach means that our programmes are very flexible - you can study them anywhere and at any time - they also involve a structured approach to learning. You will be asked to take part in some tasks and activities each week.

  • A key part of this weekly study pattern is a weekly discussion topic. You can join in with this discussion at any time during the week to suit you: you never have to be online at the same time as other people. You will join in with the discussions by posting your comments in a discussion forum. The forums are very simple and easy to use. They provide a reflective and supportive environment, providing all the benefits of studying as part of a community but without having to be in a physical classroom or even online at the same time as other people.

  • As well as interacting with your fellow students in the forums, you will also have regular and structured contact with a dedicated and friendly academic and administrative team at York.

  • The programmes are situated within a Virtual Learning Environment. This is a very convenient and user-friendly integrated website that provides access to study resources, discussion forums, the University of York Electronic Library and your University email account.

“The online experience was extremely positive with weekly group discussions, prompt feedback from tutors, and a vessel for great friendships opportunities. The online experience compares to none. You are never considered a number by York University!” (Lawrence Buhagiar, Consul General of the Republic of Malta in New South Wales, Australia)

Studying on a module: how it works in practice

Each module lasts for nine weeks. The module is structured into weekly units, each of which addresses a theme or topic. Within each of these weekly units you will:

  • Read the module text that has been written for that unit. 

  • Read up to three articles or chapters from books that have been chosen to support the unit topic (known as 'Core Readings'). These are available online via the programmes' Virtual Learning Environment.

  • Take part in an individual or group activity within your tutorial group - a group of between 10 and 15 other students whom you join within the module discussion forums. You join in here by posting your comments on the discussion topic, reading the comments of your fellow students and replying to them, all guided by the module tutor. Each unit discussion lasts for a total of two weeks, and you are encouraged to join in as often as possible during this period in order to get the full benefit from and value of these discussions. Participation in each of the unit discussions is one of the requirements of studying on the programme. 

  • Overall then, the reading that is set for each week is the equivalent of the lecture in a traditional course, while the discussion forum is the equivalent of the campus-based seminar or tutorial.

Study resources

The programmes have been designed to provide you with:

  • Comprehensive, specially selected study resources.

  • Access to the University of York’s Electronic Library from which you can select further material to follow up your interests and deepen your understanding. The Library holds approximately 100 electronic journals that are relevant to the themes covered in the programme, offering thousands of freely available articles.

  • Study skills advice. This is provided via a central area of the programme’s Virtual Learning Environment.

“The degree has had a very positive impact on not only my knowledge base with regards to development but also my employability.” (Mandipa Machacha, Human Rights Consultant, Botswana)

The York Team

A key feature of our programmes is the availability and quality of support that we offer - whether academic, administrative or technical. You will be supported by:

  • The module tutor. The tutor’s role is to guide you during the module. This includes facilitating the weekly discussion forums, offering individual support via email and also the option of a telephone call each term.

  • A personal supervisor. Your supervisor’s role is to provide ongoing academic and pastoral support during all of your time on the programme. Your supervisor is the person you would go to for advice about study skills technique, to review your progress in general or to request a break from your studies. Your supervisor will contact you regularly but you can also email them at any time, and can also request a telephone call.

  • A dedicated support team who deal with any administrative or technical enquiries.

  • The University's distance learning support, with information and help about studying, resources, and networking. Find out more.

Find out more on our consideration of previous experience through our recognition of prior learning policy.