22 August 2009

Schedule Constraints

Among prospective students that I have interviewed, the most significant schedule impediment to continued education is work. This is not to say that work is considered more important than family, education, and other matters, but it is often the least flexible factor in a person's life.

For example, some people work in service industries as sales clerks, waiters, baristas, and such jobs. The businesses they work for need staff who can be available to work flexible hours and who can be called in for extraordinary shifts when others are sick or attending to other important matters in their own lives. For this reason, such workers cannot commit to an in-class course requiring attendance at, say 9 to 11 a.m. on three set mornings (or 2 to 4 p.m. on afternoons) each week during a semester.

Other people carry out irregular shift work. For example, one local mine employs staff who work alternating, week-long, day or night shifts. So given workers might leave for the mine at about 5 in the morning and return twelve hours later while working day shifts. Shifts begin on Wednesday mornings and continue to the following Tuesday evening, then that shift's workers have a full week off, after which they often work for a week at night, leaving for the mine at 5 p.m. each evening and returning twelve hours later. For such people, any class time set by the university would be impossible for mine workers to commit to.

In light of the educational needs of such people and the fact that online options are the only realistic ones open to them, Paradox hopes to offer a flexible service of meetings that would work around irregular schedules of this type. It is hoped that several mine employees who work on the same shift would decide to take online courses together and get face-to-face support from Paradox to give them greater security in their learning experience. Similarly, it is hoped that employees at local businesses would sign up for online courses, depending on Paradox to supply individualized help where needed and group sessions where possible in a sort of "University-After-Hours" setting that would restore the social dimension of learning that so many people find so satisfying about higher education.

In these situations, Paradox offers a more-flexible alternative to in-class university courses, but also a more local, face-to-face setting for people who need or desire a more social experience in education than would be typically offered by distance education courses.


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