Thursday, 25 July 2013

In praise of review sites

Michael Young
Michael Young 1915 - 2002
Founder of the Consumers' Association and the National Extension College

Informed decisions

How do we go about making choices? How do we pick out a car, a school for our children, or a method of learning as adults?

The key to being able to make good decisions is information and knowledge. The ability to seek information, judge its validity and act on it is an empowering skill, and education can help in this. A well-informed, educated decision is much more likely to turn out to be a correct and better decision, whether that decision centres on product purchases or political strategies.

When you do your research you will check what the manufacturers or providers tell you, but if it is a big or important decision you really need independent advice and the experience of other customers. That is where the idea of consumer reviews comes in.

Power to choose

The initial drive to protect and inform consumers was behind the setting up of the Consumers’ Association in 1957, by none other than Michael Young (Lord Young of Dartington) - the founder of NEC. It was a success from the beginning, attracting 10,000 enrolled members who subscribed to the magazine Which? during its very first month of publication.

Which? provided well-researched, independent reviews of consumer products and services. In fact, a Which? review exposing the shockingly poor quality of some providers of correspondence education in the late 1950s was what led Michael Young to found NEC, to demonstrate that distance learning could be high quality and definitely not the second best provision.

Access to consumer information has been transformed by technology, especially the internet. As consumers we can write our own reviews online and have immediate access to the views of other consumers. Michael Young would have been delighted at the way the internet has put power in the hands of the consumer. He predicted that the rise of the home computer would make this possible.

The importance of communication

At NEC we like to read consumer reviews about us on websites such as The Student Room, because we are always interested in receiving feedback from our students. We are encouraged when that feedback is positive, but negative feedback is just as important to us. We use that feedback to help us analyse and improve our services.

We feel it is vital that our students feel able to talk about their experiences with NEC, so we encourage you to give us feedback. If there was something you really found useful, we would love to know what it was so we can build on it in future. If there was a problem, we equally need to know what it was so that we can take steps to prevent it from happening again.

We believe that transparency of communication and healthy dialogue are key to improving our services and helping us deliver flexible learning opportunities to everyone who needs them. So keep those reviews coming in, and help us to help you get the most out of distance learning.

Getting in touch

Please take time to write reviews, and you can leave us comments through Facebook and Twitter. You can also contact us through our website, where you can find out more about who we are and what we do, along with all the flexible learning opportunities we offer.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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