Attending university is a big step for many people. But it’s not just about obtaining a high-level education and earning a degree. For many young people, it may be the first time they have lived away from their parents, and it gives them a valuable opportunity to meet new people and become independent.
However, for others, attending a university in person is not a viable option. There can be various reasons for this, such as being unable to relocate. This is where distance learning programs can save the day, allowing people to study remotely for an online degree.
Here we look at some important things to consider when assessing your online learning options and choosing distance learning programs.
Is the online program accredited?
Employers are looking for people with certified degrees, and you can only get those from accredited courses and universities. So, you first need to check whether the programs offered by the universities you’re interested in are recognised.
One leading online university is The Open University. It is recognised globally and has many online degrees in over 40 subjects.
Does the university have a good reputation?
Any accredited online degree is much better than having no degree at all. But an online degree from a respected university is even better. When applying for jobs or seeking to further your career, a university with a good reputation will stand out.
Highly respected British universities offering distance learning programs include:
- The University of Edinburgh has more than 80 online programs.
- The University of Manchester has over 40 online programs, although some are “blended” learning, meaning you will need to spend some time on location.
- The University of Birmingham has almost 100 online postgraduate and undergraduate degrees.
How much does it cost?
When choosing a distance learning program, it’s important to ensure you get good value for money. Thankfully, by studying from home, you will already be reducing your overall costs. But online degrees still cost money, so it’s important to find out how much you will need to pay. For example:
- The University of Edinburgh — course fees range from £2,285 to £23,000, with many courses priced at the £5,735 mark.
- The University of Manchester — typically £4,000-£5,000 for PG Cert, £8,000-£10,333 for PG Dip, and £12,000-£15,500 for M.Sc.
- The University of Birmingham — £9,660 for PG Dip, £14,007 for M.Sc.
However, there will still be other additional costs to keep in mind. There may be study materials, computer equipment and software to pay for.
For example, let’s say your course requires that you give a video presentation. You are probably going to need to edit the video. One solution is to edit your video with Movavi. Other options include Veed.io, ClipChamp, and Canva, so you may want to check those out too.
How flexible is the distance learning program?
One reason you might prefer to opt for distance learning over being taught on campus is the flexibility it will give you. For example, you might be planning to combine your study with a full-time job, or you may need to fit it around family responsibilities.
Some online study programs are more flexible than others, though, so consider the following questions when deciding:
- Is there a fixed schedule of online classes, or can you attend at times that suit you?
- Is there a set time period in which you need to complete the course?
- Is the course fully online, or is it a blended course involving some on-campus time?
If you opt for a blended learning course, it might be best to pick a university that is not too far away. For example, if you live in London but need to travel to Edinburgh every time you are required on campus, that could take its toll eventually, both in terms of time and travel costs.
Does the university make good use of technology?
A distance learning program will rely heavily on technology. These will vary between universities, so it’s worth finding out what technology each university uses.
- The University of Edinburgh uses the popular Blackboard app, which is available on Android and iOS and has an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars from over 380,000 ratings.
- The Open University uses the popular open-source LMS Moodle.
- The University of Manchester has a webpage full of details of all the online learning technology they use. These include VoiceThread, Bb Collaborate, Zoom, and MS Teams.
- The University of Birmingham also has a webpage detailing the learning technology they use. These include Panopto, PebblePad, and Canvas Conference (Big Blue Button).
If you are new to the many different online learning tools out there, you may want to check out this list of the top 30 distance learning tools. It’s worth noting that Moodle and Blackboard are both on the list.
What student support services are provided?
So, you have decided what you want to study and picked a distance learning program with a university you are happy with. You are all set to go, right?
Well, there is something else worth considering. What student support services does the university provide? For example:
- If you need technical support to ensure you can take part in the course properly, is that readily available?
- If you need general support with your course, is there someone you can easily contact? And do they respond quickly?
- Is there any career advice to help students plan their career trajectories?
So, there you go. If you want to go to university, you don’t actually need to go to university as such. You can study for your degree from home and fit it around your other responsibilities.
You just need to make sure you choose the right distance learning program from all the many options out there. This means ensuring it is an accredited program from a respected university, that the course is flexible, makes good use of technology, and has good student support. Oh, and you need to be aware of how much it will cost, too.
But once you have decided on your chosen course at your preferred university, you still need to keep some other things in mind. You may want to check out our guide to how to cope with online university or our 5 remote study tips to improve your grades.
Whatever course and university you choose, we wish you the very best with your studies.