Online and Distance Learning Masters Courses

Your student guide to online and distance learning masters degree courses

If you are thinking about masters courses, you may be ready to go for a distance learning degree. If you are thinking about this type of course, you may find these ideas helpful.

What is the difference between a distance learning masters degree or online course and a campus-based course?

On a distance or online learning course, you will generally work from home for all or some of the time. The main parts of the course, and the academic support happen online and email, with some material by post. Additional private study to do at home is necessary. A campus-based masters course usually means the main parts of the masters course delivered on campus with lectures and seminars. You will mix campus activities with personal study in the library or at home.

Is it better to do an online masters courses or a campus based masters?

There are many high quality online learning masters courses delivered across the UK. The answer to this question depends on your circumstances. Family ties and work restrictions mean that you can study at a university and be in another country. The current restrictions caused by the Covid 19 virus means a lot of masters courses are now available online.

A Blended Learning model is the teaching method in online degrees. The benefits of individual study in your own time are blended with a small amount of contact with staff and other students. Elements of the course are taught in intensive sessions, usually at weekends on campus. They are planned at key times of the year, normally at the end of a teaching block of modules before the new session starts. Course tutors find that having these intensive short sessions can be really valuable, as they help consolidate the knowledge shared and give students a boost for the coming semester.

Is there more flexibility with an online or distance learning masters course?

Many people choose to study an online course because it fits in better round home life, allowing time to study. You have to be very self motivated to make sure you set the time aside. Individual course elements still have to be completed at particular times so there may be a limit to the flexibility.

What kind of study and other support is offered for distance and online masters courses?

Support may be offered by the tutor, or sometimes the course administrator, online - but it may not be available all day every day, so if that is important to you, you would need to check with the university the levels of support and when they are available. You could also ask current students how good the response times are if they have questions or difficulties, and what types of support are offered, whether they are one to one or in groups, and how much is by messaging online, or by face time.

Will I save money with a distance learning or online masters course?

The course fees for these courses are often the same as or similar to comparable campus-based masters courses. You may save on travel and accommodation, and other living costs you might have had with a campus-based course. It's wise to check out the full costs of the courses you are considering as there may still be times when you are required to stay on campus or elsewhere to complete the course - is this included in the course fees?

Is there funding available for this type of course?

The good news for many UK and EU students is that that Postgraduate Masters Loan Scheme covers this type of course, so if you are eligible for the loan you would be able to use it to help you cover the cost for this course, but you would have to meet the eligibility criteria. Individual universities may also make bursaries or scholarships available for these courses but it would be on a case by case basis.

Will I have contact with other students on a distance learning or masters course?

This is likely to depend on how the course is run and what types of contact are made available to you, which is likely to be online. If taking part in debate and discussion in seminars is important to you, it's a good thing to find out how each course handles this aspect - it will vary from course to course.

Questions to ask the University

How is this course delivered? Is it all online, or is some of the content delivered in person on campus? How is academic and other support offered during the course, and who by? How is academic and social contact with other students managed during the course? What kind of jobs have students who have done this course gone on to do? Check out the social media presence of these courses or student groups as well, and see if you can access them before applying.

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