If you are starting to think about applying to study a Masters then you may already have decided that you are interested in completing a course online. This would mean that you would not be on campus for the duration of your studies. If you are thinking about this type of course, you may find the below points helpful in deciding if online learning is the right method of study for you.

What is the difference is between an online Masters and a campus-based one?

With online Masters programmes you will be working from home for the duration of your programme. The components of the course, as well as the academic support, will be online. This means that lectures and seminars will be hosted on an online platform for you to log in and take part with everyone else. However, there is flexibility with this as some lectures are pre-recorded so you can watch these back at a more suitable time for you. 

So everything is online?

For the majority of online courses, the answer is yes. Every aspect of your studies will be undertaken online. However it is worth checking with each course what the exact course set up is. If you think that spending no time on campus would not be something you enjoy, then studying distance learning might be more suitable instead as this method of study allows some campus-based activity throughout the academic year.

If I’m not on campus, what kind of support is offered for online learning courses?

Even though you won’t be on campus, there will still be support offered to you. This could be in the form of a tutor, but sometimes may be the programme administrator and will mostly be online or via email. However it may mean that support isn’t available every single day, so you should check this with the university. If taking part in debates and discussions in seminars is important to you, it’s a good thing to find out how each course handles this aspect as it will generally be via an online platform.

You could also ask current students how good the response times are if they have questions or difficulties and find out what types of support are offered. Current students will be able to give you a good idea of how much time is allocated to this per week, and if it’s all online or if there is the option to have telephone or skype support sessions with tutors.

Peer support is also a great tool to utilise with online learning and the use of online forums and social group chats, such as WhatsApp and Facebook, can help you bounce ideas off other students in the same situation.  Groups such as this not only help you academically and answer any queries, but also help to alleviate any isolation you may feel as an online learner.

I’m working alongside studying, is there flexibility with an online learning course?

Many people choose to study a Masters online because it fits in better around their home life. This allows you to study when you have the time to do so, and that can be a big advantage of these types of courses. So if you are in employment and can only study in the evenings or weekends then an online learning programme allows you the opportunity to do this. However, it does mean that you have to be self-motivated to make sure you set the time aside to work on your coursework and not fall behind.

Completing a Masters online may even make you more desirable to employers, as it demonstrates you can clearly juggle a variety of commitments and succeed at doing so.

Do I need any specific equipment to studying an online course?

You will be studying in a non-educational environment, most likely your own home. It’s important to be prepared to undertake academic work in the same way you would in a university library. You will most definitely need a PC/laptop with fast and reliable internet connection that is also affordable. You may not be on campus, but you are still a student so take advantage of any student offers you can find! Online learning offers great flexibility and autonomy but can become very frustrating if your IT lets you down. Regularly saving and backing up your work is important, especially when it comes to dissertation time.

Will I save money with an online course?

You may save some money on travel and accommodation by studying online. It is also possible you could save money on other day-to-day living costs that you would need to spend with a campus-based course. It’s advisable to check out the full costs of the courses you are considering before applying to make sure it is financially viable.

Can I get funding for studying a course with distance learning?

For many UK and EU students the Postgraduate Masters Loan Scheme, which was introduced in the summer of 2016, 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. You can find information about this on Masters Compare.

Individual universities may also make bursaries or scholarships available for these courses but it would be on a course by course basis. You can search for Masters Scholarships and Funding opportunities on Postgraduate Studentships. You can also search Postgraduate Studentships for Charities and Trusts with scholarships and funding available for postgraduate students.

Many universities offer an alumni discount, so it might be worth checking with the university you completed your undergraduate qualification with if this is available. Not all universities will offer this discount, and not all will offer it for courses that aren’t taught on campus so it’s worth checking with the university.

Can I still visit a Postgraduate Open Day if I want to study from a distance?

Of course, in fact it’s recommended you do just that! The best way to discover if an online programme is right for you is to speak to the university you’re interested in qualifying with. They will be able to provide you with all the information you need to help you make your decision. You can attend an Open Day on campus, or even a virtual event online where staff will answer your questions. You can take a look of the upcoming Open Days here.

What information should I get from the University?

It’s important to get as much information as you can before undertaking a course online and the best place to get this information if from the university you are interested in studying with. Whether it’s the admissions department, a tutor or a programme administrator or fellow student, asking questions will help you to decide if this is the right method of study. You could also check out the social media presence of these courses or student groups before you apply and see if you can gain any insight before applying.

Questions to consider asking:

  1. How is this course delivered?
  2. How is academic and other support offered during the course, and who by?
  3. How is academic and social contact with other students managed during the course?
  4. What kind of jobs have students who have completed this course gone on to do?