Online Degrees vs Going to Uni
Which option is right for you?
The prospects for studying for a degree by distance learning are increasing and courses are delivered primarily through the internet. Online degrees are the perfect solution for some students while others prefer the interaction and experience of studying at a campus and living independently. If the option appeals to you but you aren’t sure, it’s a good idea to look in detail and some of the advantages and disadvantages of both options.
What’s good about doing an online degree?
- It’s very flexible. You study at home to your own timetable and you can access course materials, tutor videos and lectures on the internet to suit your other commitments. This makes online degrees perfect for mature students who maybe want to combine study with family life or a full-time or part-time job.
- You aren’t necessarily tied to the academic year. Some online degree courses have variable start dates and some are available all year round.
- You can save money. Online study is not free and it’s not necessarily cheap, but it is not as costly as going to university full time. You can get tuition fee loans for online study through an accredited university such as the Open University and the University of London International Programme.
- By gaining a degree through online study you demonstrate to potential employers that you are an independent and motivated worker.
What are the downsides of studying online?
- You can feel isolated and it can be hard to maintain the momentum you need to complete the course and do well. It takes a lot of drive to keep going, working through the course materials and completing all the assignments when it’s just you doing the course.
- You are at the mercy of your internet connection – and your computer. If either fails you can suffer a setback and may even have trouble meeting your coursework deadlines. Try to plan in a backup – an old laptop and a local coffee shop with free WiFi if all else fails.
- It’s not as much fun as going to university, where you get to mix with other students, live away from home and enjoy the social life. It may suit you to study at home if you get plenty of people interaction at work but if you are doing a full-time online degree, make sure you take up any offers of face-to-face meetings or tutorials that are part of your course. Even webinars and discussion groups will allow you to get some support from tutors and fellow students.
- If you are combining an online degree and work, you may feel exhausted and ‘at work’ most of the time. It’s important to build in some time to do sports, relaxation or just to have fun.
The pros of going to uni
- Whether you live at home and attend a local university or you live on campus and away from home, going to uni provides an experience that goes way beyond your coursework. You get to discuss issues and interact with other students, gain independence, make new friends and change your whole outlook on life. Some people would argue that the real value of university is the way it trains and widens your mind, not the increased job prospects that may come with your degree.
- You move from living at home to being more independent, but within a fairly safe and protected environment.
- Your degree may be more accepted by potential employers – online degrees that are offered or accredited by recognised institutions should count the same – but some employers are slow to accept new ideas.
- You get the opportunity to meet and get to know new people – friends and potential contacts who may be valuable to your future job prospects. This is particularly true if you do a degree with some sort of industrial placement.
- If you move to a large city, you will be able to enjoy all the cultural, sporting and leisure facilities on offer, right on your doorstep.
The cons of campus life
- The size of your student debt is the major disadvantage. Going to university in the UK will leave you with a debt of up to £27,000 for tuition fees and perhaps another £15,000 to £20,000 for your living costs over 3 years. Paying it back is not as tough as you might think but the debt after doing an online degree from home will be around £11,000 to £15,000 in total.
- You may be homesick, you may not enjoy living in a basic student room, you may find it difficult to live with other students and you might not like attending regular lectures when and where you are told.
- You are more likely to have lectures and tutorials and seminars in large groups – online study feels more like one-to-one with your tutors and meetings are usually for small groups.