Online learning – is it the answer for you?

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The increased popularity of online and distance learning has made the dream of further education a reality for thousands of students.

Depending on your learning style completing an online degree course could be your perfect way to study. For example, some students enjoy the interaction and social aspect of on-campus learning, whilst others would prefer webinars and discussion boards over time in the Student Union bar.

Of course, with anything, there are pros and cons of both options – here are the highs and lows of online learning to help you choose whether it’s right for you:

So, what’s great about online learning?

  • It’s flexible
    Online learning allows you to access your course materials anytime, anywhere providing you have a laptop or other device and an internet connection. You can fit learning around your life rather than the other way around.
  • It’s easy to access
    As we said above, as long as you have a laptop, PC, mobile phone, or tablet computer and an internet connection you should be able to access your course materials from anywhere.
  • You aren’t tied to the academic year
    Many online courses don’t follow the same timetable as the traditional academic year and some can be started at any time that suits you.
  • You can earn whilst you learn
    The main advantage of the courses being so flexible is that you can usually work at least part-time whilst you’re studying. This may be a great option for mature students or those with other financial commitments.
  • You’ll save money
    As well as being able to earn whilst you learn you’ll usually find that online courses work out to be cheaper than going to university. For example, you won’t have accommodation or commuting costs to worry about.
  • It’s good for your CV
    Online learning is a more “hands-off” style of learning than attending a university. By completing an online degree you’ll be demonstrating to employers that you’re an independent, self-motivated worker.
  • You’ll spend minimal time in the classroom
    Another key bonus of online learning is that you’ll have minimal time spent in the classroom. Some courses require you to attend a few seminars in person and others can be completed entirely online without ever needing to set foot on campus.

Great! But what are the downsides of online learning?

  • You can feel isolated
    Although you’ll be able to talk to other students online using forums and chat rooms there may not be opportunities to meet in person. You could be studying with students from all over the world, so you won’t be able to meet each other for coffee!
  • You need to be very self-motivated
    As we said above, without seeing other students on a regular basis you’ll need to be very self-motivated to keep the momentum going during your course. If you’re a procrastinator, this might not be the right option for you.
  • You’ll need to be tech savvy
    The whole concept of online learning is that the course is completed using modern technology, so if your IT skills aren’t up to scratch you might struggle with some aspects of your degree.
  • There’s still stigma surrounding online learning
    Some of the top universities in the world are now offering courses online but you may find that there is still some stigma attached to completing an online course rather than attending a university in the traditional way.
  • You might feel “at work” all the time
    If you’re combining earning with learning you might start to feel like you never get a break. It’s important to build some relaxation and downtime into your schedule so you don’t burnout.