This distance learning method is a unique online experience where students use the Internet as the main means of study, communication and presentation. It allows you to enrol at leading academic institutions and earn a world class degree all from the comfort of your own home and has many advantages and also some disadvantages over traditional university based degree courses. At it's core all online studying is about creating a personalized online learning space for students that allows them remote access to learning materials.
Online universities offer students a flexible means of studying that enables them to obtain a degree qualification without infringing too much on their social commitments. New online technologies, along with social media and changing attitudes to distance learning have meant that more and more students are completing their programmes online. With the proliferation of the internet and broadband across the UK and indeed the world, it is now possible and practical to take all levels of higher education courses online, from MBA and masters right the way through to BA / BSc (Hons).
Apart from the online aspect the degrees earned holds the exact high academic standards, weight and prestige as traditional campus based qualifications. To the extent that upon completion students are invited to a graduation ceremony along with their family and friends just like any other degree course.
How are online degree courses taught
Some courses have lectures or classes that have to be held in a synchronous way, meaning that you must take online at the same time as other students. This will allow you to participate in a live real time chat and have a virtual classroom experience. All of these online communication tools will help to ensure that you never feel like you are studying alone. Other learning resources include;
Having an online tutor who will also act as a mentor.
Webcam videos of lectures.
Being contacted via message boards or email.
Online classroom discussions where you can exchange ideas and experiences.
Actively take part in real-time conversations and you can listen to, and view, live lectures and seminars over the internet.
Questions to ask a university about their online degree course
It is advisable to do some research into prospective online courses, this way you’ll increase your chances of it being a rewarding experience that really helps your career progression.
Confirm what learning material you will have access to.
Make sure that you have the required tutor and advisor support.
Ask the university if they have a dedicated online learning support team that you can contact when you have questions or queries.
Ask the institution how many years experience they have in delivering successful online study programmes.
Many courses are tutor led and closely replicate traditional classrooms based experiences.
Online education is now becoming a proven model for learning.
No need to spend time or money travelling to classes.
Can study at your own speed and pace.
Allows you to study and work at the same time.
You can be anywhere in the UK, move around or even be abroad.
There are no fixed lecture times, so you can fit it around your family life.
They are ideal for people with physical disabilities or mobility problems and who may find it difficult to attend classes.
Course material is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
You do not have that physical interaction with other students and lecturers that a normal degree would allow you.
As they will not be in a classroom environment students need to be quiet disciplined to ensure they are up to date with their coursework and studies.
There have been cases of obscure online universities offering fake or bogus courses and degrees. It is therefore important that student investigate any academic institutions thoroughly to ensure they are accredited and meet acceptable levels of quality.
What courses can you study on a online degree course
Both undergraduate and postgraduate courses are available, as well as diplomas and more shorter specialised courses.
Where are examinations taken
Exams are normally taken in examinations centres that can be in one of a number of locations. Or instance major international universities that offer online degree courses can have a network of hundreds of examination centres located in various overseas countries and continents.
WHAT SUPPORT DO UNIVERSITIES OFFER HOME BASED STUDENTS
Taking a online degree course does not mean that you will be on your own, many universities offer superb back up and support to help students in any way they can. Universities work hard to ensure that:
Students have a enjoyable and positive online learning experience.
The highest standards of quality, teaching and instructions are maintained.
Tutors can be contacted by phone call or email, and will generally respond promptly to any queries you have or requests you make. In some circumstances you it may even be possible for you to make an appointment to come and see a lecturer or tutor in person. Other types of support include;
Help can only be a click away, send and email to reach dedicated support staff.
Ability to interact with other students and academic staff through online discussion forums.
A personal supervisor being assigned to a student for the duration of the course.
Technical support and advice is available by the universities IT department to help individuals who need assistance using certain software, downloads or have conflicts with their computer.
Links to other online resources, journals, academic literature and other relevant material.
Live webcam conferencing systems with tutors.
Various online tools are provided.
Manned help desks
Many universities have help lines that are usually manned for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week (although its best to confirm the times, as they may vary). Helpful and proactive support staff will be available online and over the phone to answer any questions you have.
These online orientation programmes can help prepare students for taking lectures over the Internet. It will give them an opportunity to experience beforehand the online classroom environment, tutorials and also learning resources.
Having the same library resources as any campus based student.
The online library will allow you to research topics and give you access to extensive study material that you need to complete your assignments. All you will need to access this resource is a username and password.
Universities will regularly send out email that contain lecture notes, course material, discussions and also announcements of any planned online events.
Administrative and career advice
This can also be provided online and over the telephone by the relevant departments.
Technical difficulties with the university website
It is possible that for very short periods of time a part of the university website that you use may be unavailable because of technical or maintenance issues. Fortunately these days this sort of events is very rare and when it does happen is usually rectified very quickly.
These are at the core of many distance learning programmes and are delivered over the Internet by voice, video and screen sharing. Some tutorials are personalised one to one events that are scheduled at regular intervals with tutors, these are excellent for immediate feedback and support. Others are group affairs where a number of people connect at once for a ‘online classroom’ that allows for direct communication with the teacher.
It is worth noting that many distance learning software programmes will keep a record of all the emails and notes exchanged during a online tutorial. These can come in handy later by students or tutors.
Interactive lectures that are online or on CD's
These are DVD’s, CD’s or downloadable interactive multimedia presentations that are used in place of lectures. The programmes can come in volumes and consist of recorded lectures delivered by tutors to students and may include a running commentary and demonstrations. This allows you to read and listen at the same time.
Virtual Learning Environment
VLE software provides students with a number of online resources and can be a replacement or supplement for more traditional face to face classroom activities. Virtual Learning Environments can include any of the following features;
Ability to view the syllabus of the course.
Have a virtual classroom chalkboard.
A notice board for up to date course information.
Access to stored work.
Facility to track progress.
Allows coursework to be monitored by tutors.
Real time communication with other undergraduates in a online classroom environment.