For many, choosing to go to university is not just about getting a good quality education. It’s about moving away from home, being independent, meeting new people, and learning important life skills.
For others, for various reasons, getting the full ‘on-campus’ experience is not an option. In fact, due to recent developments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and uncertainty over when universities will be open again and safe to attend, more students are considering alternatives to ‘on-campus’ education than ever before.
That’s where online degrees can help. Students can get the education they need right from the comfort of their own home.
The Advantages of An Online Degree
Online degrees are handy for a number of different students. Whether you’re a mature student who needs to fit learning around your job, or a young student carer who wants to continue their education even if they can’t leave home, online degrees can be the perfect solution.
Many students worry that their degree won’t be considered as valuable or worthwhile by future employers, because it was gained online, however this couldn’t be further from the truth. If the university, higher education college or training company providing the degree is a legitimate institution, then it shouldn’t matter to employers how the degree was earned.
Even better news is that more and more universities and colleges are offering high quality online (or distance learning) degrees. There are currently over 450 online and distance learning courses listed right here on Whatuni, in subjects including
, Business , and Medicine . Psychology
But with an increasing number of courses being offered by top-class universities, how to choose which online degree is right for you could be tricky. To help, here’s our guide to all the factors you should consider when choosing your online degree course…
Choose the Right Online Provider
As mentioned, the beauty of online degrees is the fact you can study them from home. You don’t have to up sticks and move to where the university is located.
This means the world is your oyster and you can ‘travel’ anywhere to get quality education, without leaving your front door. You aren’t just limited to studying with a UK university if you don’t want to. You could apply to study an online degree from any university
, if you wished to. across the world
Whatever you decide, it’s worth double checking that the university, college or education company offering the course is a legitimate provider – so that you don’t get scammed. In the UK, you can check which institutions are
. Governments across the world should have similar registers, so do your research before you apply. recognised by the UK government
In the UK, there are institutions that specialise in online degrees, including
and Arden University , but an increasing number of ‘campus’ universities are also beginning to offer online versions of their courses. When researching the best university, it’s worth checking out independent school ranking resource guides, for example The Complete University Guide to see how they The Open University . These rankings will be based on their physical courses, but you can be confident that if their physical courses are of a high standard, their online courses will be too. rank for teaching quality
Think About the Length of Study
The best thing about online degrees is that they can be studied at a pace that suits you, either full-time or part-time, depending on your situation. Whereas a lot of campus-based degrees take around three years to complete, online courses can take between three and six years to complete. Some can even take up to eight years.
You need to consider how much time you can commit to learning and how many years you believe you’ll need to complete your degree and choose a course that gives you enough time.
Don’t forget that while some universities give students studying online degrees more time to complete the course, they often have time limits within which you must complete the course for it to remain valid, so check before you sign up.
Fully Independent vs Blended Learning
A lot of online degree courses are designed for fully independent learning, in that you are given the course learning materials and off you go to study at your own pace. You might be given recordings of lectures or seminars, but that’s the limit to your interaction with the tutors.
However, there are online degree providers that offer ‘Blended learning’, which combines traditional online learning, with more interactive learning experiences. This could involve a combination of self-paced online study with scheduled online classes (in the form of webinars), where you can engage with the tutor and fellow students, or a combination of at-home study and physical attendance at a local study centre (Arden University are known for this approach.)
You will need to consider whether you can commit the time to attend scheduled classes – whether in virtual or physical form and choose a degree that suits your lifestyle.
Methods of Assessment
An important factor in choosing any degree, not just an online one, is how you’ll be assessed. For some online courses, you’ll be assessed through coursework or project-based tasks, whereas others are assessed solely through exams. It’s important to choose a course that assesses you in ways you feel you can perform best in. If exams turn you into a quivering wreck, it might be best to choose a course which isn’t 100% exam assessed.
Note that some online degrees may require you to travel to a test centre or the university campus to take exams, so check this if you are unable to travel anywhere.
Checking out module choices when searching for an online degree is something many students overlook, but it can be crucial to your enjoyment of the course and your future career choices.
For example, a Business degree at one university may be quite different to a Business degree at another university, despite them both being called ‘Business’. That’s because each course might have a focus on a different area of business or may teach you about business in different industries.
It’s important to compare module choices on different courses to see which interest you the most. You should also check out what modules are mandatory and which ones you can elect to take (or not to take) to tailor the learning experience to your needs.
Single or Joint Honours
Can’t choose between two subjects you love? A joint, combined honours, or a Major/Minor online degree might be the perfect solution. These allow you to combine two (or potentially more) subjects into one qualification. On a joint honours course, you study each subject equally, and have the word ‘with’ in their name. On a Major/Minor course, you study one in more depth than the other, and have the word ‘and’ in their name.
Many online degrees are joint honours courses. For example, you could study Criminology on its own, or you could study Criminology and Law, or Criminology and Psychology online. Or you could do Business and Law, or Business and Computing. There are lots of options to explore across all subjects.
Studying an online degree can be a lonely experience, but it doesn’t have to be if you have the right support and networking opportunities. If you feel you might struggle with studying alone, it’s important to find a university that offers good support.
Look at how support is delivered, is it all via email or are 1-2-1 calls provided with a tutor? How often is feedback given on your work, regularly or only at assessment time?
Don’t just look at what academic support is offered, but also what personal support is offered. Can you get advice and support on financial or health and wellbeing issues from the university, or is it purely academic? You might not feel you’ll need this kind of support right now, but it’s worth checking out what’s there just in case, as circumstances can change.
Another vital bit of support you should look out for is employment support. Does the course provider offer support in looking for jobs, work experience, or networking opportunities to distance learners? That could be useful in connecting you to opportunities you might miss when studying at home.
Online Student Facilities
With online courses, all study materials such as presentations, video lectures, books and interactive activities are all provided online, usually via a study portal. Some universities will also provide physical resources like textbooks, however with others you may need to buy these yourself.
Some universities may also offer students the ability to come to campus to use things like computer rooms and library facilities. It’s worth checking out these options if you feel they would be helpful to you.
Minimum Entry Requirements
One of the most important factors when choosing an online degree – or indeed any degree – is what the entry requirements are. Entry requirements can vary from university to university and depend on what subject you are applying for. They do tend to be slightly lower for online degrees than on-campus degrees, so you might have more options available to you if your grades aren’t so high.
The Open University is known for having no formal entry requirements for their courses, as they aim to be “open for all”, though they do require students to be computer literate to a basic standard and have a good grasp of the English language.
Getting a degree is, for most people, a stepping-stone to their ideal career. In fact, most people who choose to study an online degree, do so to either boost their employability within their industry or to make a career change.
Statistics on how employable students studying with a particular university or Higher Education college are collected by the
, and many universities have their own data on their websites or on their Whatuni profile pages. Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)
If employability is top of your priorities, it’s worth looking at online degree providers that have high graduate employment numbers.
Another big factor in deciding on an online degree are the fees. Typically, online degrees are cheaper than campus-based degrees (as they are cheaper for the university to run, and universities can have more students per course), though there are exceptions to the rules. Fees can range from approximately £3,000 right up to £9,250+, depending on the subject and the provider.
You can fund your online degree with a Student Loan from the government, provided it meets their
. This means you can begin studying and only pay back the fees when you are earning over the threshold (which is currently £1,615 per month before tax). eligibility criteria
If, for whatever reason, you can’t get a student loan, then providers such as the Open University offer payment plans, where you pay for your course in manageable instalments. And some providers offer scholarships and bursaries to those studying online. It’s worth contacting universities you are interested in to find out what funding options and financial support is available.
Researching Online Degrees on Whatuni
As you can see, there are many important factors to consider when choosing an online degree. Before you start your research, it’s worth jotting down which of these factors are most important to you and which you are happy to compromise on. For example, could you put up with a course that was assessed in ways you weren’t entirely happy with if the price was significantly cheaper? Or could you cope with attending a few physical classes if the employability rates were way better than others?
Once you’ve decided what’s important to you, you can do your course research right here on
. We list hundreds of online and distance learning courses from UK providers and our course pages list all the information you could need: entry requirements, fees, module choices, and key stats such as drop out and employment rates. Whatuni
Not only that, we have in-depth university profile pages where you can learn all about the university and how they support their students, and over 200,000 student reviews, so you can check out what current students think about their course and university.
- Start Your Online Degree Search Now