The university alternative: distance learning

July 21, 2014

As students campaign against budget cuts and staff culls at universities across the UK, it’s easy to feel disillusioned by the world of further education.

Indeed, with tuition fees costing upwards of £9,000 – and a recent admission from MPs stating that the current student loan system was unworkable – heading to university without owning a stash of gold can seem like nothing more than a pipedream.

If you are working as a social worker, for example, and want to upgrade your education and focus on a specialty within the industry, you can earn a Master’s Degree in Social Work online. A degree like this one makes you eligible for professional licensure in most areas, allowing you to apply for new jobs immediately after graduation.

Many students also do not realize that they can apply for internships while working on their online degree, much like they would when studying on-campus. This allows you to get your foot in the door in your desired industry before you even graduate.

Unless you can procure a student loan or bursary, then chances are that affording entry into university is a mite unrealistic. But, especially with ballooning fees, there are effective alternatives at hand – and they won’t leave you in lifelong debt.

The internet, for instance, has made gaining new qualifications a dawdle compared to those dark Ethernet cable-free lives we used to live. To try distance learning just a decade ago was the educational equivalent of those apes in 2001: A Space Odyssey hitting a bone against some rocks.

You’d have to send and receive essays and materials via post, fidgeting with tiny first class stamps when all you wanted was to learn something. When you finally did procure your course materials or test result, you had usually succumbed to old age.

Now, the internet means that you can have essay topics within seconds of their creation, and you can Skype tutors for opinions within a matter of moments. An online degree has, in essence, elevated to the peak of educational excellence.

Education, education, education

People don’t appreciate just how amazing the internet is nowadays. With its bullet train speed, your education isn’t at the whim of a postie, but the click of a button.

It’s made learning on the go a cinch, meaning anyone trying to hold down a job can gain a degree at their convenience.

In many ways, it’s a strategy that’s far more effective than the standard “campus lifestyle”, where many are stuck in a whirlwind of studying that never allows them to focus on anything remotely resembling the future. In stark contrast, an online degree allows students to balance their work and studies, which looks fantastic on a CV.

Balancing life and education

More than this, we’re moving back into a world where degrees can’t be the be-all and end-all of a CV. Instead, employers expect candidates to have broad-ranging hobbies and work experience on top of a university education.

Balance is the key to a good life, and many are growing unhappy with the lack of balance that universities create.

One science student, for example, recently wrote in national newspaper The Guardian that he was sick of the amount of “contact time” with his tutor – a situation leading to a lack of organisation when essay deadlines are looming.

Ultimately, distance learning marks itself out as the solution to this problem, providing the same degree and high level of learning of a physical university, but also letting you study how you like.

As tuition fees rise, thousands of students are searching for alternatives – distance learning could be the answer.