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The online learning industry is growing at an impressive rate. Nowadays people are looking at more “comfortable” ways of studying, and distance learning is certainly one of those options. As a consequence, a common question has arisen: is an online degree worth it in the UK?
There are several reasons that might push people to start a degree as mature students; some want a career change, others want to study just out of personal interests, the list goes on and on. However, the final goal is very similar for all, a life change.
There are several factors to take into consideration in order to answer that question. Firstly, it is important to discuss some major benefits of online Degrees. These are the ones pushing me to say yes, an online degree is worth it. Secondly, we will have a look at some of the drawbacks of distance learning.
It is important to evaluate both in order to answer that question. I have previously discussed some pros & cons in a different article, you can find it here if interested: “Study on-campus vs online”.
Online Degree Benefits, making it worth it
There are many pros of doing an online Degree in the UK. So my first advice would be not to be discouraged by people who say otherwise. If somebody tells you an online Degree is not worth it without giving you clear evidence of that, forget about it.
It is always wise thing to do some research on the topic as you are probably doing right now. However, it is also important to give the right weight to such research, always follow your main goal!
1. Graduate Job Market
An online Degree gives you the same opportunity to apply for graduate schemes as a traditional degree. This will increase your employability remarkably, also considering that many companies do not require a specific degree to apply for their programmes.
Instead, they encourage applicants from different Degree backgrounds. In my opinion, having access to the UK job market alone already makes an online degree worth it.
2. Degree “tailoring”
This is a huge benefit of distance learning and online degrees. If you are interested in a particular topic you can one hundred percent find it online. It is much easier to tailor your Degree and subjects choice to your actual interests.
As opposed to that, in the traditional way you might be restricted to what your local institutions offer, unless you are willing to relocate. This would involve significant financial costs.
3. Less life “disruption”
An online degree has a high degree of flexibility. If you already have a sort of “stability” in your life, e.g. a job you don’t want to leave (yet); family commitments requiring a lot of your time; or simply you want to do things slowly (or quickly), then an online Degree is a perfect fit.
Because in most cases you have access to a lot of content right after starting, you can manage your study journey at your own pace and fit lectures around your schedule. You should also receive a recommended study path that you can follow to stay on track.
4. Digital Skills & Remote Communication
If you successfully complete an online Degree, your CV will show employers several key factors. Firstly, that you are extremely self-disciplined and possess very high time management skills. Secondly, that you embrace the digital era and you are confident in using technology.
On top of that, an online Degree also shows that you can interact and collaborate with other people remotely (e.g. lectures and fellow students). This last one in particular is a key aspect for boosting your employability in an ever-growing working from home environment.
Online Degree cons, making it not worth it (?)
There are only few cons that I can think of and are worth mentioning. The real question is: do they make an online degree not worth it? As I said several times, it’s important to consider all aspects when making such decisions.
On the other hand, pros and cons can be very subjective. What is an advantage for someone, can be a disadvantage for someone else and vice versa.
1. Unique experience
By adopting a distance learning way of studying, you are going to miss on something that makes University unique: experience. For example, being around the campus, going to study at the University library, exchanging notes with other students, attending lectures, joining societies and so on.
These are all activities that can make your study journey smoother and more enjoyable. The environment surrounding you can make you feel like you are an actual student. This aspect is quite hard to find if studying remotely.
Consequentially, you are going to miss also on the face to face aspect of social events, career fairs, webinars and conferences. These are key for networking also outside of the academic environment and establishing relationships that come in handy for your future career.
I have discussed the important of such events in another article, again, you can find it here if interested: “How to be successful as a mature student”. Networking is a key activity that could have a huge positive impact on your job hunt.
Although this really depends on what you are going to study, it is still important to mention it. Some subjects are much better taught when combined with practical workshops. In that regard the disadvantage is clear, “tangible” I would say.
This is really important to consider as some employers might prefer applicants who had exposure to that practical aspect of the subject.
However..do they really make an online degree not worth it?
Are these all these cons really disadvantages? I would say distance learning is certainly more challenging, at least in the long run. You need to be consistent and highly motivated. However, you can transform this in an advantage. As I said earlier, if you successfully complete an online degree you will show your willingness to achieve your goal!
Consider it as a “certificate of resilience”. In terms of face to face networking, unfortunately there is little you can do. However, virtual events have improved dramatically and it seems they have a role to play even post Covid. For the practicality aspect, you could mitigate it by joining workshops on your own initiative around your area.
Need some motivation? In the image below you can find what I read to build good habits and a strong student mindset!
More considerations on online Degrees
The first thing to acknowledge is that an online Degree is as valuable as a traditional Degree. If there was a gap and scepticism around this argument, it all collapsed when also the top UK Universities moved into the distance learning market. Nowadays pretty much all Universities offer very competitive online courses.
In terms of academic standards, they are delivered on the same level as traditional ones. However, a very important thing to do when choosing an online University is to check if it’s officially recognised. I would suggest to have a look at the list of recognised bodies and awards available on the UK government website (find it here). Please be aware of scams and misleading advertising!
Conclusion, is an online degree worth it in the UK?
The final answer depends entirely on you and your evaluation of pros and cons. In my opinion, yes, an online degree is absolutely worth it in the UK. As we are moving towards amore digital and “virtual environment”, distance learning is becoming more and more relevant, so all the skills that come with it. I have put together a list of study from home essentials that I personally used when studying from home, you might find it useful.
Having said so, if I could choose between an online degree and a traditional one, I would probably go for the last one. I still believe that the “campus life” is a life-changing experience. However, the final goal is what matters, you can choose the path to get there according to what suits you best! Both methods lead to the same conclusions, a degree is worth it.
In some cases, mostly if you have a more clear idea of what job you would like to do, you could do a professional course rather than a degree. I have discussed such alternatives in this article if you are interested: “University or professional qualification?”. This could lead to a career change in a shorter time. Best of luck!
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“True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.” – Winston Churchill