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 by Alice Clubbs Coldron
, posted on 20 Nov '19

Should You Do an Online Masters?

As the online universe grows and becomes more advanced and diverse, the opportunities for digital innovation are rising. With this, online study is getting more popular, as many people are finding that more flexible remote learning suits them better.

People learn in different ways and sitting in a classroom trying to keep up with the lecturer who rambles on about what Henry VIII’s favourite food is for 20 minutes, may not be the right way for you.

The Open University is the largest provider of online Masters courses in the UK as it pioneered the idea, but more and more universities around the world are offering digital learning as a way to obtain a postgraduate degree.

What actually is an online Masters?

Put simply, an online Masters is a degree that’s delivered entirely digitally, with no need to attend campus. You can study these courses regardless of how far you live from your university – even if it’s in another country altogether.

Online Masters are generally different from distance learning Masters, which sometimes involve some visits to campus. An online Masters is usually fully online (though it’s always worth checking).

How do online Masters work?

Online Masters courses are available in almost every subject area. They usually follow the same syllabus as traditional Masters, but are taught via video lectures and online discussions.

E-learning has been around for a while, but in the past there have been some issues about the credibility of an online qualification. This is now changing, and as long as your online Masters degree is awarded by an accredited university, it is worth exactly the same as any other Masters (after all, you still have to write the essays and complete the dissertation).

If you aren’t sure if a university is accredited, you should check. The UK government maintains a list of fake and non-accredited universities in Britian.

So, is an online Masters right for you? Well, here are a few things to consider before you decide.

Pros

Here are some of the benefits of studying your Masters online:

  • Flexible timing - You can set your own pace. Traditional universities usually want students to complete a Masters in two years, but online courses are often more flexible. The Open University allows ten years, meaning you can study whenever is convenient for you and take as much time as required between other commitments such as family or full-time work.
  • Work while you earn - You can get an income and get your degree. As you are able to manage your own time, you can fit your studies in around you work. You can even apply your work to your studies.
  • Up and coming - Qualifications achieved online are becoming much more globally recognised by employers and there is less stigma surrounding them.
  • Learn a new subject - Online learning can be a great way to acquire new skills, perhaps as a way of switching your career. Entry requirements are often quite flexible, making it easier to switch disciplines.
  • Lower cost - Tuition fees are sometimes lower for online courses, but not always. Either way, the flexibility and control over your own studies allows you to work and earn as you study. Furthermore, travel costs are practically eliminated.
  • You can stay put - You don’t have to move cities or move house to be closer to you ideal Masters (you may even be able to study without getting out of bed).
  • Become tech savvy - An online postgraduate course will definitely help improve your technology skills.
  • Availability of resources - All the resources you need are right on your lapt(top).

Cons

Of course, if online study had no drawbacks, everyone would do it. Here are some things to be aware of:

  • Lack of individual feedback - Due to the absence of interaction with other students and professors you may feel it’s harder to access direct support. However, there are always online forums for you and your fellow classmates to discuss the work.
  • Procrastination temptation - Since you are in the comfort of your own home, or wherever you prefer to work, there may be more distractions.
  • Miss out on campus life - If you think this may be an issue for you, some institutions do offer blended learning options where you can attend part of the course on campus.
  • Lack of in person-communication - As you will be learning everything online, you may miss being able to talk to people in person about the work.
  • Course selection - You may not always be able to find an online study option for every course as some specialisms require practical teaching (it’s hard to learn scientific techniques without access to a lab, for example).
  • In-person responsibilities - There may still be some things to attend in person, and this will require either time off work and/or travel.
  • 24 hour technical support? - If you are a night owl and often do your work at one o’clock in the morning, it could be a big problem if something goes wrong with your online resources. You may want to find out whether you are able to rectify it no matter the time.
  • Ambiguity over quality - Some employers may initially question online degrees, however this is probably due to a suspicion of unaccredited institutions handing out fake degrees. So long as you show that the degree you obtain is from an accredited university then it is perfectly valid.

In summary, an online Masters is great if you want to take control of your own studies and be flexible over when and where you do them. They aren’t necessarily for everyone, but they are certainly becoming a realistic option for potenial postgraduates.




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