Studying a Masters by Distance Learning – A Guide |
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Studying a Masters by Distance Learning

Distance learning programmes allow students to complete postgraduate courses without necessarily being based on or near a university campus, attending timetabled lectures and seminars.

If you have busy work or family commitments, this can be a great way to study a Masters, giving you the flexibility to fit your studies around the rest of your life.

Distance learning doesn’t have a set definition, and many institutions will use it interchangeably with online learning. However, there are some key differences between the two concepts, and this page will explain them.

If you’re not sure whether distance learning is right for you, we’ll hopefully be able to help you make your mind up.

We’re also a great place to begin your search for a distance learning Masters.

What is distance learning?

Distance learning is an alternative to the face-to-face, campus-based learning of traditional university degrees.

Rather than attending physical lectures and seminars, distance learning students will use a combination of the following media and methods to study their chosen subject:

  • Internet resources
  • Email and post correspondence with tutors
  • DVDs/online videos

The emphasis with distance learning is usually on independent study – you’re free to go at your own pace, without having to worry about regular deadlines or exams.

What’s the difference between distance learning and online learning?

It’s not always easy to tell the difference between distance learning and online learning courses, with many institutions using the terms interchangeably. As such, you should always check the course description carefully when researching a distance learning or online learning qualification, making sure that the learning and assessment methods are tailored to your needs.

But there are a couple of key differences between the two concepts that may matter when you’re choosing a qualification.

Firstly, distance learning implies that the student doesn’t have to be based near the institution offering the course. Many online Masters courses may involve visiting the university in question for a series of conferences, for example, but this is less likely to be the case with a distance learning Masters.

Also, online learning methods are often components of an existing traditional, university-based degree – the same can’t be said of distance learning.

Secondly, distance learning courses sometimes have less interaction between student and lecturer. You may only have contact with your tutor when it comes to submitting assignments, for example. Similarly, distance learning Masters might not give you the opportunity to interact with fellow students, especially if it’s a ‘correspondence course’ conducted via post.

In general, though, you’ll find that distance learning and online learning courses share more similarities than differences. Online resources are likely to be a vital part of any distance learning Masters, especially as more and more universities embrace the latest technological advances in the education sector.

Looking for an online Masters course?

Read our guide to online Masters, or search the courses listed on our website

What are the benefits of a distance learning Masters?

If you’re considering distance learning Masters degrees, you might be worried that they won’t be considered the academic equal of a traditional Masters course.

But this isn’t true: if it’s awarded by an accredited institution, a distance learning Masters should be recognised by employers and scholars alike as the equivalent of a campus-based qualification.

And there are a number of advantages to studying a Masters via distance learning:

  • The freedom to study at your own pace: Distance learning courses don’t have to be completed in as strict a timeframe as a traditional qualification, so you can fit your studies around your life (and not the other way round).
  • It can make financial sense: You’ll be able to earn as you learn, so to speak: if you choose to carry on working while studying, you can save money compared to a full-time student.
  • Convenience: If you want to access a high quality education in a completely different country or region, you can do so via distance learning. You can study from the comfort of your own home, without having to relocate.

Ready to begin your search for a distance learning Masters?

Browse the distance learning courses listed on

Last updated - 18/01/2018

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