Online Masters degrees can be completed by people who are studying by distance learning away from their university. Instead of face-to-face classes and lectures, online and distance learning Masters use internet platforms for teaching, discussion and assessment. This method of delivery works especially well for postgraduate courses, where students already work much more flexibly and independently. The development of digital technologies also means that teaching materials, library resources and specialist software can be easily accessed by students at home.
A wide range of universities offer postgraduate courses in this way, many of them adapted from traditional ‘on campus’ versions of the same programme. Some universities specialise in online and distance learning.
What’s it like to study an online Masters?
Online and distance learning Masters normally include all of the same content as the traditional ‘on campus’ version of the same degree. You will study the same modules to a set timetable, completing assessments as you progress, and your programme will usually end with an extended dissertation project.
However, your course will use remote learning methods instead of most (or all) physical classes. These could include scheduled video seminars and one-to-one discussions with your tutor as well as asynchronous discussion forums, allowing you to post thoughts and feedback on class materials and discussion at times that suit you. Some one-to-one mentoring with your tutor will also be scheduled, in much the same way as a traditional ‘office hour’, allowing you to get direct feedback on your work and progress.
The flexible nature of online study makes these courses ideal for people who are combining a Masters with other work and family commitments. It’s common to complete these programmes on a part-time basis, though many will also offer a full-time option.
Is there a difference between online Masters and distance learning Masters?
Online learning and distance learning usually mean the same thing: students live at a distance from their university and interact with tutors and classmates online, rather than attending classes and examinations on campus.
People studied by distance learning before the development of the internet (using postal correspondence) but universities now use internet platforms for this. So, if you see references to ‘online’ and ‘distance learning’ you can generally assume they are the same.
Courses that combine online / distance learning with some on campus learning are usually referred to as blended learning programmes. They use the internet for regular classes and assessments, but also schedule some physical training days, work placements or exams.
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