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The guide to online university courses

While campus based study is still preferred by many students studying for a degree, it is no longer the only way. Some institutions have offered degrees through distance learning for decades, but with the increase in accessibility to the internet and advances in technology many universities are offering degrees online, as well as face to face, with great success. 

In this article we will explore the advantages of an online university course, how to choose the right course for you, and look at some of the options for how your learning could be structured.

The advantages of an online university course

Online degrees are great for a number of different reasons and, for some, there will be circumstances in which an online university course is the optimal way of studying. For example, you may be a mature student who needs to fit their studies around work, or you may want to start your education but are unable to leave home. An online degree, therefore, could be the perfect way forward.

Study at your own pace

One of the advantages of online degrees is that they can be studied at whatever pace suits you, whether full-time or part-time. Many campus-based degrees take between three and four years to complete, but with the possibility of part time study, online courses can take up to six years to complete, and even longer depending on your choices and circumstances. There is also the flexibility of being able to study from wherever you are. You can work from home, from a coffee shop, and should you decide to move, it won’t affect your studies.

Greater variety

There is a much greater variety of courses available now, in a vast array of subjects. Whatever you’re passionate about, and are keen to study, the options are out there. Even more vocational subjects such as nursing, have been known to move parts of the degree, if not its entirety, online. 

Reduced costs

The cost of online courses are often greatly reduced, depending on the institution, with some universities allowing you to pay per module or semester.


Recognition by employers

In the past there have been concerns that online degrees aren’t considered to be as valuable or as recognised by potential employers, but this is no longer the case. If the university, college or institution providing the degree is legitimate, then it shouldn’t be of concern to anyone looking at your academic record.

Choosing the right online university course

Choosing the right course for you is incredibly important, and there are a few things to consider when doing your research. The great thing about online degrees is the fact you can study them from home, or wherever you are. You aren’t limited to studying with a university from your home country if you don’t wish to. In theory, you could apply to study at almost any university across the world.

Choose a legitimate institution

Whatever your choice, it’s worth checking that the university, college or institution offering the course is a legitimate provider.  In the UK, you can check which institutions are recognised by the UK government. Governments around the world also compile similar lists, so be sure to do your research before you consider applying.

Choose a leading provider

In the UK, there are universities that specialise in online learning, such as The Open University, an increasing number of campus based universities are also offering online versions of their courses. When researching the best course, it’s worth checking out university ranking guides, to gain an understanding of how they measure against other institutes for things such as teaching quality. These rankings will likely be based on their original courses,based on campus, but if those courses are of a high standard, their online courses should be too.

Decide the pace at which you will study

It is worth considering how much time you can give to your study and how many years you intend to complete your degree in and pick a course that gives you enough time. Remember that while some universities give students studying online degrees more time to complete the course, they often have an end date by which you must complete the course for it to stay valid, so check this before you enrol.

Choose a format that suits you

When choosing an online course, an important question to ask is whether the course was specifically designed for online. Does it use a platform designed for its purpose using interactive content? A way to tell is by investigating course taster sessions often offered via webinar and also searching for video demonstrations from the institutions. This will give you an idea of the course’s production quality, as well as how online learning works. If an online course is text heavy and offers little change within the online environment, it may not be as engaging as other options. The online experience for the student should be intuitive, interactive and engaging, so make sure you understand the delivery format when selecting a course.

Online university courses: Fully independent vs. blended study

Many online university courses are designed for fully independent learning. In these cases you are given the course materials and are left to study at your leisure. You might be given recordings of lectures or seminars, but that’s likely to be the limit to the interaction with your lecturers.

Other institutions offer online university courses that include blended learning, which combines online learning, with interactive learning, whether face to face or online. This could involve a hybrid of independent study with scheduled online classes, where you can engage with the lecturer and other students, or even the option of attending lectures in person. 

A degree is a considerable investment of time and money, so it is essential that you research the institutions and online courses thoroughly before applying.

Everyone’s requirements are different and universities will provide you with as much information as possible. Technology is advancing rapidly, and how a university offered their course last academic year could be different to the upcoming one. 

As more individuals around the world realise how an online university course can help boost their prospects, educational institutions are preparing for a growth in demand for this unique style of learning.

Find out more about Cambridge International Academy’s online courses here. 

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