Universities and other learning establishments remain busy places, thronging with students keen to improve their knowledge and acquire the qualifications they need to start in or advance in a career. However, one key trend of recent years has been the rise of online studying as many students, instead of traveling each day to a place of study, simply log onto their computers in the comfort of their own homes. There are several reasons why this is the case, but because of this trend, more people than ever before have the opportunities to access high-quality learning.
Anyone wanting to study at a physical establishment will need to see what courses are available within easy reach of their homes and choose the best fit. Their alternative is to move closer to somewhere that does offer their ideal course. While this can be possible, particularly for younger people with no family or work commitments, many will find it hard to leave their geographical area.
Online study does away with these problems. It doesn’t matter where the ideal course is based – if it is available online, you can access it from anywhere with an internet connection. This opens many new possibilities for potential students, allowing them to find the exact subject they want to study at the appropriate level. In the past, this might be a matter of luck or considerable effort. Now, it is available through a myriad of online technologies.
While many are keen to undertake study in order to further their careers, finding the time for full-time study is often tricky. You may be working full-time and for financial or career reasons be unable to give it up. Other people might have family obligations and attending a course while looking after children is not always possible without what is often expensive childcare.
Online courses usually operate without the rigid timetable of a physical course. This means that you can study at a time that’s convenient for you, perhaps after work or at the weekend or in the evening once the children are in bed. Logging onto your course, you can access an array of study materials at any time of the day or night.
If your time is very limited, there is often flexibility in the timespan of the course. This can be tailored to the individual, so anyone wanting qualifications in a hurry to prepare themselves for an upcoming promotion opportunity can work quickly, while those whose time commitments do not allow this can gain the same qualification over a number of years.
As with physical courses, the quality of online courses does vary, so it is important to research your options before committing time and money to study. However, the best online courses often come from top learning establishments and are easily able to rival anything that an in-person course can offer.
When doing your research, look at where the course alumni are now, as a good course should prepare them for challenging and lucrative careers. Also, look at who is delivering it and the study materials available, as a good online course should be designed and delivered by experts in the field.
Another feature to look for is the support available. Being online shouldn’t mean that you remain an anonymous, faceless individual. You should still be treated as part of a community, with high-quality support to help you if you run into difficulty at any time, and this should be true no matter what level you are studying at.
A good example of how effective support can be is seen at Aston University. Students enrolled on the university’s online DBA are paired with an academic supervisor who is a leading specialist in the chosen topic, while also gaining a student support advisor who can help with any concerns arising from online study.
As a general rule, online courses are cheaper than physical ones. While a degree or post-graduate qualification will still require a financial investment, it is likely to be less than the same course at a physical university. For those who are not studying to such a high level, perhaps studying for a hobby or to test out whether online study is for them, it is possible to find cheap or even free courses such as a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).
There are other reduced costs associated with online study – for example, there is no need for commuting costs. Online materials are also often cheaper, with an eBook, for example, being far cheaper than a paperback or hardback textbook.
Online study for an online world
It is not just study that has seen an increase in online activity. The internet has permeated all aspects of our lives, giving virtually all of us considerable technical skills without even realizing it. As we become comfortable using internet technology in our everyday lives, it may feel more natural to also study online. Teachers are also finding that they are becoming just as confident delivering a course virtually as they are in a physical classroom, with technologies such as video conferencing allowing them to still maintain a personal touch.
More and more materials are also available online, and regardless of how you study, it is likely that you are going to use the internet regularly for research. Even for those attending study in person, they are likely to be advised to look at certain websites and videos or to download eBooks and podcasts.
Looking to the future
Online study is likely to remain popular and course providers will be keen to meet the demand, so the quality of these courses, often already high, will likely become even higher. Physical courses will not go away, particularly remaining popular with the young, though they are also likely to see an increase in technology to enhance their experience as courses continue to adapt to the online world.