Distance learning is no longer a trend, it is an ongoing real phenomenon that has been attracting thousands of students worldwide. In the U.S. for instance, according to WCET Distance Education Enrollment, the number of students who enrolled in a distance learning degree increased five times from around 1.5 million to 6 million in the last ten years.
The benefits of online education are obvious, and what initially started as an experiment, soon proved to be the beginning of a new era in higher education. The main ingredient that led to the growing success of distance and online education was the challenge we are all facing today: lack of time combined with the need for a professional certification that increases the chances for a thriving career.
Clearly, learning online in a digital world is something worth a try. The question remains how do you choose the right online course or degree? With so many providers of distance education courses and certificates, deciding where to enrol may seem quite tricky. How do you know which online course provider you should trust? In order to make the right decision and choose the perfect course, you need to make sure you apply to the right distance or online learning organisation.
Read below and have a clearer view of the difference between various online degrees and online courses providers.
History of distance learning
Historically, the first attempts at distance learning were correspondence university courses where handwritten assignments from teachers were mailed to students by post. In return, teachers would receive transcriptions of assignments so they would be corrected.
The first university that introduced distance learning degrees as we know today was Jones International University in the U.S. in 1999.
By 2002, MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology launches the OpenCourseWare Project, an initiative to offer online lectures and course materials to anyone who is interested in reading them, free of charge.
Online degrees integrated within worldwide universities
American universities started the trend and then, many other universities worldwide followed it, universities from the UK and other European countries. Mainly, universities started to include online learning degrees and blended programmes, along with their traditional on-campus study degrees, to provide students with a much wider palette of options.
Since many universities figured these programmes would become highly popular, in the 2000s, online degrees recorded a boom in terms of the number of students who chose to enrol. The main advantage is that the graduation diploma of an online degree has the same value and recognition as a graduating diploma from an on-campus student.
Examples of universities that offer online degrees:
- RMIT University
- Imperial College London
- University of Lincoln
- Delft University of Technology
- Liverpool University Online
- Roehampton University Online
Open universities are educational institutions that are dedicated specifically to worldwide students that are interested in online studies. Open universities have been named “open”, due to the fact that most of them usually have no policy in terms of entry requirements, meaning that they accept any student, regardless of their education level.
So you can simply create an account, apply for a course and start learning. You can choose from a wide array of subject areas, but in most cases, you won’t be able to complete a university degree. However, you can earn credits that can be used to get a professional certificate. For instance, at Open University in the UK, you can start by applying to the 1st (beginner) level module and once you complete and earn the required number of credits, you can progress towards studying a professional certificate course in the same field.
The first new and fully online university is Open University of Catalonia, founded in 1994 and headquartered in Barcelona, Spain.
Other examples of open universities:
Online courses and professional certificates providers
Taking an online course that can last from a few hours to a few months is probably the easiest way to enhance your skills. Today, you can find so many educational institutes that have courses offerings ranging from grammar skills to foreign languages, to software programs, interior design and more.
Whether you literally want to attend an online course for professional purposes (continuous professional development courses) to increase knowledge and skills and advance in your career, or you’re simply passionate about a certain subject and want to know more about it, short online courses are truly a good deal for everyone.
If you want to go beyond, or closer to the academic side, check out platforms such as Coursera, Edx, Udacity, and Udemy, where you can find MOOCs and video lectures from worldwide famous universities, such as Harvard, Stanford, Yale and many others.
MOOCs are free but they don’t provide a certificate once you complete your study. In most cases, you will have to pay a small fee if you want to receive a certificate of completion, but they are simply a proof that you attended a specific course and maybe passed an online test in which your skills were assessed.
Choose the right type of online course and advance your skills
As you can see, choices for online study and getting a distance learning degree are countless. You will just have to figure out what would be the best option in your case, considering your age, education level, and your future study or career goals. Remember to check out important details like entry requirements, if you can earn or transfer credits or if and what kind of certificate you will earn at completion. Carefully weigh your options and start looking for a distance learning course!