The range of distance learning programmes provided by universities worldwide can be overwhelming, making your mission quite difficult when it comes to choosing the right online Master’s degree. But, if you take into account these next selection tips, it would definitely be much easier to choose.
1. Choose accredited online programmes and universities
Only accredited and nationally recognised distance learning courses and universities lead to a certified degree and are accepted as such by your future employer. That’s why you should first start by checking if universities and online programmes you are interested in are recognised. If you want to skip this step, here are some universities we can vouch for that you can also check out for yourself:
- RMIT University
- Royal Roads University
- Nottingham Trent University Online
- Walden University
- The Open University UK
- University of Birmingham Online
If you want to search on your own, here’s how you can know if an online programme is legit.
Distance learning programmes are usually recognised by an accreditation agency or the national Ministry of Education. They investigate if the different subjects are combined and coordinated in a meaningful way that ensures academic standards, as well as the practical relevance of the study programme. Most universities will post information regarding their accreditation on their website, so a simple check can give you enough valuable information.
2. Check the overall costs of distance learning degrees
When choosing your online degree programme, you want to get a good value for money. The good news is that distance learning programmes are usually more affordable in terms of tuition fees than traditional study programmes. Here are some examples of average tuition fees at online universities:
- Kettering University Online from the USA: 785 EUR/ credit
- University of Essex Online, from the UK: 3,969 EUR/ year
- York University, from Canada: 2,500 EUR/year
- Southern Cross University Online, from Australia: 7,000 EUR/year
- James Cook University, from Australia: 9,500 EUR/ year
However, you should keep in mind that there might be extra costs such as for study materials or travelling and accommodation costs for on-campus meetings.
Because working and studying at the same time can be quite demanding, you might consider switching to a part-time work schedule. But this will mean a smaller income, so you should budget your finances carefully. As a solution, you can go for a university that offers some financial help, in the form of a fee discount or scholarship.
3. Check how flexible the distance learning programme is
One of the most important reasons you chose to go for an online programme is more flexibility, compared to a degree taught on-campus. This way, distance learning enables you to combine your career with pursuing a degree more easily.
However, this flexibility varies according to university and study programme. So, consider the following questions when you make a choice:
- Does the university have a fixed semester schedule, or can you attend classes according to your own preferences?
- How often does the university have on-site attendance and are those fixed or flexible?
Some distance learning universities offer several dates and locations for the compulsory on-campus meetings, so you should choose the ones that are most convenient for you. Ideally, the on-campus meetings should match your work schedule and be close to your home to avoid long and expensive travel times.
4. Pay attention to the quality of study materials
For distance learning, the quality of the study materials and the digital learning environment are more important than for conventional studies. A motivating learning environment with diverse and interactive tasks, videos, quizzes etc. can improve your study success considerably.
In order to stay in contact with your fellow students, many digital classrooms offer social platforms and a virtual campus that enable you to work together and support each other. Many distance learning universities offer free test lectures. This can help you get familiar with the different learning environments and decide which one fits you best.
5. Compare student support services
The quality of personal support and assistance is very important when choosing a distance learning programme, often because it has a major impact on the success or failure of your studies. Therefore, you may want to consider things like:
- Is it easy to arrange flexible personal appointments if needed?
- Is there personal support for the exercises and during the exam preparation?
- Are questions answered immediately or do you have to wait for an answer several days?
All these factors have to fit your personal learning needs and preferences. For instance, if you have a full-time job and you’re also studying a distance degree, it would be important for personal assistance to also be offered in the evenings or on the weekends.
Add some of your own criteria when selecting a distance degree
These are some of the most important factors you should consider when deciding on an online degree, but you can extend this list and add some other criteria you think are highly important, such as graduates’ employability rate, for example. Make a list, do your research, find the distance learning programme that matches with your study goals, and start applying!