Distance Learning

Distance learning involves learning done away from a classroom with the same materials that would be used to aid those in the classroom. In today's age this means online lectures, videos, podcasts and textbooks etc. Assignments are the same for those taking the course in the classroom, as are exams.

Distance learning suits many people, including those who are looking to undertake Level 3 qualifications (e.g. A-levels), undergraduate degrees or professional qualifications.

GCSEs and A-levels are often undertaken via distance learning and on the right we note the most popular providers.

Many universities offer undergraduate degrees via distance learning, while the Open University is the UK's dedicated distance learning university. As well as course materials, the university also provides a network of tutors who can support their students via telephone, e-mail or computer conferencing, and also run online tutorials.

Professional courses are also often undertaken via distance learning. 

Blended Learning

Many distance learning courses can actually be defined as blended learning courses. This means that at some point you will need to be present on, e.g. a campus for a week of the year if you are undertaking an undergraduate degree, where you will be able to meet others on your course and enjoy the university lifestyle.

Online Learning

We already have a search engine to help you navigate the online courses available throughout the world, and we are looking to add to this summer courses and short courses (based in the UK) in the near future, so watch this space!

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Online Courses

What are online courses?

Online courses, or MOOCS (massive open online courses) are short courses that are delivered online for free. They do not have entry requirements and can be taken by anyone from anywhere in the world. Those run by universities are led by world-class academics and supported by teaching assistants, while others are led by experts in their field. They are self-directed, meaning that you follow the course materials, complete the readings and assessments, and get help from a large community of fellow learners through online forums. The rise of MOOCs means that you can learn from some of the very best lecturers and professors at the very best universities from all over the world.

Who are they aimed at?

There may come a time when we will all be studying for our undergraduate degrees through MOOCs however, they currently benefit:

  • those who want to find a little bit more out about a subject, out of interest and curiosity
  • those who want to update their skills in the workplace
  • those starting university and want to understand what to expect of the teaching and content
  • those who do not have access to learning in their area

Self-paced vs. set duration courses

The duration of some courses are set while others are self-paced. Set courses provide you with an estimated number of learning hours including lectures and additional reading and the number of weeks - lectures are put up on the website every week and assessments need to be undertaken in a certain timeframe. Self-paced courses offer learners the chance to undertake the course at their own pace - instead, the number of hours needed to complete the course is specified and students can do this over an indefinite period of time.

How to apply?

You can apply through the websites directly. To find out what MOOCs are on offer, use our MOOC search tool.

Entry requirements

MOOCs do not have entry requirements, although they may state that a certain knowledge would be useful, e.g. maths.

Methods of Assessment

Depending on the course and the provider, assessment can take the form of quizzes and examinations, often with fellow coursemates appraising your work.

Qualifications

The majority of MOOCs as yet do not provide a standard qualification, however many offer a Statement of Accomplishment which shows that a student has completed the course with grades above a set benchmark.

Cost

Many online courses are free, however if you are looking to gain a Statement of Accomplishment you will have to pay for this - they currently cost about £40. Those that aren't free cost anywhere between £30-£250. Our online MOOC search provides the current costs so you can factor this into your search.

Short Courses

What are short courses?

Short courses are those offered by universities and other educational institutions and might take place over the course of a weekend, a week or a number of evenings a week over a longer period of time, say a semester. Short courses are generally not online, although more institutions are offering online short courses. However, if you do choose to take a course at an insitution, make sure you choose one you can attend easily. There are many things that you can learn, however, they are often more practical, such as languages, art and design or introductory courses.

As short courses are generally held in universities etc., they also give you the chance to meet with fellow students who may be more interested in the same things as you!

Who are they aimed at?

  • those that have a bit of free time and are curious, and want to learn a skill in their spare time, a skill that is perhaps easier to learn in a small group with a tutor

  • those that want to learn what studying a subject would be like at university

  • those who want to up their skills for employment

  • short courses are often available specifically for 16-18-year-olds who are looking at studying at art school and want to undertake an art that is unavailble to them at school to get a feel for whether they enjoy it, for example Fashion Design, or for those looking at creating and developing a portfolio to submit alongside their UCAS form

Entry Requirements

There are usually no entry requirements, however classes are often limited by numbers.

Methods of Assessment

Most short courses do not feature an assessment or the ability to study for credit. However, some do, and a course of 20 hours loosely equates to 10 credits with 120 credits equating to a Certificate of Higher Education. Assessment will generally be through an essay.

Cost

The cost of short courses vary, however expect a figure of up to £500 for a semester-long course.

How to apply

In most situations you can apply through the individual university website.

Summer Courses

What are summer courses?

Most universities have a summer school where they offer intensive short courses from between one and four weeks. They often offer accommodation and you can taste university life. These courses are often introductory.

Who are they aimed at?

  • international students who want to see what life is like in the UK
  • those who are curious and want to learn about something new, but also want the university environment and the ability to be with other people
  • those who are not sure whether they want to go to university, and can use the summer school as a taster to see whether they like the culture and learning environment - universities often specifically offer taster sessions for 16-18-year-olds comprising of insights into courses you might study at university, advice on UCAS applications, help with A-level revision, and post summer school support
  • summer courses are often available specifically for 16-18-year-olds who are looking at studying at art school and want to undertake an art that is unavailble to them at school to get a feel for whether they enjoy it, for example Fashion Desgin, or for those looking at creating and developing a portfolio to submit alongside their UCAS form

Entry Requirements

Entry requirements depend on the university, some don’t specify, whereas other specify an undergraduate degree and have gained a certain qualification. Additionally, classes are often limited by numbers.

Methods of Assessment

Some summer courses have assessment and you can gain credit and others do not. If they are for credit then you will be assessed through examinations and lectures.

Students are continually assessed by academic staff and this may be through class tests, group critical analysis, seminar contribution, academic fieldwork, laboratory tests, presentations or assignment. There is often preparatory reading and work to do outside classes. All modules are accredited at 20 UK undergraduate credits and receive an academic transcript.

How to apply?

In most situations you can apply through the individual university website.

Cost

This depends on the course length, but expect anything up to £1,000. You might also have to pay for materials, and if you are attending a university away from home you will have to factor in accommodation costs.