Get to know: the benefits of online and distance learning

Higher education is constantly evolving, with students today holding more power as consumers than ever before. And while rising tuition fees, overcrowded study spaces and diminishing contact hours aren’t stopping students from getting their degrees, students are becoming more aware of the choices available to them.

Students want to learn, but sometimes this can only be possible if they can learn on their own terms. They want to juggle their studies around work, and want to make sure it’ll be worth the money. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of prospective students are swapping the lecture hall for the living room, and choosing to study online.

But what exactly is distance learning? And what does it mean to have an online education in 2018? Most importantly, how can you tell if it’s right for you and your lifestyle?

What is distance learning exactly?

The Complete University Guide define distance learning as “a way of learning remotely without being in regular face-to-face contact with a teacher in the classroom. In the UK, such learning has its roots in students learning through correspondence courses”.

Distance learning, along with online learning styles have struggled to make their mark within the higher education landscape for some time, with people thinking they’re worth ‘less’ than a traditional classroom degree. But today, with more students deciding to go to university later in life, distance degrees are thought to be just as legitimate. But how can you tell if it’s right for you and your lifestyle?

Here are five benefits of online degrees and distance learning to help you decide.

1. Value for money

There are benefits to both online and classroom learning styles, and their rewards will depend on what you want to get out of your university experience. When it comes to executive degrees, you may already be working and have a business of your own with existing commitments to work around. If that’s the case, distance learning might just be for you. One major benefit to studying online is value for money, and while your tuition fees will vary depend on the university you apply to, you can generally save money on other expenses such as your living and travel costs.

Studying from a distance means that you won’t need to live near or travel to your university, so you won’t need to worry about getting up at the crack of dawn to get to your lectures.  You can study anywhere you like, such as the comfort of your own living room, your local coffee shop or library. Cutting out your travel time could also be beneficial if you have a family, as you’re no longer restricted by location. And if you want to work around the clock, your resources will be readily available online, for you to access at any time of the day, cutting out additional textbook or resources costs.

2. Fit your learning around your lifestyle

Distance learning allows you to study at any time of day, anywhere in the world. In fact, online learning technology and ‘e-learning’ has become so advanced that you can join your lectures or seminars in real-time. With a steady internet connection, you’ll join a virtual classroom filled with people from all corners of the world, learning from each other and learning together. This means you’ll be able to access your study materials whenever you like, and your learning won’t be restricted to a timetable of weekly lectures or seminars. 

On average, an online MBA can be completed in four years, but the flexibility of distance learning means you’ll be able to study at your own pace. Learning online means you can take a break whenever you like, and pick up or put down your studies at any time.

Sures Muniandy, a biochemist working in the healthcare sector, embarked on the MBA programme to enhance his business knowledge and boost his career prospects. Sures, said:

I chose Edinburgh Business School because I could study from anywhere. The flexibility of the programme allowed me to pace out my studies, so I could manage my work and family commitments. 

I completed the MBA programme successfully in two-and-a-half years; it gave me the confidence that I could achieve anything that I want. I took up a new job as a head of marketing in a private hospital, and subsequently embarked on a doctoral journey.

3. Choose what and how you study

Online degrees often allow you to choose your own study modules, to learn at any time and in any order. With only number one to worry about, you can study subjects that really interest you and will benefit your career.

Gone are the days of relying on other people, or waiting for them to catch-up. You can learn in your own way, and at your own speed. Some subjects such as nursing and dentistry require classroom learning, practical demonstrations and on-the-job assessments. However, humanities and business degrees require a far greater amount of independent study.

This has allowed online MBAs and executive education to make their mark within the higher education market, with the learning style of online business qualifications being favoured over classroom learning. But why is this? Online learning requires hard-work, discipline and commitment. You need to be someone that can study on your own, and put in the hours without getting distracted. So if group projects, presentations and one-to-ones are how you learn best, online study isn’t for you. But don’t worry, you won’t be left to fend for yourself. Lots of universities offer a blended learning style for their distance learning degrees, meaning you’ll be invited for classroom study sessions, guest lectures, networking events or even classes at a university near to where you live. However you decide to study, you’ll remain supported by your university the whole way through your degree.

Ken Brown, Director of MBA Programme at Edinburgh Business School, said:

The Edinburgh Business School’s student portal is full of the resources you need to complete the  courses; relevant reading material on each of the subjects, plus self-test cases, exercises and videos as well as the past ten exam question and answer sets for each subject that you take.

Edinburgh Business School has over 25 years experience in online MBA delivery with over 20,000 graduated students and over 10,000 students currently enrolled on our programmes. And one of the advantages of studying with us is the fact that our students get access to a very strong network of Edinburgh Business School graduates across the globe.

4. Study alongside your career

The more you put into your online study, the more you’ll get out of it – much like your career. And one of the main benefits to distance learning is that you can work on both at the same time. With advancing your career as your main goal, you’ll be able to study modules that are relevant to you. This means you can apply your studies directly to your 9-5, and reap the rewards instantly. Online executive education is also very popular among students looking to specialise their careers. This will allow you to understand a variety of specialisms, before deciding where to take your own career path. Proving you can study online, alongside your existing career is an admirable achievement, and one that will benefit your personally and professionally.

Ken Brown, said:

The Edinburgh Business School’s MBA is not like a formal full-time course where there is a rigid timetable and a set deadline to complete. With our MBA you can take one year, or as many years as you want to complete.  

One of the most attractive features of the Edinburgh Business School’s online MBA is its flexibility. The flexibility to choose which of the courses to do and when you want to do them. The flexibility to choose when and where to sit the exams. The flexibility to put your studies on hold, if, for example, you have an urgent project at work or some important family commitments. 

It is possible to take a break from your studies and pick them up again when you are ready.  

5. Take your studies across the globe

Another benefit to distance learning is in the name- you can learn remotely. Chances are you’ll be in a virtual classroom with students from each corner of the globe. Not only will this benefit you personally, enriching your understanding and appreciation of other cultures, but also professionally, introducing you to an international network of people just like you. This means you can share your knowledge with people from all over the world, and draw upon diverse views and experiences. Using skills like this are vital executive education and distance learning mimics situations you’ll come across within a modern, international workplace.

Want to know more? Discover our portfolio of on-campus and online master’s programmes in business.