Going the distance – the rise in popularity of online education

online education imageOf course, distance learning is nothing new, aided originally in the 18th century by an innovation known as the Post Office. And The Open University was established in the UK way back in 1969, shortly before Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon.

But thanks to the internet, distance learning has never been more popular. In the UK in 2011, nearly 11 per cent of students were distance learners; while in 2010, there are 7,500 students from Ireland registered to do courses with The Open University. That institution saw an ‘unprecedented’ 34 per cent increase in 18 to 24-year-olds doing a distance learning degree in 2010.

I recently interviewed several recent graduates who had undertaken postgraduate study online and all gave a positive assessment of this approach to gaining a qualification. One woman doing an online teaching course with Hibernia College noted how she worked during the day and did her course work in her available time. ‘You’ll find a lot of people who are changing career who will do it this way,’ she said, ‘because it allows them flexibility.’

Another person I interviewed did an Open University postgraduate diploma in marketing while working as a teacher. It enabled her to eventually change career and become a consultant.

And one of the best features of modern distance learning is that it enables you to do a course in a top university in another country without ever leaving the comfort of your house. Most top universities in Europe allow people to enrol in courses remotely. The University of London’s international programmes, for instance, have over 50,000 students, from 190 countries, enrolled in distance learning courses including over 200 from the Republic of Ireland. These programmes include undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the London School of Economics, Kings College, Royal Holloway and the Royal Veterinarian College.

And new approaches are now being developed, such as that of Coursera, which offers free online short courses from universities including Princeton and Stanford and has had over 1.7 million people register since April 2012.

For further information on The Open University, please visit  http://www.openuniversity.edu/.

For more ideas on choosing a postgraduate course, see postgradireland.com.