Distance learning courses and degrees have increased in popularity with the development of technology and the wide accessibility of the internet. There are millions of students today who opt to obtain their degrees through online means rather than traditional ones.
If you have completed your undergraduate degree and are considering starting a master’s degree, you are probably asking yourself whether a distance learning masters degree is truly worth it.
There are advantages and disadvantages of distance learning, but its popularity suggests that it is becoming a widely accepted means of getting educational degrees.
Stat: It is estimated that around 7 million people worldwide choose to take online courses and complete their degrees in distance.
People choose online courses because of reasons such as:
- More choices of programs
- Higher flexibility
- Lower cost
- Immediate applicability of skills
- Increased global network
Choice of programs
Because distance learning is nowadays mostly completed through online means, the internet offers an ever growing list of masters courses and degrees. Ranging from smaller courses to massive open online courses (MOOCs), distance learning masters courses are given in almost any field of study.
Because of this wide range of choices, it is important for potential students to carefully choose their degree and courses. The first step to selecting a distance learning masters degree or course is to check whether the institution that is teaching it is properly accredited.
Accreditation means that the university offering this masters degree is qualified to do so and that this qualification will lead to it being accepted in the labor market. If the distance learning masters degree is given by an unaccredited institution, your employers will not accept it and you will have wasted your time.
Since there are so many resources for distance learning, the potential for scamming and fraud is very high.
Many websites and institutions will pretend to offer valuable degrees, but in reality they will only take your money and not offer anything in return. You can check the accreditation of any program or university by going to their website. Most institutions will have their qualifications listed somewhere, and if not, you can always contact them and ask.
Top rated institutions and universities that offer online courses
The accreditation criteria will narrow down the choices of institutions and you will have an easier time in selecting what program and from which university you want to obtain your masters degree.
In addition to this, distance learning courses are offered by many platforms, some better than others. These platforms enable you to choose programs, fields of study, and universities or lecturers from which you want to get your course credits.
You can choose amongst the top rated ones such as:
- MIT OpenCourseWare
- The Open University
- Advance Learning Interactive Systems Online (ALISON)
- University of the People
These platforms offer a huge selection of courses and degrees from small colleges and universities to Ivy League ones such as:
- Princeton University
- Harvard University
- Stanford University
- Yale University
- UC Berkley etc.
This means that you can get your certifications or diploma from a university that you would not otherwise be able to attend in person due to financial constraints. The prestige that comes from these degrees will mean that your future employers will respect your degree and you will be more likely to get hired.
After completing your undergraduate degree, the next step is usually to start working in the field for which you have your degree. In order to get a traditional, on-campus masters degree, you will have to quit your job and possibly move to the place where the courses are taught.
This scenario is highly inflexible for people who are ambitious and want to advance in their careers and continue learning at the same time.
Distance learning offers the solution to this problem through allowing students to:
- Learn at their own pace
- Learn from home or office
- Learn at any time that is convenient
A distance learning masters degree gives students the opportunity to view lectures and complete assignments whenever they have free time and they can do so from the comfort of their own homes and offices.
This increased flexibility is what has made distance learning and online courses or masters degrees so demanded in recent years. It shows that for people seeking to both educate themselves and get promoted, distance learning masters degrees are worth more than a traditional education.
Getting a masters degree can be very expensive, depending on the program and the location. It entails costs from tuition and school expenses as well as living costs. Most of these costs can be eliminated through distance learning.
Getting a distance learning masters degree is much cheaper than traditional on-campus education.
For starters, tuition costs are lower for distance learning. Because courses and degrees are offered online and there is a lot of competition between institutions for offering these degrees, tuition expenses can be half the amount of the on-campus experience.
Many courses can even be free of charge, with students only being required to pay if they want to receive the certificate of completion.
In an on-campus classroom, instructors will assign books and other materials which students have to purchase. This can range from low sums to considerable amounts of hundreds of dollars.
Business programs in particular have expensive materials with one book being priced $150 or more.
Online courses on the other hand will most likely have course materials which are made available by the instructors and the students will have to pay very small amounts or nothing at all.
In addition, unless you choose to attend classes for your degree in the location which you are living now, you will most likely have to move to the university of your choice if you want to attend physical classrooms.
This entails moving costs, finding an apartment, and dealing with roommates.
Distance learning completely eliminates these costs, since you do not need to move and can complete courses from your own location, so you end up saving a lot of money.
Acceptability in the job market
Many people look at distance learning masters degrees as lower quality or less acceptable to employers. So if you are asking yourself “Are online masters degrees respected in the workplace” you should know that the answer is yes.
People would not be completing online courses if their employers would not accept them as valid, and employers would not hire people with distance learning degrees if they did not recognize their value.
Completing a distance learning masters degree requires a lot of self-discipline and willingness to learn at your own pace.
It can be very difficult because you alone are responsible for keeping track of your progress and completing the required courses and credits.
Because of these difficulties, people who have gotten their degrees through distance learning convey a set of skills that are very desirable to employers such as:
- Being more self-motivated
- Having better discipline
- Taking initiatives
- Better at staying on schedule and
- Meeting deadlines
This gives them an edge over the competition and their chances of getting hired with an online degree increase. Thus getting a distance learning masters degree will stand out in your resume to your potential employers and might even give you an edge over your competition.
Immediate applicability of skills
Traditional on-campus students usually have to be present in classes and complete assignments, which leaves little space for working and applying their skills during the semesters when they are enrolled in school.
This means that while they are completing their masters courses, they are only gaining skills and not being able to put them to use in the workplace. The situation is completely different for distance learners.
Those who are completing their distance learning masters degree have the ability to work and study at the same time, which means that they gain their skills and can apply them immediately in their job.
This makes them valuable to their employers and increases their chances of being promoted and earning more.
A more global network
Besides being more flexible and low cost, the online or distance learning environment is worth undertaking because it offers another unique advantage, the ability to build networks.
The traditional on-campus experience offers this opportunity to its students too, but it is limited to a select number of people in the classroom.
The online or distance learning environment on the other hand takes this ability to the next level. Because online courses have enrollments from people from all over the globe, they are incredibly diverse.
Students who are located in different continents and countries will have the chance to talk to others with whom they might not have been able to in a physical classroom. These people will be of different ages, backgrounds, and will have unique work experience which enriches the virtual classroom and chatroom discussions.
The students will be able to learn from one another and gain different perspectives on various issues. This will influence the way everyone views those issues pertinent to their field of study and the way they work and learn.
In addition to creating a more global mindset, completing a distance learning masters degree can also offer you the possibility of making more connections with people and building a more global network.
This makes distance learning more worth than the traditional classroom setting because you will not just interact with people from the classroom in which they are physically present, but can build connections to people from all over the globe.
The advantage in this network is that you can have new business ideas, as well as new working and partnership opportunities with people and can benefit from the demand of different countries.
Through distance learning, you will definitely gain a broader perspective and become a true global citizen.
Based on all this, when you compare online degrees vs traditional degrees, you come to the conclusion that they both have their advantages and disadvantages. However, the worth of a distance learning masters degree is constantly increasing and it might even surpass the traditional classroom setting due to its many benefits cited above.
Distance learners sacrifice the campus experience and student life, but gain more from a dynamic and career oriented option such as online classes. The ultimate question posed in this case is ”Is a distance learning masters degree worth it?” The answer is a resounding YES.