Going to university is simply not practical for some people - work or family commitments may stand in the way. But studying does not mean you have to put your job or even your life on hold. Distance learning can be an ideal way to upgrade qualifications without interrupting your career.
A record number of students have enrolled with the The Open University (OU) for the forthcoming academic year, proving that flexibility in learning is becoming an increasingly popular route to take. 'OU students can earn while they learn and fit their university around their personal commitments,' says Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor David Vincent.
Studying online means students can study at their own pace pretty much anywhere they please, in their own home, at the office and even whilst travelling. Students can study for a recognised qualification, which may have otherwise been inaccessible, whilst continuing with their daily lives.
There are plenty of reasons to study online, as Catherine Bateman discovered when she took up a postgraduate course with UkeUniversities Worldwide (www.ukeu.com) in Learning in the Connected Economy.
'I chose to be one of the first students to study through UkeU because I had just started a new job as a distance learning adviser with the British Council. This seemed like a good idea, as I had no personal experience of learning this way.
'The course allowed me to experience the medium of e-learning as well as find out what it's like to study at a distance. My previous learning experiences had been fairly traditional so I was intrigued to see how my learning experience would be different without lectures or tutorial groups.'
'My experience was overwhelmingly positive. The course was excellent with high quality online materials, plenty of interaction with people on the course, online of course, and very structured in terms of assignments and assessments. Learning in this way was every bit as challenging, if not more, as traditional methods of study.'
'You do miss out on some of the social aspects of classroom learning, but the benefits of flexible learning far outweighed this small sacrifice. I was able to study at my own time against clearly set deadlines for assignments and group work.'
'Learning online was particularly suitable for me as my job involves a lot of travelling, and learning this way really does allow you to study anytime anywhere. You can log in from anywhere and access all your course materials and notes as well as a phenomenal library, which provides full access to journals and books.'
'The support from online tutors was excellent. You receive regular updates and emails to check on your progress and provide help should you need it and any technical problems were sorted out immediately.'
'In terms of my career, the course was highly relevant to my job, as it has enabled me to see how e-learning is changing education in all kinds of ways. It has not given me a pay rise, but it has certainly helped me professionally in that I was able to learn a significant amount in a short period of time.'
More information on postgraduate courses can be found on the Prospects website, www.prospects.ac.uk.