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Distance and online learning

There are a wide range of courses and qualifications that can be taken without attending college or university. They can be courses from the UK and all over the world.

View some of the key questions and find out what distance and online learning involves 

What is distance and online learning?

It’s a way of learning where you are not physically in the same room as the teacher, tutor or trainer. It's a flexible way to learn and gain a recognised qualification. You won’t be in a classroom environment with other learners.

Any information and materials you will need for your course will be provided by the education provider and is usually accessed online. You will have a dedicated tutor to support you with your work. You may meet up every so often with your tutor or other students.

Whilst you will have a lot of flexibility in how and when you choose to study (compared to physically attending an educational establishment) you will still have to complete assignments and sit exams.

More than 270,000 undergraduate students are taking their first degrees via distance learning."

The Complete University Guide
Is distance or online learning right for me?

To decide if distance and online learning is right for you start by thinking about your preferred learning style. Are you:

  • good at learning on your own or do you need to work with others?
  • self-motivated and able to prioritise your time well or do you need to be guided and given specific deadlines by others?
  • able to work digitally on email or video call or do you prefer physical face to face interactions?

Take the VARK test to see what your learning preferences are.


Think about the pros and cons of distance and online learning to see if it's suitable for you

Pros could include:

  1. Communicate with learners from all over the world which will improve the learning experience
  2. Studying at your own pace - you chose when you want to study and from where
  3. Study can work around your lifestyle and commitments
  4. The ability to retrain without having to attend an educational establishment to gain the qualification

Cons could include:

  1. Finding it hard to set aside the time to study
  2. Feeling isolated with no direct face-to-face contact with fellow learners or teacher (although you will be allocated tutor support)
  3. Issues with information technology which can cause frustration
  4. Having distractions that may come from studying at home
What courses can I study and what qualifications can I gain?

You can study a variety of different courses online. Courses such as:

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Education, Childhood and Youth
  • Health and Social Care
  • Law
  • Medical Sciences
  • Psychology and Counselling
  • Social Sciences

and many more....

Top tip! UCAS will allow you to filter study options as 'Distance Learning' to find those that can be done as distance and online courses.

You can gain the same qualifications studying a course distance and online as you would attending further education college and university. Some qualification you can study towards include:

  • Diplomas
  • Foundation degrees
  • Bachelor degrees
  • Masters degrees
  • Doctorates

Depending on the provider you can also choose to study stand alone modules and short courses at different levels. Take a look at examples of the modules offered by The Open University.

How do I apply for a course and how much will it cost?

Once you've found the course you feel is right for you, you'll need to contact the course provider directly to find out how to apply. You may have to register with them first and complete an application process. (See the 'Useful links' below for a list of different providers to start your course search).

The cost of a course will vary depending on the provider, subject, qualification level and length of study. It is likely that the cost will be less than if you were to physically attend a educational establishment full time. The Open University gives an example:

Studying part-time for an honours degree at a rate of 60-credit module a year, would cost £948 per year and take six years to complete. At today's prices, the total cost would be £5,904"

Remember to check with your provider for any funding support offered and take a look at the options available to you on Student Finance Wales.


Choosing a distance and online learning course

  • Find out more. Get as much information as you can about the course, the content and how it's taught and assessed to make sure it's the right course for you
  • Try a free course. Before committing and paying for a course why not try a free course to see if online and distance learning is for you
  • Be aware of costs. You'll be expected to pay for your course. Make sure you know what the exact cost will be and what's included and remember to find out more about the finance options available to support you - Student Finance Wales
  • Consider your next steps. Think about what you want the qualification for.  It’s worth making sure that the course you’re doing is recognised for the career you want to do. Check out the qualifications needed for different jobs on Career Search
  • Be careful. It’s important when paying for a course that you’re certain that the course exists and it’s not a scam. Check the site, the organisation and its background before committing

Useful links

The Open University

UCAS (you can filter 'Distance Learning' as a study option)

Courses in Wales

Distance Learning Centre

Future Learn

Open Learn

Oxford Open Learning (offers GCSE and A Level as distance courses)

Student Finance Wales


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