The huge hike in university tuition fees last year has been sorely felt in the world of higher education.

With students now facing debts in excess of £50,000 when they graduate, the 8.7% drop in UCAS applications for 2013 entry reflects that a significant number of school and college leavers are looking for alternative routes to a career path.

The distance learning degree is one option in particular which has seen an increasing rise in popularity over the past few years.

But apart from being kinder to your bank account, are there any other advantages of learning from the comfort of your armchair? And are there any reasons a distance learning course might not be the right option for you? 

Pros

#1 Study at your own pace

Some students can grasp concepts fairly quickly, while others need a bit more time to take things on board. One of the most appealing aspects of distance learning is being able to digest information at your own speed.

#2 Save money

While the fees for some distance learning degrees can still be quite hefty, many are actually cheaper, and you won’t be saddled with accommodation costs on top.

#3 Earn as you learn

If you already have a job in the field you would like to pursue, or would like to get some hands-on experience while you study, a distance learning degree is great for those who either already have work commitments, or wish to take them on.

#4 Stay local

Perhaps more relevant to mature students or those with children, who are considering applying to university, distance learning means you won’t have to give up life at home with your family.

#5 Flexibility

Depending on your responsibilities, there will be some weeks when you’ll have more time to study than others, but at least you won’t have to adhere to a timetable of lectures and tutorials every day!

#6 24/7 Access

Thanks to the internet and computer technology, your course materials are available any time of day or night. So no matter what your schedule is like, it’s always easy to fit in your studies. There is also the added convenience of submitting assignments and other coursework at the click of a button.

Cons

#1 Loneliness

Even though you will have a support system of tutors and other students on the course who you can interact with online, it doesn’t quite beat the banter of a lecture theatre or the fun of heading out to the pub with your mates on a Friday night. 

#2 Falling behind

Without the rigour of a set timetable and attending campus every day, it’s all too easy to let things slide, and adopt a “I’ll just do it later” attitude. A distance learning degree will only work if you’re motivated and set yourself strict periods of study time every week. 

Creating a dedicated working space where you can focus will help, as will not falling victim to distractions such as the TV or putting on the washing.

#3 Lack of resources

Unfortunately, learning hundreds of miles away from campus means popping out to the campus library for a textbook or journal isn’t really an option. You may find it difficult to find the resources you need, even after scouring your local town or city for several hours. 

 

Despite the pitfalls, the option of distance learning can be a blessing for many people. Whether it’s because your circumstances don’t permit you to attend university full or part-time, or you’re just looking to save money, a distance learning degree is certainly worth a look. Find out more about the best distance learning degrees in the UK and in Europe.

Would you like to share your own thoughts on distance learning degrees? Perhaps you’re currently studying for one, or have recently applied? Please pop your comments below!