Studying a Degree Online/via Distance Learning

If only I knew then what I know now.

If you don't want to read the entire article, just scroll down to the end of this post where the list is.

Honestly it's cool... 

I'll still love you.

Nowadays, a lot of people are choosing to leave school/college and find a career without going to university. And with the rise in apprenticeships and vocational qualifications being offered by employers, I can hardly say I blame them. 

I myself chose this route, and have been quite fortunate in becoming a qualified aircraft technician, and earning a high enough salary to be able to afford a mortgage at the age of 23.

However, that being said;

I think that there is a certain freedom that having a university degree grants you, in that it is an internationally recognised way of showing an employer your standard of education (regardless of subject matter), and your ability to maintain focus when under a lot of pressure, or when surrounded by the typical distractions encountered whilst attending university. (I promise you, they all know.)

There are also a lot of careers that require a university degree as standard, meaning that no matter how great your drive or motivation, without that piece of paper and your weird square hat, you ain't getting in.

I realised this when it was far too late, as I was already an apprentice in full-time employment, and had too many financial ties to leave it all and head off to university for three years, where I would undoubtedly spend the majority of my time drinking myself into an early grave and not studying a single bullet point.

So, planning a career change in the not too distant future, I started looking for a way round the issue. 

After researching various universities that offered distance learning, I decided to enroll on a physics degree with the Open University (I enjoyed studying A level physics, however I didn't do incredibly well when it came to studying for exams. They coincided with me having my first girlfriend, and that should tell you everything you need to know... What can I say? When you're 16, the 'birds and the bees' rank a little higher on your list of priorities than Michael Faraday and Robert Hooke!)

I found it all to be quite daunting at first, reading the overview of the modules included in the course and trying to think back to when I was 18 and had something of an academically inclined mind.. 

I hadn't really studied physics since my A levels, and I find it a lot easier to learn when I'm in a classroom environment, rather than getting all of my content online and having to teach myself at home.

"What if I'm just not smart enough?"
"What if I fall behind?"
"What if I can't afford it?"

By the way, the answers to those questions are:

  1. Being interested in your subject and being driven is far more important than being 'smart.'
  2. If you fall behind, email your tutor and explain. They will normally give you an extension if you have a valid reason.
  3. Student Finance

I decided I could either bury my head in the sand, or just jump in headfirst. 

I am glad I jumped in.

Now, although most of the studying I do is on my own at home, there were a few group activities at the beginning of the course to introduce students to the world of science.

We went to a day-school held at a local college, where a tutor gave us an introduction to the course and answered any questions that we had regarding the year ahead. Students from all over North Wales/North West England attended, but as luck would have it, there were a few people on the course who lived down the road from me! (One of whom I still keep in contact, and study with.) 

We also carried out some basic experiments to introduce everyone to the scientific method, and did a little maths to get the cogs between the ears turning. Since then I've been studying around 20 hours a week, and attending online tutorials within my tutor group. 

The freedom that part-time distance learning offers is (in my opinion) brilliant, although studying at that pace does come with one main disadvantage.

A degree takes six years to complete if studied part-time. (However, this is only recommended if you're in full-time employment. You could study full-time and have a distance learning degree done in three years, so if you're fresh out of college/sixth form, I would definitely consider it.) 

In spite of this, the thing that really gets my goat, grinds my gears, and churns my butter, is that if I'd known about this when I was in sixth form, and started at the age of 18, I would have been handing in my final ever assignment in a few months. 

But instead, I'm a 23-year-old first-year student. 

Like a geography teacher at a drum & bass convention.

*He sobbed to himself like a puppy who'd just had their tail stood on.*

Anyway, leaping from the depths of despair, here are the main things to take away if you're thinking of taking up distance learning:


  • (For me) It is considerably cheaper than going to a full-time university.
  • It can be done in the comfort of your own home.
  • You can study at your own pace (provided you finish within 16 years of starting).
  • It shows potential future employers that you are self-motivated (It's all done off your own back, after all).
  • It is just as credible as a degree from an 'actual' university.
  • Study can be done alongside employment, giving you scope to achieve work experience in your field before finishing your degree.


  • There are a few expenses not covered by some courses (for me it was equipment for carrying out household experiments - nothing that can't be bought from your local supermarket though).
  • Your time management skills will be tested.
  • Very little face-to-face tutoring (although online video/audio tutorials may be available).
  • Studying part-time takes (at least) twice as long as full time university.
  • You don't get the 'university experience' (But if like me, you're a homeowner who gets his kicks by drinking gin on his own and watching TV repeats of Friends, then that shouldn't really matter).
  • So there you have it. Thanks very much for reading, and I hope you make the best decision for you, whatever your ambition!

So there you have it. Thanks very much for reading, and I hope you make the best decision for you, whatever your ambition!

If you skipped straight to the list, I don't blame you. I'd ignore me if I met me too.

And yes, I still love you.

If this get's more than five hits I'll cry.
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