What do elite US universities like Harvard, Princeton and Stanford have in common? Well, apart from producing the cream of the professional crop, they’re making a number of their courses, which would usually cost in excess of $60,000 a year, completely free online.
According to national newspaper The Telegraph, the institutions have taken an active interest in the world of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in a fit of altruism and as a means of educational experimentation.
With a high level of interest – more than 154,000 would-be students have signed up worldwide – the experiment appears to be paying off.
However, while MOOCs play to a number of the strengths of distance learning, they fail to meet the mark with actual degrees or valuable qualifications for a potential employer to stare in awe at.
Gaining a degree OFF campus
The real value in distance learning lies in courses that are fully accredited by universities, paid for and grant you a distance learning degree after you successfully complete your course. And in the UK, where universities have spent decades perfecting their distance courses, the variety of modules on offer means that a MOOC couldn’t hold a candle to them.
Just like MOOCs, a bona fide distance course will grant online access to your modules, but that’s where the similarities end. Paying a fee to a university gives you the opportunity to chat with tutors on a regular basis, providing that all-important difference between information and knowledge.
You see, with a MOOC you’re imbibing plenty of information, but without guidance you don’t really know much that will help push you forward in life. Without tutelage, information is merely an abstraction.
With a distance learning degree, you’re gaining the expert advice you need to convert that information into something more useful than a glut of facts and figures clogging your brain – you’re learning how to apply those facts to reality.
Fighting the tuition fee tide
As tuition fees rise, distance learning has become even more of a concern for a cash-strapped populace hoping to crowbar its way into further education.
With an online course, you’re cutting out the cost of trips to campus, the need to buy physical materials (most course texts are available online) and will be able to study when you want, where you want.
Unlike the potentially restricting feel of set times and classes that comes with a university lifestyle, and the overly loose course plan of MOOCs, distance degrees meet the middle ground. They provide deadlines but offer the flexibility for you to study in your own time.
Ultimately, while Harvard, Princeton and Stanford mean well with their MOOCs, they aren’t offering the full package for free. If you want that top-quality education but want to skip the campus lifestyle, check out distance learning – it might just help you get the job you want.