Online learning – what you need to know

The majority of people make a fairly seamless transition from school to college and on to university, going through full-time education with a structured timetable of lectures, seminars and personal study time. Once you leave this environment, the idea of going back can be a little intimidating; even when you know that it could do wonders for your career, the prospect of leaving work and going back to study is a big step.

Thankfully, you can now study for postgraduate qualifications online, including Masters degrees in Leadership and Management from the University of York! This however has its own set of considerations. The benefits are clear – you can study in your own time as well as keeping your current role and salary, but what do you need to do to prepare for an online degree?

Meeting the challenge of an MSc

Obtaining a Masters degree is a challenge, whether it’s online or in person. Although distance or online learning gives an incredible amount of flexibility for when and where you can study; if you’re continuing to work full-time, it will mean you’ll need to work during the evenings or at weekends. Undertaking distance learning online isn’t ‘easier’ than attending an on-campus course, it just allows you to choose when it’s suitable for you to work.

You must also make time for learning. While not having a rigid timetable that demands you attend a particular lecture theatre at a specific time is liberating, making time to study means you get the most out of your investment. Self-control and regular, focussed sessions tend to work better than either dipping in and out or leaving it too long and trying to do too much at once. Online study takes a lot of motivation and a feeling of achievement thanks to successfully completed study sessions can be key to keeping your momentum up.

Keeping your work separate

Many people also find it useful to have a ‘study computer’ that they use for all their learning materials. Although you can study anywhere with an internet connection, it’s possible to lose track of your progress if you were to split your time studying online between your work computer, a tablet and a laptop that you keep at home.

It’s also a good idea to over-estimate how much time you think you’ll need to study, read, watch videos and write. One of the big benefits of distance learning over attending live lectures is that you can revisit the material again and again, picking up on concepts and ideas that you may have previously missed. This not only improves your understanding and therefore your chances of obtaining a better grade, but makes your time and investment worthwhile.

Although the University of York uses the exact same academics and resources to provide online Masters degrees as you would get by working on campus, when you’re distance learning it can feel like you’re on your own. This isn’t the case, but it does mean that you need to use all of the communication channels open to you. Receiving regular feedback is an important part of the experience, despite not being face-to-face.

Getting your Masters degree online gives you the knowledge, skills and qualifications that you need to boost your career, but it’s an entirely different way of working to what many people will be used to. However, with a bit of prior planning and understanding a few practicalities, it can be your springboard to future success.