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You can get a feeling of the types of full-time and part-time online master’s degrees available from UK universities on our main master’s page.
The question: Are online Master’s degrees respected?
TL;DR- Quick summary
- Learning technology is now advanced enough to match and perform better in some areas than traditional teaching methods.
- Online learners tend to have more life experience and bring greater diversity and viewpoints to the classes.
- Universities have invested heavily in research and learning design teams to build high-quality online courses. They are even taking parts of online teaching and incorporating them into their on-campus degrees.
- An online Master’s will open the same doors as a traditional on-campus degree- career progressions/ change, further study and personal growth.
The short answer is yes, taking an online Master’s degree has the same value as taking a face to face course. However, a more detailed explanation needs to look at why this question has been asked.
First, we’ll try and cover the main objection to online degrees that we have encountered and then highlight the overwhelming reasons why they are respected by learning and employers.
Main objections about Online Master’s
From speaking with potential applicants worldwide, a few factors are specific to certain regions while others are general. As online degrees are becoming more popular and going from strength to strength during the pandemic, some old perceptions still exist but are becoming less credible.
Fake universities and diploma mills
In some countries, there have been, and still are, online universities that are not real universities in any way, shape or form. They only exist to part individuals with their money in exchange for a certificate. Some degree mills offer some learning materials and teaching, but these are outside of any national education system and regulation.
Unfortunately, not being regulated means there are no quality assurances or standards, which is devastating for genuine individuals tricked into believing they are enrolling on a recognised university course. Unfortunately, in these countries, unregulated, opportunistic individuals have tarnished the reputation of online degrees. However, it is easy to confirm an accredited institution and its courses in the UK with a couple of easy steps.
Online learning is not as good as classroom teaching
Another reason that we have heard is more general. Online learning is not as good as traditional in-person teaching.
Just ten years ago, it was not uncommon to hear university lecturers of a certain age dismissing online learning as inferior (this could have been more to do with learning new skills themselves and having to rebuild their programmes around these new tools).
However, in the past with the technology and internet speeds available, they had some valid points.
Certain subjects are harder to transfer to online learning. An example of this is where lab work is a part of the course. However, even these courses are developing ways to teach using simulators.
It’s true; most people would love to be in a position to take a year out of work and spend that time returning to university on a full-time, in-person Master’s degree. However, future employers and hiring managers will not have any preference for where the learning took place.
Courses that have been designed specifically for learning online are in some ways better for learning than a traditional brick and mortar environment. The advance in general internet speeds and technology means that modern learning platforms are immersive and engaging.
Main reasons for an Online Master’s degree
UK Universities have invested heavily in developing platforms and capabilities for online learning and course design. This investment means that the learning experience on modern online courses is recognised as actually better for learners in many ways.
Online degree learning experience
The strengths of online courses are the mixture of asynchronous and synchronous activities, the ability to review, pause and rewind live lectures, and dedicated support forums. On-campus programmes now adopt many of these learning activities after proving beneficial to learning and popular with students. In addition, the covid lockdowns accelerated the mass adoption of online learning techniques to on-campus courses.
In fact, due to the ease of scheduling time and flexibility in communication channels, many online Master’s degrees offer more tutor contact than traditional on-campus courses.
Peers and networking
Mature students enrolling for online degrees are generally older and have more life experience than on-campus students. Having broader life experience typically means that students are more motivated, dedicated and proactive. This student profile gives rise to vibrant online discussions and debates.
As most students typically work full-time, your fellow students provide an invaluable professional network, which can have a real-world impact on your career. For example, many MBA students form lifelong professional bonds and, in some cases, even companies with their fellow students.
Qualification quality and progress
An online Master’s will open the same possibilities as a traditional on-campus degree. This is true for progressing your career, taking a PhD, gaining chartered membership of a professional body or meeting visa requirements.
All UK master’s degrees are validated and benchmarked for teaching and learning outcomes. The certificate issued has the same weight as the on-campus equivalent.
Nowadays, online learning is just as respected and recognised as on-campus teaching for career and academic progression as well as the learning experience.