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How to prepare for your online degree: 8 top tips

Learn everything you need to know about online degrees and how to prepare for them in this ultimate guide for new and prospective students.

Online university student studies for their degree

Gone are the days when you had to attend an on-campus university in order to earn a degree. Now, there are many different types of online degrees, giving more people access to higher education than ever before.

The popularity of online degrees is set to keep growing – after evaluating the rise of online degrees, Holon IQ forecasted that the global online degree market will reach $74 billion by 2025, up from $36 billion in 2019. 

There are dozens of reasons why someone might choose an online degree over a traditional university experience, including cost, location, work obligations and family commitments. Whatever the reason, online degrees offer people an opportunity to access higher education in spite of existing barriers.

In this article, we’ll explore how online degrees work, the differences between online and traditional degrees, the credibility of online degrees, and eight practical ways to prepare for your online degree journey. 

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  • undergraduate
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How do online degrees work?

Online degrees are academic programmes that are completed entirely or primarily through virtual platforms. They’re usually made up of a combination of video lectures, required readings, discussion boards and digital assignments, though this may vary from degree to degree. 

Learning materials are usually accessible through a learning management system (LMS), where students can engage with course content, submit assignments, and interact with instructors and fellow students. Online degrees offer flexibility in terms of time and location, allowing students to study at their own pace and from anywhere in the world – as long as they have an internet connection.

How do FutureLearn’s online degrees work?

We have a variety of online degrees currently on FutureLearn, ranging from graduate certificates to full master’s degrees – and we’re hoping to expand our offering in the near future. If you’re interested in one of our degrees in particular, the first step is to request more information using the form at the bottom of the individual degree page.

If you meet the requirements and are accepted onto one of our online degrees, you’ll then be able to work through the programmes on your smartphone, tablet or computer (whichever suits you best), and start earning academic credit.

Simple enough, right? As you go, you’ll complete online assignments (and in some cases, the odd in-person exam), and if you pass all of them, you’ll gain an internationally recognised qualification from a world-class university.

You can explore our degree options on the following collection pages:

Online degree vs traditional degree

Whether you’re a working professional looking to advance your career or a busy parent seeking to further your education, online degrees offer flexibility and convenience that traditional on-campus institutions may not provide.

But what are the key differences? Below, we break it down. Keep in mind, the differences between online and traditional degrees will vary between universities, and will also depend on what you choose to study.

Online degreeTraditional degree
Classes100% online classesFace-to-face or blended learning
ScheduleCreate your own scheduleFollow a set schedule
LocationAnywhere in the worldOn-campus
FacilitiesOnline resourcesLibrary, computers, cafeteria, gym
AssessmentOnline assessmentIn-person exams
Cost£2,500-15,000 in total£27,750 in total (in the UK)

Are online degrees credible?

A common concern for students considering online degrees is credibility. What if you’re not taken as seriously as graduates with traditional degrees? Well, it’s important to note that the credibility of an online degree ultimately depends on the institution offering it. 

All of our online degrees on FutureLearn have been created by reputable universities and institutions that have undergone proper accreditation processes. This helps to ensure that their online degrees hold the same academic value as their traditional programs.

It’s also worth noting – times are changing. With the increased digitalisation of society, employers are becoming more open to alternative models of education and work. Therefore, it’s highly unlikely that having an online degree will put you at a disadvantage when you enter the job market – in some instances, it may even give you an edge.

Research carried out by Thomas L. Russell of North Carolina State University looked at 355 studies on the difference between online/distance education and traditional classroom models, carried out between 1928 and 2001. 

By examining the results of these studies, which included technical reports and dissertations that examined grades, test scores, satisfaction rates and much more, Russell found that online/distance education was as effective or even more so than traditional classroom methods. 

So, you can feel reassured that an online degree will still offer a credible, quality learning experience.

8 ways to prepare for your online degree

Imagine that you’ve been accepted onto your ideal online degree program and you’re about to begin your studies. You might feel unsure about what to expect – so, here are eight things you can do to prepare yourself.

1. Check your curriculum and prerequisites

First things first, what exactly are you going to be studying? Is there anything you need to brush up on before you officially start your degree? 

This is the time to familiarise yourself with the program’s modules, curriculum, and any prerequisites. To feel fully prepared, make sure you meet all the requirements and have a solid understanding of what your course entails.

2. Read around your subject

If you want to be the best in class, you’ll want to ensure that you’re well-read in your field of study. Not only will this enhance your knowledge and prepare you for your degree, but it’ll also get you excited about what’s to come.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research, industry trends, and relevant literature related to your field, or even consider taking a short online course related to your subject. Reading around your subject throughout your studies will also provide valuable insights as you move through your online degree journey.

3. Explore your university resources

Universities with online degree programs usually offer various resources and support services, including virtual libraries, online tutoring, career services, and academic support. 

Take the time to explore these resources and understand how they can assist you in your studies. This is likely to vary depending on the university – so, do your research before you enrol on your degree.

4. Create the perfect dedicated study space

As you may not have access to certain university facilities, it’s all the more important that you create a designated study space that is comfortable, inspiring, and conducive to focused learning. 

Whether you choose your own office, a cosy corner of your living room, or even a peaceful spot in your public library, it’s essential that you have somewhere that allows you to focus on your studies in a distraction-free environment. And of course, you’ll need study materials and a reliable internet connection.

5. Practice time management skills

Online degrees require self-discipline and effective time management, so it’s worth brushing up on your time management skills before your degree starts. Develop a routine that allows for dedicated study hours, and be proactive in managing your assignments and deadlines.

6. Make a study schedule that suits you

Designing a study schedule is an essential part of every student’s university experience, but it’s extra important for online students. Having a set schedule will help to keep you accountable so that you stay on track with your learning.

To help, you might want to identify the times of day when you’re most alert and productive, and allocate those hours for focused study.

7. Build a network to stay connected

Online learning doesn’t mean you have to study in isolation. Engage with your instructors and fellow students through discussion boards or comment sections, as you’ll find on the FutureLearn platform. 

Building a network will enhance your learning experience and provide opportunities for collaboration and support – it’ll also give you the opportunity to make friends and experience the social benefits of university.

8. Prioritise your health and wellbeing

Studying for a degree is often an enriching experience, but that doesn’t mean you won’t experience stress. It’s super important that you remember to take care of yourself, physically and mentally. 

The best way to do this is by incorporating regular exercise, breaks, tasty and nutritious food, and relaxation techniques into your online study routine. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance will contribute to your overall success and wellbeing as an online student.

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  • 2 years
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
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Discover online degrees on FutureLearn

Preparing for your online degree requires a proactive approach and a commitment to self-discipline, but it’s totally worth it to study your passion, specialise in your field, and progress in your career. You can explore our full collection of online degrees on FutureLearn to get started.

By following these strategies and making the most of the online resources available to you, you can ensure that your online degree experience is fulfilling and successful. Embrace the flexibility and convenience that online degrees offer, and get ready to embark on a journey of knowledge and personal growth.

Find an online degree in your field of expertise

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