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Moving on from free online courses: choosing a university course

So, you’ve finished a free online course in a subject you love and it’s confirmed that higher education is for you. To help you get started with choosing an undergraduate course, Which? University’s Editor, Kelly Fenn, reveals five things to look out for.

Which? University

If your FutureLearn experience has inspired you to go to university and take on the challenge of a full degree, here are some pointers to aid you in your search for the right course.

  1. Course content

Here’s the first thing you should know: similar-sounding courses can actually vary widely across universities, so it’s important to do your research.

While your short online course is likely to have covered a specific topic area, you’ll need to dig into the module details of university courses to uncover the range of topics available.

For example, if you really enjoyed the FutureLearn course ‘England in the time of King Richard III’ and you’re keen to learn more about English monarchs, check the module information to make sure you don’t end up on a history course focusing on 20th century American history!

  1. Entry requirements

Most universities don’t have any prerequisites for their free online courses, but for their undergraduate courses, they’ll be looking for applicants with a certain academic background – whether that’s a qualification type, particular grades or a set of subjects. Some universities will even ask you to sit an admissions test or have an interview.

Look out for these entry requirements to ensure that you’re making realistic choices. If in doubt, contact the course provider directly.

  1. Study options

Getting a degree doesn’t necessarily mean spending the next three years in a lecture hall – there are plenty of part-time or more flexible options on offer.

If you enjoyed the learning style of the online course and have a lot of self-motivation, then a distance learning course might be a good option for you.

If you’d prefer to have face-to-face time with tutors and classmates but want to live at home or study part-time, consider taking a university course at a nearby college.

  1.  Type of university

Some universities are known for an emphasis on vocational learning and have strong partnerships with employers, while others are recognised for the academic experience and teaching style they offer.

Think about what you want to get out of university study. Is it to develop practical skills in order to pursue a specific career or to learn more about a subject that fascinates you? If you can, head to an open day to get a feel for the type of university that most suits you.

  1. Type of work / assessment involved

Just as course content can vary between universities offering similar-sounding courses, so can the type of work and assessment styles. Do you enjoy essay-writing, practical work or problem-based learning? Perform better in exams or does coursework appeal more? Factor this into your course choices.

Good luck!

Which? University is a free and independent website from Which? that helps students make more informed decisions about higher education, featuring information on more than 30,000 courses and 286 universities and colleges to search and compare

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