Traditionally, world-class universities' degrees were only accessible to students with deep pockets and the possibility of moving nearby the university campus and living there as long as it took to get the degree. If you wanted to work to pay for your studies, you needed to consider waiting tables in a restaurant within the area.
Thanks to modern e-learning platforms, top universities from all around the world are offering online degrees that cost a fraction of the price of their on-campus counterparts and are equally prestigious. The same accredited professors teach online and on-campus, so no potential employer is going to laugh sarcastically when reading about an online-obtained degree on a CV.
Advantages of online degrees
Someone could make an argument that traditional, offline classes are better to promote teamwork between the students and that face-to-face interaction between faculty and alumni is an important component in higher education. Those who sustain that could have a point if they consider only art studies or other areas in which physical presence could make a difference.
But in computer science or information technology, face-to-face communication is unnecessary. On the contrary, some subjects, such as cloud computing, software development, or formal methods in computing, could benefit from being delivered on an interactive learning platform. The students that choose online IT programs can use the technology to connect with faculty and other students in diverse ways, achieving deeper learning experiences.
So, let's talk about the advantages of online degrees:
- Cheaper (a lot)
- Flexible schedules
- Worldwide reach
Consider freely choosing a degree from any of the best institutions in the world. Or, if you already have a bachelor's degree, consider picking that master's degree that will skyrocket your career. And your salary.
No walk in the park, though
But don't get too excited yet.
Don't think that studying online means relaxing while knowledge enters magically into your head. Studying online requires a lot of effort, especially to find the right balance between work, study, family, and personal projects.
Schedule flexibility is a big plus, but you have to be very disciplined to commit a certain number of hours per week to your online studies. Online degrees have the same duration as offline ones. You can shorten that time if you take simultaneous courses, but that means less time to work, rest or be with your family.
And sleep; don't forget you will eventually have to sleep.
Although online degrees are far cheaper than on-campus studies, they still cost considerable amounts of money, so before deciding to go for an online degree, you should consider the time and the money you will have to spend on it. Some learning platforms offer financial aid, but only to qualified students.
Online bachelor's degrees in IT typically require a four-year commitment for students enrolled full-time. Most master's degrees can be completed in one year as an accelerated program, although some may take two or three years to complete.
All master's degrees in IT allow for an increase in salary, but those associated with the biggest increases are STEM majors (science, technology, engineering, and math).
Online studying platforms
Platforms such as Coursera, FutureLearn, or edX concentrate the offerings of many renowned universities from different parts of the world. The different courses offered through those platforms open the door to the computer science profession or help provide advancements for those who are already working in the IT field.
Online degrees offered by top universities often cost as little as half the cost of an equivalent on-campus degree. The difference in cost, combined with the ability to work while you study, turn these degrees into viable options to generate a quick return of investment.
Coursera offers an online bachelor's degree in Computer Science and a full range of online master's degrees covering today's most in-demand fields. Its goal is to work with the best universities to design affordable learning programs that make degrees more accessible to everyone.
As an example, an on-campus degree costing $52.000, costs only $22.000 when taken online. The same diploma is issued for both degrees.
If you are looking for a world-class bachelor's degree in technology, Coursera suggests the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree from the University of London. It covers the hottest tech topics of today, such as machine learning, AI, data science, physical computing, IoT, virtual reality, etc.
Once you get your bachelor's, you can go for a master's degree in data science, engineering, or information technology, choosing from the following.
- Arizona State University,
- Universidad de Los Andes
- The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- The University of Colorado Boulder
- Penn Engineering
- The University of London
Online degrees offered by Coursera seek to help students invest in their education, increasing their earning potential once they graduate. The platform also offers financial aid for qualified students. To reduce the risk involved in enrolling in a long-term program, the master-track certificates, specializations, and courses that are part of the degrees allow you to start learning right away, with the freedom to progress on your schedule.
If you are later admitted to the full program, the courses you have completed will serve you for your degree learning.
To get an online degree in FutureLearn, you first need to choose one from a full range of subjects and levels, which go from graduate certificates to full master's degrees. Then you start learning flexibly online, working through programs, and earning credits towards your degree, wherever you are.
To assist to the classes, you just need a smartphone, a tablet or computer, and access to the internet. To pass the assessments, you have to complete online assignments or take in-person exams, which allow you to get feedback and demonstrate your understanding.
Once you complete all programs and pass all assessments, you will earn a degree and gain an internationally recognized qualification. The learning experience in Future Learn involves watching videos, reading articles, doing tests, and completing assignments online. You can join online discussions and collaborate with peers in virtual study groups, get feedback from expert educators, and get full access to the university library, online resources, and support.
The universities that are currently offering online degrees on FutureLearn include the following.
- Anglia Ruskin University
- Coventry University
- Deakin University
- Murdoch University
- The Open University
- The University of Glasgow
- The University of Newcastle Australia.
In the area of IT and Computer Science, FutureLearn offers more than 70 courses, which cover topics such as data mining, robotics, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, fintech, among many others. Prices for a master's degree are around $ 20.000.
FutureLearn offers free taster courses, which are part of the degree programs, so you can have a grasp of how it is like to study online for a degree without spending any money.
This platform offers an affordable and flexible bachelor's degree programs called MicroBachelors, which cost an average of $166 per credit. Many companies help to cover education costs for eligible employees, so it might even come at little cost, or at no cost at all. The MicroBachelors programs allow you to start studying online and at your own pace, the contents that are most relevant for your career.
For each credit you earn, you get a certificate with which you can show off your achievement.
Master's degrees at edX cost between $10.000 and $25.000. The same degrees, taken on-campus, cost between $40.000 and $60.000. Studying an online degree at edX, you'll find the same rigor as if you study on-campus, and you'll learn through live video sessions, peer communication, and project work.
The list of universities that partner with edX for teaching master's degrees includes below.
- Georgia Tech,
- The University of Texas at Austin,
- Indiana University
- Purdue University
- Arizona State University
- Boston University.
The master's degrees cover very focused topics, such as business analytics, geographical information systems, healthcare informatics, statistics, data science, and finance.
University for everyone
Shai Reshef, president of the University of the People, said that anyone with a high school diploma could study 100% online and get a US-accredited, tuition-free degree. “UoPeople is changing higher education from being a privilege for a few to becoming a basic right, affordable and accessible for all,” expressed president Reshef in a TED lecture.
Initiatives like this one, along with the affordable options that online learning platforms are creating, are dramatically changing the landscape of higher education. Today, companies can find the qualified professionals they need anywhere, instead of trying to catch recent graduates as soon as they walk through the university gates, holding their degrees in their hands.
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