Some subjects are better suited to distance learning than others.
If you had to take one of these courses online and the others at a uni campus, which would you study online: (a) e-commerce (b) physiotherapy or (c) brain surgery? Well, I’d choose (a). It is easy to learn about e-commerce online. Physiotherapy is quite physical and you wouldn’t want to be operated on by a brain surgeon who got a degree from home.
Even a hands-on discipline like physiotherapy can be studied online if the course includes practical training (at a physio centre or campus facility). But it’s not a natural fit for online study. It doesn’t make the top 5 list of the best courses for distance learning. Here are the top 5.
1. Public Relations and Social Media
Public relations, digital marketing and social media strategy are all areas where you need to connect to people online. If you work in these fields, you need to understand the habits of internet users and know how to reach online groups effectively.
You are more likely to have a successful career in these areas if you are happy to work online. That also means you should be happy to study online. So it is a good test of students to run public relations and related courses by distance education. Hopefully, students use the communication skills they are learning to connect to each other via social media.
These fields also suit distance learning for other reasons. Project and assignment work is often about digital communication. So it helps to be on a computer when receiving course material—you can easily switch from reading course material to working on related assignments.
2. Information Technology
Information technology is an obvious choice for an online study subject. Everyone involved with an IT course should be technology-literate, including students, lecturers, tutors and support staff. Running a course that uses cutting-edge technology shouldn’t be a problem.
Because everyone enrolled in an online IT program is hooked up when working through course material, it is easy to switch to practical work. You can also quickly check out IT forums for detailed subject information. IT professionals are among the strongest contributors to internet forums.
A worry I have with studying IT online is the social life of students and the temptation to spend a lot of time on digital pursuits. It can be easy to jump on a computer to study or do something else useful and end up starting a computer game that goes for hours. Discipline and time management skills are definitely required.
More information: computer science and IT degrees
3. Journalism and Communications
Journalism and communications are further examples of fields where the internet has taken over. Text-based journalism is fast paced and delivered largely through digital media. Communications is an increasingly complex area (though university courses usually focus on core skills). Like public relations and social media, you should be comfortable studying online if you hope to pursue a career in the field.
Study information: online journalism courses.
Law is a highly literary kind of subject, making it a natural fit with online study. Law students do large amounts of reading and writing. Getting to and from classes is time that could be better spent on reading course material and doing assignments.
The law courses best suited to distance learning are shorter courses. A five-year combined law degree would be a long haul in the distance education mode. It might be more realistic to do a postgraduate law course online or a shorter bachelor program, such as USQ’s 3-year law degree.
Study details: law degrees.
5. Business Administration
Master of Business Administration programs are often run online because of the convenience to students. Postgraduate courses such as MBAs, health administration, and project management are intended for people with established careers. So it makes sense to offer them online so students can balance study with work. Busy professionals often just don’t have the time to study on campus.