Online Schooling and Distance Learning for PhDs

Recently, many students have successfully pursues a PhD through online learning and for many it is a much better option than the traditional on-campus course delivery. People can choose this option for many reasons and it is becoming more readily available each day. A subject that requires a student to do lab-based research is not a course that is likely to be done online. Doing a course like this enables someone to do their PhD from anywhere. Below we look at Online Schooling and Distance Learning for PhDs

Recently, many universities in the UK have started to offer online part-time PhD options. Meetings with dissertation supervisors and tutors are made easier thanks mainly to modern technology. Distance learning and online support are beneficial for students who need to travel to remote places to do their research. Online communication tools bring together academic communities all over the world. 

Obtaining a PhD through Online Learning

During this process of study, students communicate with the faculty and other students via Email, electronic forms, chat rooms, video conferencing, Zoom calls, bulletin boards, instant messaging as well as other forms of computer-based interaction. Given recent events, these forms of communication have become quite popular. The programmes often include an online training system and tools to produce a virtual classroom. It is certain that a student saves several expenses regarding accommodation and transportation because you can maintain your current living expenses. It is also a great solution for people that are already in employment and are still keen on further education.   

A PhD is research-based instead of instructed so students can continue their PhD studies in a city that the college is not located in. There are huge contrasts in the environment – your access to college assets, like on-site libraries, will be limited. Also in-person contact with students doing similar subjects is limited as well as a student missing out on important seminars. Much of your communication with your PhD supervisor may be done by phone, email or other online strategies.

With this kept in mind there will be a lot of universities that will require students to spend some time on campus. Online PhD courses may require you to attend the campus in person for these 3 occasions:

  • Induction – the first week of the first term: to meet supervisors and to undertake a research training course (an optional second week of research training is offered that can be completed in the week after the initial compulsory induction week or online during the first term) 
  • The point of upgrade to PhD status: usually between years 1, and 2 for full time students and between years 3 and 4 for part-time students 
  • The final viva: the oral defence of the dissertation.  

Students will normally meet their supervisor during induction week where further arrangements will be made for when and how meetings will be conducted. These meetings will usually take place via video conferencing software. Students will need to demonstrate to supervisors that they will have the appropriate local resources and IT equipment to be able to do this course.  

Gaining a PhD through online learning is going to still have a significant impact on a student’s life. The amount of research is the same whether on-site or online and a student’s time management will be important.

Some misconceptions when it comes to online learning for PhDs

There are many misconceptions when it comes to studying online to get a PhD and two key ones are explained below:

Businesses will not look at online degrees

Any online PhD program from a university is accredited by that university in the same manner that any on-site student’s PhD is accredited. You may meet some employers with an archaic view of online learning. But in our experience they are few and far between as employees are usually welcomed by employers if they have the relevant qualifications and an eagerness to develop, irrespective of whether they studied online or on campus. 

Most employers are becoming increasingly aware of the advantages that online learning possesses. Employees can study while remaining in work. Employers can therefore retain their in-house talent whilst upskilling them. Many employers will now pay or at least part-pay to for an employee’s study online alongside their work. 

Lack of interactions between supervisor and student

A major misconception of online learning is that due to the lack of face-to-face interaction a student has with their supervisor, they tend to lack confidence which they would have gained studying on-campus. Online degrees are set up in different ways but they are commonly taught through online as well as pre-recorded lectures that students can watch later on. They are supported by online conversations with tutors and fellow students as well as one-to-one guidance and feedback on assignments. You can also set up a meeting with a tutor or supervisor over Zoom and Microsoft Teams. So the opportunities for interaction are still plentiful. 


Postgrad.co.uk provides information about postgraduate courses and study in the UK. We list thousands of postgraduate courses from universities and colleges in the UK so you can search for the course of your choice.

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