With distance learning, not being in the same country as your university isn't a problem

Bought anything on eBay recently? A flight booked online, perhaps? Or maybe surfed around looking at insurance premiums? We do so much of our own business online these days that it's hardly a revolutionary idea to learn about business via the internet. That explains the healthy supply of online and distance-learning postgraduate courses in the field of business education. The Association of Business Schools (ABS) lists higher-education institutions offering one or other model of distance learning, leading to a management-related Masters.

"They are very much part of the scene now," says the ABS chief executive, Jonathan Slack. "They have a good track record and the use of technology means they are better than ever before."

Slack also says that, for the schools, launching and maintaining distance-learning courses is becoming easier, since increasing amounts of course materials – even for campus-based students – are being made available online.

There are various models of learning, and many ways of describing them. If you trawl around prospectuses, you'll find references to e-learning, open learning, supported distance learning and blended learning. But the devil is in the detail. If you're choosing a Masters course at a university hundreds of miles away, as well as being satisfied the course content matches your needs, you should check how you'll receive course materials, whether there's an element of "live" online lecturing or discussion with fellow students, and if so, when it takes place, and what the arrangements are for you to communicate with your teachers. Tuition fees are rarely much lower than for campus-based courses, but cost-of-living and transport savings can be huge.

At the University of Leicester School of Management, three Masters courses (in finance, marketing and management) are offered, by what the school terms supported distance learning, and the content and assessment format for each course is identical to the equivalent courses followed by the full-time, campus-based students. Across the three courses, around 250 students begin study every year, each taking about two and a half years to complete them. The majority come from the Middle East, West and East Africa, and the Caribbean, with a small number from the UK and mainland Europe.

But the school deliberately does not rely solely on the internet to communicate with students. "We are trying to span new and old technology," says Dr Steve Conway, Leicester's director of distance learning, "because lots of students are in parts of the world where broadband is not very good. So we still send course materials through the post as well as give students access to our e-library."

Since there are no timetabled lectures or online events, students have flexibility on when they study, but can get academic advice from their Leicester-based tutors by email. The university has employed staff worldwide to give local support. "These local agents act as a hub and try to create a sense of community by setting up local tutor groups," says Conway.

The university organises summer schools in Leicester for distance-learning students, but these are not compulsory. However, regional summer schools are being introduced – the first, for Caribbean students, in Miami next May or June – which may lead to attendance at a summer school becoming mandatory.

Most schools manage all the academic components of their distance courses in-house, even if there's rarely face-to-face contact between students and academics. An exception to this is Liverpool University, where the management school works in partnership with Laureate Online Education, a worldwide organisation specialising in the technical side of distance learning. Laureate contracts and coordinates, from its European base in the Netherlands, all of the distance courses' teachers, known as instructors, who are spread around the world. Laureate also manages the online platform, which carries course materials and real-time discussions among students and their instructors.

"The reason we work with Laureate is one of scale, since we have 3,500 online students," says the school's director, Murray Dalziel. "But we develop the curriculum; we approve and train the instructors; and we constantly monitor the quality of what's going on."

There are eight management-related Masters courses available at Liverpool, and a further 10 courses, in the departments of law, medicine and IT, also run in partnership with Laureate.

Dalziel was initially sceptical about contracting out the teaching element. "What changed my mind is talking to the students, who have given us very high satisfaction ratings," he says.

More schools are adding distance courses to their portfolio. Warwick Business School is the latest to join in, with its MSc in management due to start with about 50 students next April. The format is described as blended learning, with students working partly on their own, and in their own time, and partly joining online classes. "It's not for every lecturer, nor every student," says course academic director, Michael Shulver. "You have to be savvy with technology."

The timetabled element will be a fortnightly, Saturday-morning lesson, where, using the web-based, interactive technology, students will work with a tutor, do group work and make presentations. Exams will be taken at accredited centres around the world. Shulver says: "People looking for a job want a course where they know that, if they get a job, they'll have the flexibility to accept it and continue with their Masters."

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Network Manager - Oldham area - Up to £30,000

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

Teacher of special needs required for Burton on Trent

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Exciting Opportunity, Rand...

Behaviour Support Assistant

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Behaviour Support Worker Th...

Youth Worker / Teaching Assistant - Nottingham

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are looki...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home