My Experience of Studying Online
When I started my master’s degree in Responsible Tourism Management at Leeds Beckett, I happened to live in Arctic Norway. Due to my remoteness, distance learning was a very suitable option for me. It soon turned out though that I would get a lot more out of the distance learning mode than initially expected.
A few months into my postgraduate course, I took the decision to move to a different country altogether and because I was already studying online, I could simply take my studies with me. Since then, I have literally studied around the world: on trains in Europe or planes to other continents – although of course most of the time from my home, office or a café. Judging by that, doing an entire degree through distance learning has many advantages. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that a certain degree of self-discipline is needed. If you have that though, the university has good support structures in place, like the weekly release of a new unit and the allocation of an online learning tutor.
Possibility for face-to-face activities despite an excellent online course
For me personally, the biggest challenge was initially to have an exchange with other students who face a similar situation to myself. I then reached out through one of the online groups and it got me in touch with one peer in particular who fast became a personal friend. Although we are from different continents even, we have since met in person and are frequently in touch.
While Leeds Beckett gives you the opportunity to do your entire degree online, my course team has always proven to be very open for students to engage in face-to-face activities. This has taken me to their annual spotlight event in Leeds, an excursion with full-time students to a different part of England or a field trip along the river Gambia, in Africa’s smallest country. From such opportunities, I have very much been able to see practical examples of the teachings I am given. Additionally, those opportunities have proven to be important for my professional networking and several personal friendships have formed as well.
While those face-to-face activities are certainly a bonus, it is important to mention at this point that I have found the distance learning course as such to be delivered in an excellent way since day one. All module leaders, as well as staff members in other roles, are very knowledgeable in their respective fields. This clearly reflects in both the taught elements and the personal tutoring they provide. The course content as well as the assignments related to it are very current and apply both theory and practice, from which I have benefitted a lot for my professional development.
Creating your own learning framework
Overall, I would say that through distance learning especially you get out what you put in. It can be very beneficial to be in charge of your own learning and you might learn a lot about yourself as part of the process as well. Leeds Beckett gives the necessary support and provides contact points that some students may wish to use more and others less, such as online groups and regular calls. As I am now approaching the end of my studies, I look back at them as some of the very best years of my life. My course has given me the opportunity to be a true distance learner when I needed to be just that but always with a great support team and fellow peers. It did also provide for many real-life opportunities that I would never have expected when initially signing up for the course. Those are now some of the fondest memories I will think back to for the rest of my life.
For any new starters, my advice is to familiarise yourself with the online learning portal and e-library as soon as you have access and come up with a weekly schedule that suits your other commitments. Also, reach out when you need to, similar to how you would in a face-to-face setting. Because despite the distance and the feeling of isolation this can occasionally bring, there are always peers undergoing the same process, as well as tutors and other university staff ready to assist you. And like me, you might get a lot more out of your distance learning experience than you ever thought possible.