Distance Education: How Does it Work?

Distance Education: How Does it Work?

Have you ever heard about distance studies? Did this new form of education spark your interest? I have been studying online for the past two and a half years, let me tell you all about it!


How it works


Studying online is as simple as the name: you literally study, but do everything online. The way it works with Laurentian is quite simple: you register for certain courses, log-in to the online studies platform, find the syllabus as well as the required textbooks and coursepacks needed for the course, and are set to go.


Every course is different. In some, you will have only quizzes and a few online discussions, whereas other courses require weekly assignments. For my “Feminist Theories” class, for example, I had weekly worksheets to hand in, which each required a good 4 to 5 hours of work. Meanwhile, my “Explanations of Crime” class requires only 2 discussions and 2 assignments. Nevertheless, the fewer assignments due, the higher they are worth, thus you can’t afford to mess one up!


I often get asked about online lectures and whether I follow them– this is different from one university to the next. For my BA with Laurentian, the studies are fully independent. I have to follow the syllabus, do all my readings and use those to score well on assignments. Of course, you can ask your professor for clarifications, however, there is no physical (or digital) “classroom” where the students watch 1.5-hour long lectures.


The Pros


Studying online is great– but not for everybody. Depending on what kind of learner you are, studying online may not be the right choice. The pros of studying online are as follows:

  • You can study from (almost) anywhere in the world

Case in point: I’ve been studying online from Spain, The Netherlands, Morocco, Greece and Uganda– a place where the power tends to be shut off randomly every couple of days.

  • You develop valuable independent studying skills.

Your professor will not be there to remind you to hand in your assignment– if you forget, that’s it.

  • It’s more affordable

Is there a course you want to take but can’t afford to live in London for three years? Studying with a university online allows you to take that course regardless of your budget for accommodation.

  • You get to make your own schedule

You do not have a physical class to attend, thus if you want to study and travel, or intern and travel as I am doing– you can!


The Cons


  • It can get pretty lonely!

Studying online means that you don’t have classes to attend, thus, no friends to go to class with or study with. Unless you have friends in your city studying as well, it can be quite lonely.

  • Getting references can be tricky

I faced this problem recently while trying to get references for my Master’s programme– my professors kindly explained to me that, although my academic work is excellent, they have never met me, and therefore do not feel comfortable writing reference letters. This is something I will discuss with my university, but keep it in mind!

  • You’ll often face the “but is it like, a real programme?” question

Yes, it is. I would almost argue that it’s even more difficult! Can you imagine having to stay dedicated, motivated, and disciplined enough to do all this work without a) the guidance of a professor and b)the pressure coming from professors and students reminding you of deadlines? Studying independently means that your wins and failures are solely your own– you cannot say “the prof didn’t cover this part, so I don’t know why it was in the exam”– your fault!

  • You don’t really get the ‘real’ study experience.

No fresher’s week for you! Living in a dorm? Not going to happen! Nevertheless, you also get the choice of living wherever you want, which is an amazing opportunity.