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Welsh Government

Distance and online learning

There are a wide range of courses and qualifications that can be taken without attending college or university. They can be courses from the UK and all over the world.

Find out about distance and online learning

What is distance and online learning?

Definitions of distance and online learning:

  • Distance learning is any learning that takes place across a distance and not in the classroom. It is a way of learning where you are not physically in the same room as the teacher, tutor or trainer. Distance learning is a flexible way to learn and gain a recognised qualification
  • Online learning (also known as e-learning) is a type of distance learning. Online learning is education that takes place over the internet

Blended learning is a combination of distance and online learning with some face to face teaching. For example, in a course, you might have some online learning but also be required to attend for practical sessions or exams

What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing distance and online learning?

Advantages of distance and online learning could include:

  • Flexible studying at your own pace - you choose when you want to study and from where
  • Study can work around your lifestyle and commitments
  • The ability to retrain without having to attend an educational establishment to gain the qualification
  • Communicating with learners from all over the world which will improve the learning experience

Disadvantages of distance and online learning could include:

  • Finding it hard to set aside the time to study
  • Feeling isolated with no direct face-to-face contact with other learners or the teacher (although you will be allocated tutor support)
  • Issues with information technology which can cause frustration
    • Having distractions that may come from studying at home
Is distance or online learning right for me?

To decide if distance and online learning is right for you, start by thinking about your preferred learning style. Are you:

  • Good at learning on your own or do you need to work with others?
  • Self-motivated and able to prioritise your time well or do you need to be guided and given specific deadlines by others?
  • Able to work digitally on email or video call or do you prefer physical face to face interactions?
What courses can I study and what qualifications can I gain?

You can study a variety of different courses online. Courses such as:

  • Arts and Humanities
  • Education, Childhood and Youth
  • Health and Social Care
  • Law
  • Medical Sciences
  • Psychology and Counselling
  • Social Sciences

and many more....

Top tip! UCAS will allow you to filter study options as 'Distance Learning' to find those that can be done as distance and online courses.

You can gain the same qualifications studying a course by distance learning and online as you would attending further education college and university. Some qualifications you can study towards include:

  • Diplomas
  • Foundation degrees
  • Bachelor degrees
  • Master's degrees
  • Doctorates

Depending on the provider you can also choose to study stand-alone modules and short courses at different levels.

How do I choose the right distance or online learning course?

To make sure you choose the right course, follow these useful tips:

  • Research the course well. Get as much information as you can about the course, the content and how it's taught and assessed to make sure it's the right course for you
  • Try a free course. Before committing and paying for a course, why not try a free course to see if online and distance learning is for you. There are a lot of free taster courses available. Take a look at the list of useful links below which include some free courses
  • Contact us to talk to an adviser about the course and to confirm it is the right course for you before you commit. Our Careers advisers may also know of any funding that you might be eligible for
  • Be aware of costs. You'll be expected to pay for your course. Make sure you know what the exact cost will be and what's included and remember to find out more about the options for funding your studies
  • Consider your next steps. Think about what you want the qualification for.  It is worth making sure that the course you’re doing is recognised for the career you want to do. Check out the qualifications needed for different jobs in Job Information
  • Be careful. It is important when paying for a course that you’re certain that the course exists and it’s not a scam. Check the site, the organisation and its background before committing
Will I need to complete assignments or sit exams when I take a distance or online learning course?

Every course will have its own requirements. For some courses, especially courses with accredited qualifications, you will probably have to complete assignments and sit exams.

Every course is different, so some courses may be assignment based and others may have exams.

Some courses may not have any assignments or exams. These types of courses would not usually offer an accredited qualification at the end.

What help and support will I get when doing a distance and online learning course?

Any information and materials you will need for your course will usually be provided by the education provider and is usually accessed online. You might also be sent books or resources in the post.

You will have a dedicated tutor to support you with your work. You may meet up every so often with your tutor or other students. Distance learning providers sometimes have online forums and groups where you can ask questions and get support.

How do I apply for a course and how much will it cost?

Once you've found the course you feel is right for you, you'll need to contact the course provider directly to find out how to apply. You may have to register with them first and complete an application process.

The cost of a course will vary depending on the provider, subject, qualification level and length of study. It is likely that the cost will be less than if you were to physically attend an educational establishment full time.

Some distance and online learning courses are free. Check with individual providers.

Will I be able to get help to fund a distance and online learning course?

Funding for distance and online learning courses depends on your circumstances and also on the course you require funding for. Check out the following to find out if you might be eligible for any funding support:

  • Visit Student Finance Wales to find out about funding for college and university courses
  • View funding your studies to find out about specific funding
  • Use our Support finder tool to find out more about funding and support available in Wales
  • Contact us to find out if there might be any funding for training that you might be eligible for

Important Note: If you are seeking funding for a course, then make sure you find out the funding options before you start your course and before you pay any money to the provider.

Useful links

The links below are not a full list of distance and online learning providers but will give you a starting point.

The Open University in Wales

The Open University

OpenLearn (part of the Open University)

UCAS (you can filter 'Distance Learning' as a study option)

Course Search

Distance Learning Centre

Future Learn

ICS Learn

Open Study College

Oxford Open Learning (offers GCSE and A Level as distance courses)


BBC Bitesize

Training Link (AAT and ICB courses online)

Oxford Home Study

The Good Things

Disclaimer: Through this web page you are able to link to other websites which are not under the control of Careers Wales. We have no control over the nature, content and availability of the courses or content available on these sites. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the content or views expressed within them.

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