Posted Oct. 22, 2022
The online education boom has brought about many fundamental shifts in how people envision the future of higher education.
Although an unusual concept not too long ago, today many people are considering pursuing a doctorate degree remotely. The coronavirus pandemic might have rendered online learning a necessity, but now in 2022, an online PhD has become an attractive choice for many aspiring researchers and professionals alike. In this article, we explore the ways in which an online PhD could be the best option for your journey to getting a doctorate degree.
PhDs are largely research degrees
The reality is that PhDs are mostly research degrees. While some institutions may require doctoral candidates to take on a few core taught modules, the main point of most PhD programs is to do a deep dive into a specific research area of your interest. Naturally, this means that the bulk of your time will be spent doing independent fieldwork, data collection and writing. If you’re working on a doctorate in the social science and humanities fields especially, and don’t need to use your university's lab facilities, the time you actually need to be on campus to complete your work is minimal. Given that arranging online meetings with your PhD supervisor to review your work is now the norm, you could get quality guidance on your work without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home. An online PhD could be the more time-efficient option for you, in this case.
Campus life can be costly
PhD programs typically take up at least three years to complete, but often last longer than that-depending on how quickly you’re able to acquire relevant data. If you have to relocate to a new city or country, the costs of accommodation, food, insurance, visas and socialising can really add up. Considering the time and energy you would need to expend adjusting to a new environment, on top of familiarising yourself with the academic demands of a PhD, a big move to pursue a PhD on a physical campus could take a financial and emotional toll on any student, and fulfilling the academic requirements online might be a more suitable option. A big plus is that these days, some universities offer discounts to fully remote students, which could be especially helpful especially if you’re trying to save a bit on costly tuition fees.
You don’t have to halve your income to pursue a PhD
One of the biggest barriers for many professionals when it comes to pursuing a PhD is the financial cost. Pursuing a doctorate degree is a serious commitment and if you must relocate to a different city and your work isn’t set up for remote working, you might have to quit your job for several years while you complete your studies. This might not be a viable option for young adults with little savings or more mature PhD-hopefuls with families to provide for. However, an online PhD might allow more leeway for you to make flexible working arrangements. An online PhD allows you to continue to work part-time in your current job while writing your thesis, so your finances don’t take too much of a hit. Who knows, if your PhD is related to your work, maybe your employer might even offer to cover some of the costs of your PhD!
Staying local could help you conduct better research
An online PhD can be an asset if your research focus is on something local. Data collection is a challenge for any researcher. Many people who pursue PhDs are trying to learn more about an issue or phenomenon taking place in their home city or country, in the hopes of using their research to make a real difference in society. If you have the flexibility of pursuing your PhD from home, it can be easier to conduct key interviews with local agencies and individuals, and to collect data from local libraries that may not be as readily available from online databases. All of this will surely help you to build up a stronger, more compelling case so you can ace the viva.
Shape your own path to a PhD
If you’re someone who’s considering a PhD, then you probably have a strong passion and research interest in a specific topic. That’s why you probably have the tenacity to work on a doctorate program in a disciplined fashion, without necessarily having to be on a physical campus. While campus life brings its own unique perks, going back to “physical” school may not be ideal for everyone, but that shouldn’t stop you from pursuing your academic goals. While online learning in general is the status quo these days, the concept of pursuing an Online PhD is still relatively new. However, if you are strategic in your planning, the benefits are plenty. The future of higher education is all about innovation and increasing the accessibility of learning for all. So why not elevate your qualifications with an online doctorate degree today?
Writer: Alisa Maya is a graduate student at the UCL Institute of Education.
She is passionate about improving learning experiences for all through EdTech.
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