Recent years have seen an increase in demand for online education. A major factor in this shift towards virtual learning was the COVID-19 pandemic, which froze the world and our ability to physically attend the classroom setting.

Here at Brunel University London, our faculty and staff have put a lot of effort into creating flexible online courses. We recognised the need to offer our postgraduate degree programmes online as it expands the accessibility of top-quality education for dedicated professionals and students around the world.

If you’d like to get a better understanding of what studying online with Brunel looks like, be sure to check out a Taster Class so you can see what an online class with us looks like: Experience Online Learning with a Taster Class (

Today we’ll dive into online learning and better understand the advantages and disadvantages of online classes.

What is Online Learning?

Online learning can take many forms. With the use of various instructional technologies, students can learn from any location where they can connect to the Internet. These technologies are often in the form of PowerPoint presentations, video tutorials, forum discussions, live online sessions, and resources from a virtual library.

According to the World Economic Forum, the online learning platform Coursera recorded more than 20 million new learners registered for courses in 2021. An increase in the availability of online learning has presented an opportunity for previously unable demographics to be able to invest their time in earning a degree. These demographics include working professionals looking to advance their skillsets, prospective students from underdeveloped areas who are unable to relocate to a university campus, parents trying to enter the workforce, and many more.

Online learning is a great alternative to on-campus, in-person classes because it removes major barriers to education, ultimately making it more accessible and equitable.

Benefits and Challenges of Online Learning for Higher Education

Online learning may or may not be new to you, but here at Brunel, we’re dedicated to bringing top-notch postgraduate degrees to busy people around the world. Get to know our academic leaders and receive an overview of the catalogue we offer by watching this webinar: Join Brunel University London's Open Day Webinar.

To find out more about how you can join our upcoming September intake, be sure to take a look at our page about Fees and Funding Options.

If you have any questions about online learning or the application process, feel free to contact our educational advisors for more information at (+44) 203 535 1404, or email us at

How are practical components addressed in online learning, particularly in fields that require hands-on experience?

How can students overcome self-discipline and time management challenges in online learning?

Brunel’s experts have provided some of the most frequently asked questions about the field. These include:

What are the technological challenges students may face in online learning?

Can students network and collaborate with peers in online learning environments?

How to Learn Online

How online learning operates varies depending on the programme. In the case of Brunel’s online postgraduate programmes, our “classes” are in the form of modules which are studied over the course of 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time. Depending on the duration that suits each student, either one or two modules will be taken at a time.

Our courses are delivered through a state-of-the-art online platform which keeps your learning materials in one place and additionally allows you to connect with your faculty and classmates. Through our research and understanding of the best delivery methods, keeping the course within one online platform keeps students organised.

Keeping in mind that our students are often working professionals from all parts of the globe, one of the major advantages of online learning with Brunel is that our online courses can be accessed 24/7 and include optional live sessions. This means that our students do not need to be “in class” at a certain date or time, but rather that they can access their materials on the days of the week which suit their busy schedules.

Additionally, there are no formal “exams” but instead various assignments which are due at the end of a module to assess progress throughout the degree programme. With Brunel’s specific online programmes, we offer master’s degrees, so there will be some type of self-directed research (such as a dissertation) which culminates at the end of the final module.

Of course, learning styles differ from person to person, so let’s next take a look at the benefits and challenges of online learning.

What are the Benefits of Online Learning

  • Continue to work: One of the main advantages of online education is the ability to keep working while enrolled. Whether the purpose of your degree is to build skills needed to advance your current career or learn something new entirely, students are able to balance their working and academic lives through remote courses.
  • Learn from top universities: A major obstacle for many people is the inability to relocate to the campus of a university with notoriety. Through online learning, you can earn your degree from some of the most prestigious colleges and universities without moving expenses.
  • Build a global peer network: With an online course, you are more likely to be in contact with like-minded students from different areas of the globe. This allows you to build a professional and academic network while also learning about how things are done in different parts of the world.
  • Easier concentration and participation: Different people are more productive at different times of the day. Without the distractions of other people in the classroom or missing a key point made by a professor in real-time, you can go back and listen to your lecture as many times as needed. For live sessions, some of the more introverted students may be more confident to present questions or ideas than asking in front of a large classroom full of people.

What are the Challenges of Online Education

  • Isolation: One of the major disadvantages of online learning can be the lack of face-to-face interaction with your peers. While this can seem isolating to more social people, there are ways to connect with your faculty and classmates. This can be done through live sessions, private meetings with your tutors, student support resources, etc.
  • Motivation: Without a classroom setting, it can be easy to lose motivation during the course. Setting realistic long- and short-term goals throughout your course can help you stay on track. Brunel’s online platform easily allows you to keep everything organised so you can set these goals.
  • Technical Problems: One of the challenges of online learning can be in the form of technical issues. This can disrupt the learning process, but Brunel’s IT department can help to support you through these issues and try to fix these issues.
  • Time Management: If time management is not one of your strengths, this can be one of the major disadvantages of virtual learning. Time management is an important skill that helps students stay focused.

Student support is another valuable resource for combating the challenges of online studies. See how Brunel’s online Student Support Team assists students with their challenges: Online Programme | Study Anytime, Anywhere with Brunel University London.

Online Learning

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