Online learning provider RDI, United Kingdom reported a 59% increase in applications for undergraduate degrees.The figures are based on RDI’s January intake, representing a year on year comparison. Total applications for all online courses (including degrees, diplomas, masters and MBAs) were up over 40%.
Most notable is the surge in undergraduate degree applications, particularly when compared to UCAS figures which showed applications for traditional
university places were up only 3.5% (based on the January 15th deadline for 2013 cycle), on the back of a decline in 2012.
Dr Philip Hallam, Chief Executive of RDI, believes the figures reflect a new era in education and an increasing trend. He stated: “The increased interest we’ve had in our UK university accredited degrees is unprecedented, and I think reflects a combination of factors spanning finance, lifestyle and consumer trends.”
A key financial factor are the changes to the student funding structure in favour of distance learners which, since September 2012, gave them the same entitlement to tuition fee loans as campus based learnersDr Hallam continued: “Although distance learning degrees are significantly more affordable than campus-based degrees – around a third of the cost with RDI – the fact that distance learners had to raise cash themselves to pay for courses upfront was a hurdle too far for many. With that obstacle now removed, online learning has become even more accessible.”
Jonathan Smith (20 years old) joined RDI in January 2013 to study for a BA (Hons) Business degree. He explains: “I left college in 2010 with A Levels in History, Politics and Economics. Going to university wasn’t even a consideration for me. My friends were at home, I didn’t want to be burdened with debt and I wanted to get straight into a career. I’m now doing a
degree on my terms, in a way that suits me.”
In 2012 RDI introduce its free taster module to allow people to find out if online learning will suit them. RDI has also been working to make its course materials multiplatform compatible – extending resources to iPad and Kindle users.
Dr Hallam believes this has also had a significant impact on interest in online
learning. According to him “Consumer trends do impact on learning – people want services that fit around their life, not the other way around, and that is why distance learning continues to go from strength to strength.”