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Should I embark on a Distance Learning IT degree?

Discussion in 'Other IT certifications' started by Dubfire, Jan 23, 2010.

  1. Dubfire

    Dubfire Byte Poster

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    Hello everybody! (Think of that doctor from the Simpsons) Someone used that before on here and it cracked me up...

    Another night shift for me:cry:

    Im seriously considering doing a distance learning degree guys...

    Im 28, work in 2nd line support working with the usual Microsoft products (AD, Exchange etc..), Citrix and a bit of Cisco as a IT contractor. Ive got MCSA (working toward MCSE), ITIL N+, A+. Been doing this job for 2 years. I did 10 years in the forces so did not have the opportunity to go to UNI, and always had a bit of an itch that needed to be scratched when it came to this subject.

    I just feel that alongside my continued certificaton I need something else that is going to help me progress and also to get my CV noticed by those pimps!!:D

    Has anyone done a IT degree through distance learning, and if so what were you studying, was it through the OU or through a normal UNI, whats the choices/recommendations?? And has it benefited your career??? And how much $$$???


    Im intrigued to find the forums opinions/experiences.

    Cheers,

    Mark
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2010
    Certifications: N+, 270.
    WIP: 291 then 284 for the MCSA.. ITIL...
  2. Dubfire

    Dubfire Byte Poster

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    So can anyone shed any light on the above questions ref an IT degree???:blink
     
    Certifications: N+, 270.
    WIP: 291 then 284 for the MCSA.. ITIL...
  3. ericrollo

    ericrollo Megabyte Poster

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    well the OU seems pretty good because it is so flexible, if you start your degree and after starting you cant be bothered anymore you can still gain a undergrad certificate or diploma.
     
    Certifications: MOS Master, A+, MCP 271
    WIP: HND, Programming, Another Job
  4. wagnerk
    Highly Decorated Member Award

    wagnerk aka kitkatninja Moderator

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    I looked into doing a degree thru distance learning, however I found that doing a degree part-time in the evenings from my local Uni was alot cheaper - so I did the part-time one.

    The degree was Computing (specialising in Software Engineering) however half way thru the course the Uni merge the BSc course I was on with the BA in Computing (forget the exact title of it) as the dropout rate was high on both courses. So in order for the course to continue for the students that were left - they were merged, which suited everyone.

    Has it benefited my career, I would like to believe so, however is it the only thing that contributed to my career development? "No".

    How much? Well it's hard to say as I've moved employments, I got promoted, I networked with other professionals, I write for a Certification Magazine, and I continually develop and certify myself...

    One of my mates doesn't have a degree, but an NVQ 4 (which is comparable to it) and he's done very well, I believe he's on more than me. And another mate who doesn't have a degree or a NVQ 4 earns the same as me. So it's all relative...

    Yes, there are some positions that rely on the person having a degree or degree level education, and there are plenty of jobs out there that don't. Personally I would say go for it, as for a degree, it's better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it - especially if you decide at some point to move/go abroad :)

    -ken
     
    Certifications: CITP, PGCert, BSc, HNC, LCGI, PTLLS, MCT, MCITP, MCTS, MCSE, MCSA:M, MCSA, MCDST, MCP, MTA, MCAS, MOS (Master), A+, N+, S+, ACA, VCA, etc... & 2nd Degree Black Belt
    WIP: PGDip
  5. JonnyMX

    JonnyMX Petabyte Poster

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    I did a few years with the OU and can't fault it.
    The material and the support were first rate.

    Prices are creeping up slowly, but they're still very reasonable compared to other methods of study.
    I found that the only downside was the structure of 'points' which meant that if you only did one course per year (and I certainly wouldn't advise doing more) then you'd be looking at about 5 years to actually get a degree. This gets further complicated by the fact that points for courses expire a year or so after the course retires, so you could get to your penultimate year and find you'd lost your points from the first course you did.

    Quite a few universities are now offering distance learning courses. Haven't had any experience with them though. Personally, if I was going to opt for distance learning I'd go with the OU who have been doing it for a million years, rather than someone who realised that they could fill the coffers a bit more by enrolling students who don't have to turn up at lectures. Which is pretty much what most students do anyway.

    In terms of 'will it help my career', I really don't know. Having something on your CV that indicates a desire to learn and improve on your own initiatve has got to send out good signals but having a qualification on it's own won't open any magic doors. If you've got the right experience you can still apply for jobs that are advertised as 'graduate' positions so it doesn't really matter.

    But if you want to do it, I'd say get in there. Keep the grey matter, er, grey...

    :biggrin
     
    Certifications: MCT, MCTS, i-Net+, CIW CI, Prince2, MSP, MCSD
  6. derkit

    derkit Gigabyte Poster

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    I can confirm what Jonny says about the OU - I've just completed 2 30 point courses in Mathematics - and it was hard work to fit it all in - I got an average of 97% on a Certificate of Mathematics, but that was alongside Net+, moving house, going on 2 week holiday and taking about 5 weeks off - a damn busy time but loved every minute of it.

    The only condition I would say is that you need to be 100% commited to it otherwise you'll struggle a little. To get a Bachelor degree you need 300 points - at my rate it would take 5 years, at 30 points per year (or about 8 hours a week every week from Jan to Oct) it'll take you 10 years.

    I'm not trying to put you off, just trying to give you some insight.
     
    Certifications: MBCS, BSc(Hons), Cert(Maths), A+, Net+, MCDST, ITIL-F v3, MCSA
    WIP: 70-293
  7. Dubfire

    Dubfire Byte Poster

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    Thanks for the response Ken - very interesting.

    One of the problems I face is I work shifts so Im never off for the same days each week. This rules out doing a night class or day release, so it has to be distance learing or nothing. Is it possible to juggle the degree with the continued persuit of certifications, I realise every situation is different but as a general rule is this possible?

    If I could be so bold and ask how much you were quoted for the distance learning route? And as I work in Support and have an interest in the subject, is there a specific degree you could recommend? As I believe that if you do embark on a course of this duration a interest in the subject is a must!!

    Thanks for your time mate.
     
    Certifications: N+, 270.
    WIP: 291 then 284 for the MCSA.. ITIL...
  8. Dubfire

    Dubfire Byte Poster

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    Wow, I dont think I quite realise just how much you have to dedicate to the course. But its nice to contemplate the hard work that lies ahead rather than just being wrapped up in the fact you want that damn degree on your CV!!!:blink
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2010
    Certifications: N+, 270.
    WIP: 291 then 284 for the MCSA.. ITIL...
  9. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

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    In the UK the OU is your best bet and you can get upto 60 points of credit from microsoft certifications, this has been mentioned on here before, have a hunt around.

    http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/computing-and-ict/index.htm
    http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/course/mt127.htm
    http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/course/tm227.htm

    If all you want is a piece of paper there are other riskier routes from overseas universities. Some now give credit for certifications. Its hard to know what their courses are like and how employers will view them.

    http://www.wgu.edu/online_it_degrees/programs
    http://www.csu.edu.au/courses/information-technology-mathematics/

    Also many traditional universities around the world and in the UK now have distance learning options.

    Really when you pay for college you are paying for quality tuition, the OU does give you a tutor and tutor groups once a month, so you at least get some tuition. The OU is also well set up to do distance learning as it is all they do.

    There are many 'paper mill' or 'buy a degree' online universities so be careful.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2010
    Certifications: CITP, BSc, HND, SCJP, SCJD, SCWCD, SCBCD, SCEA, N+, Sec+, Proj+, Server+, Linux+, MCTS, MCPD, MCSA, MCITP, CCDH
  10. wagnerk
    Highly Decorated Member Award

    wagnerk aka kitkatninja Moderator

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    So what about looking into the NVQ 4 & maybe the NVQ 5? Done during work and you can do it up to 5 years.

    At the time doing the course part-time (going back a few years) for the same amount of modules was also double the price...

    It was £550 per year doing it p/t, whereas doing it distance learning cost just under £1k pa.

    -ken
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2010
    Certifications: CITP, PGCert, BSc, HNC, LCGI, PTLLS, MCT, MCITP, MCTS, MCSE, MCSA:M, MCSA, MCDST, MCP, MTA, MCAS, MOS (Master), A+, N+, S+, ACA, VCA, etc... & 2nd Degree Black Belt
    WIP: PGDip
  11. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

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    Have a look around the government sites for IT training :-

    http://www.traintogain.gov.uk/
    http://www.e-skills.com/
    http://www.lsc.gov.uk/
    http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Educati...arning/TrainingAndWorkplaceLearning/index.htm
    http://www.need2know.co.uk/need2know/learning/qualifications

    There are distance learning degrees as well as NVQ's that can give credit for work based projects.

    I agree with Ken in that you should check out colleges in you area first, face to face learning and tutorials really does help, distance learning is far harder.

    Government grant scheme here for unemployed :-

    http://edu-center.org/uk-six-month-offer-free-government-skills-training.htm
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2010
    Certifications: CITP, BSc, HND, SCJP, SCJD, SCWCD, SCBCD, SCEA, N+, Sec+, Proj+, Server+, Linux+, MCTS, MCPD, MCSA, MCITP, CCDH
  12. Patient-Edd

    Patient-Edd Bit Poster

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    Dubfire,

    I am currently doing an OU degree. I think it's great. With the plan I have for my studies it should be complete, from start to finish, in about 6 years. I work full-time and on different days of the week and the flexibility of the course suits me perfectly.

    I don't even work in IT and am a total newbie to it all but I am managing to complete what I have done to a good level, on top of this I am also doing self study of MCDST, with the intention of doing alot of other study along side the OU degree. As I have said I have no prior knowledge but managing well. I currently put about 15-20 hrs study a week in for everything.

    The costs aren't bad either, I spend about £50 per month on direct debit for my fees and do 2 courses a year. This does mean for about two months of the year they overlap, but if you're strict with yourself it's not a problem.

    Hope that helps.
     
    Certifications: CertCompMath (open)
    WIP: MCDST, BSc (Hons) Computing
  13. derkit

    derkit Gigabyte Poster

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    Just an additional thought - I used to work with a contractor who was an AA mechanic, always worked shifts, normally more than the 43 hours per week max - anyhow, he got an Open degree after 5 years and also his MCSE after another 4 years - so it is possible.

    That said, the above guy also now doesn't care less about updating his MCSE, he isn't interested in doing any further studying at all so I'm not sure if that is endemic of studying hard for 9 years, or whether he seriously believes he can float along doing 2nd line work the rest of his career without the need to study?
     
    Certifications: MBCS, BSc(Hons), Cert(Maths), A+, Net+, MCDST, ITIL-F v3, MCSA
    WIP: 70-293
  14. Dubfire

    Dubfire Byte Poster

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    Thanks Ken, that seems to be the ball park figure I would be looking at.

    The three things I wanted to clear up were - Cost, is possible to pursue while doing other certs and is the OU the best option. Always good to hear from someone who can talk from the horses mouth. And you have also confirmed that a lot of hard work and dedication will be needed.

    Out of interest which degree are you persuing, and where did you start, was it on the M150 (Level 1)?

    Very good advice mate. This has motivated me to call the OU and arrange a call back with then full steam ahead:D


    Im working shifts so this filled me with confidence. Although I cant see myself wanting to rest on my laurels and just stop advancing my knowledge through the avenue of certs, and as we all know its very easy to be left behind in IT if you dont keep up with the latest tech. I suppose im lucky in the respect even if I was'nt in the IT industry I would still read books about the subject as a hobby, which is half the battle.

    Thanks to all for replies.
     
    Certifications: N+, 270.
    WIP: 291 then 284 for the MCSA.. ITIL...
  15. derkit

    derkit Gigabyte Poster

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    Yes it is possible - with each Microsoft exam costing £88 at the moment, with £80 or so on books per course and each 30-points OU course costing about £350-ish - I'd say you'll be lucky you to spend more than £500-600 in the years you are doing both.

    One thing to remember though, as the courses develop they get harder so trying to do a course with the OU at level 3 (the highest undergraduate level) whilst trying to complete some MCSE level exams may be unrealistic - only you'll know the answer to whether you can do it.

    Is the OU the best option - this is subjective to your own circumstances. Start with a simpler course, which you'll need to anyway, and see how you take to it, what marks you get and how much time you find yourself studying for. If its not for you, the worst case scenario is that you've spent under £400.

    I think this was aimed at dmarsh, but I have experience also so thought I'd offer my 2p!

    I started the MST121 and MS221 - 1st and 2nd year mathematics courses - at the same time. My basis was a degree in mathematics (or at least it may be in the long term) as I already hold a bachelor degree in physics and computing.

    Having a look at M150 - it is a 1st level course and seems a good starting point to see if the OU is for you.

    If you're quick you may be able to get on the course starting in January (ie, this year) otherwise you may have to wait until the end of the year when the next course starts.
     
    Certifications: MBCS, BSc(Hons), Cert(Maths), A+, Net+, MCDST, ITIL-F v3, MCSA
    WIP: 70-293
  16. Patient-Edd

    Patient-Edd Bit Poster

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    Hi,

    As derkit has confirmed the costs are reasonable, tbh that is what has attracted me to the OU. Also I have chosen the self study route so the certs shouldn't cost too much either. To answer whether or not the OU is good for you or not - all I can say is that 90% of the students on my first course already worked in IT, one in particular was an IT manager with all the certs and he said it was the next step for him to further his career. If anything it isn't right for me just yet, as I don't even have A+, but this was something that was pointed out to me after starting by one of the other students.

    Which brings me on to one negative, the IT courses have time limits (which is understandable), but I have until 2018, I think, to complete the degree, when my first course will no longer count towards my 360 points I need. This is not a bad thing, all it means is that I can't have too many breaks between courses.

    Which degree am I doing - My goal is to complete the BSc (Hons) Computing http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/qualification/b29.htm and yes I started with M150 and finished MU120 last year, a maths one. I didn't have to do that but I would like to be a programmer so thought the maths would be good - also it gave a Certificate in Maths and Computing, which was nice.:) Just about to start M255 this week.

    Not sure if you can, but private message me if you want any further advice on it, more than happy to help.
     
    Certifications: CertCompMath (open)
    WIP: MCDST, BSc (Hons) Computing
  17. Dubfire

    Dubfire Byte Poster

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    Class advice all round, helps a lot mate.

    I believe that as good as certs are to prove you can understand the tech you are working with daily, a degree by the very nature of the time it takes to complete shows a dedication to learning and the ability to understand a subject in depth. One of the reasons for looking into was all my peers have certs up the ying yang and I felt I needed something else to mark me out from them when competing for future work. It is survival of the fittest after all...I think the next intake is in October, is this correct???

    Ps. Looking to head down the programmer route as well so once I get started I'll be looking for some tips!!!

    Thanks for all replies by the way :D
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2010
    Certifications: N+, 270.
    WIP: 291 then 284 for the MCSA.. ITIL...
  18. Patient-Edd

    Patient-Edd Bit Poster

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    Yes - looks like you've missed this one, you could always ring and confirm as I know I was a bit late when I first registered for it, just meant having to pay in full rather than by direct debit.
     
    Certifications: CertCompMath (open)
    WIP: MCDST, BSc (Hons) Computing
  19. derkit

    derkit Gigabyte Poster

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    By this time last year I had just started the course by a couple of days. On the 8th Feb or so there was a tutorial and some guy turned up saying that he had only arranged to do the course the day before - so there may be some lea-way on when you can get started.

    If you're serious - phone them today - especially if you want to with this cohort.
     
    Certifications: MBCS, BSc(Hons), Cert(Maths), A+, Net+, MCDST, ITIL-F v3, MCSA
    WIP: 70-293
  20. momer79

    momer79 Bit Poster

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    Also try Sheffield Halam University or Liverpool University and compare their cost with OU.

    Sheffield Halam University offers good IT degree courses.
     

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