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Shola O’Dowd, who graduated with a BA in Humanities from DCU’s Oscail

Shola O’Dowd, who graduated with a BA in Humanities from DCU’s Oscail

Tue, Feb 18, 2014, 02:00

Distance learning is not a new phenomenon. The Open University (OU) was founded in 1971 as a print-based distance teaching institution with four multi-disciplinary foundation courses in the arts, social sciences, science and maths. Internet access has transformed paper-based distance learning into an online revolution which is reshaping education at all levels.

There are two distinct models. The first is where both bricks-and-mortar institutions, and wholly online providers, offer students traditional fee-paying degree programmes that are delivered almost exclusively on-line. The second is where course providers can deliver elements of their programmes, up to and including degrees, free online to learners.

Fee-based online education


For several years, Dublin City University (DCU) had a range of third-level degree programmes online through Oscail. Once students have paid-up and registered, they interact with their tutors online. Students can ask questions through online forums in DCU’s virtual learning environment and interact with tutors in real-time through live online tutorials. These tutorials are recorded and archived so students can revisit them. DCU’s online students have access to up to 30,000 academic journals, stretching back to the 1950s.

For each module, students are allocated a tutor to guide their studies, as well as face-to-face tutorials on campus. Students can interact with each other online and the formation of study groups is encouraged. Oscail’s programmes are modular so students can vary the number of modules each year to suit their circumstances and build up credits towards their qualification.

Students over 23 can enrol on Oscail’s undergraduate programmes without previous qualifications. Oscail’s BA degree has fees of €9,900. See

Sligo IT
More than 600 students registered this year for online degree and certificate programmes at IT Sligo, bringing the online student population at the institute of technology to almost 1,300. There has been a 15 per cent rise in the annual intake of online students, reflecting its growing popularity.

Most courses are two-year part-time, from certificate to postgraduate level, including a one-year, Springboard-funded special purpose award and minor award programmes targeted to transition the unemployed back into education. Science courses, such as biopharmaceutical programmes and engineering courses, such as mechatronics, are popular.

Fees vary for a two-year, 60-credit programme from between €4,000 for a level 6 certificate to €9,000 for a post grad. See .

Hibernia College
Hibernia College is Ireland’s first and largest fully-accredited, wholly on-line provider of traditional third-level degrees. Founded in 2000, it initially made its mark as a provider of post-graduate opportunities for aspiring primary-school teachers. It now trains more primary teachers than all of the traditional Irish bricks-and-mortar institutions put together.

Hibernia has expanded into teacher training in the UK and further afield, as well as now offering post-graduate training in second-level education. In partnership with the University of London, it offers on-line degrees in business and computing. Students pay €9,950 in fees for their teaching qualifications and receive a range of supports similar to students in bricks-and-mortar institutions, but without the expense of living away from home.

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