Within the field of postgraduate education there has been a growing interest in providing (and undertaking) part-time courses, which are of the same academic standard and rigour as full time courses, but allow students to “earn while they learn”. Full time courses are obviously expected to remain the predominant method of post graduate education, but developments in part time courses will increase the range of options for students. I am lucky enough to have some experience of the best of these courses, as I teach a module on the Flexible Real Estate Masters course at Henley Business School, sit as an External Examiner for the MSt in Real Estate at Cambridge University, and am the Course Director for the MSc Global Finance (online) course at Cass Business School. This article is not seeking to advocate part-time over full time courses, or indeed one type of part time course over another, but rather determine what the key characteristics of these courses are, and in particular, what are the main advantages, common fallacies and expected developments for the latest development, online courses?
Firstly, a few key points about all of these part-time courses.
- There are no exams; the marks are awarded based on coursework.
- The academic standards are the same as for full time courses, as are the access to library resources etc.
- For part-time “on-site” courses (such as at Cambridge or Henley) students have a “block” period of study at the University (ranging from 3/5 days to 2 weeks) for each module.
- Typically a part-time Masters takes two years to complete compared to one year for a full time course
- Students remain in their job whilst undertaking the part time course.
Structure of online courses
The structure at Cass is that each of the 12 modules (Global Real Estate is one of the modules) for the MSc Global Finance online courses are taught sequentially. Each module is split into 6 weekly topics, comprising a pre-recorded lecture (often sub-divided into 4 x 15 minute chunks), a slide deck, and transcript as well as quiz questions. This is supplemented by an online forum with the tutor which is open all week and a webinar at the end of the week to deal with the topics covered and any questions students may have. This is a very different structure to full time courses, and specifically designed so that students can accommodate the learning into their working life.
Main advantages of online courses
Immediate practical applications: From a students’ viewpoint the key difference is that you are able to apply your learning to your work right away, as well as hopefully making a difference to your career straight away. From a lecturers’ viewpoint having students who bring real life scenarios and problems that they are facing to weekly discussions is both enjoyable and provides a wide context to support students; practical applications of the course.
Regular rotation of senior lecturers: Due to the way that Cass structures its online course it provides access to a wider breadth of faculty than could be offered on one campus based programme. How does this help? For the student, the bar is reset every seven weeks with a new topic and a new lecturer, keeping the content and learning experience fresh.
The Cass course admits students 3 times a year, there is the ability to pause studies for a period, if other commitments take over, as well as the option to undertake a PG Certificate or PG diploma instead of the MSc. Being online there is no need to relocate and the course can be undertaken anywhere in the world.