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I'm currently enrolled as a first year student doing a computing related degree (my first) at the University of London (distance learning). Since I started, there has been a massive shifts in online education with a particular focus on the direction I want to take (computer science). With the exception to access to a wide-range of journals and digital libraries, the quality of the materials provided by the university are far eclipsed by those offered by sites such as Udacity and Coursera, plus there is no where near the same level of interaction among students or even lecturers for that matter.

Essentially, I feel like I am paying for a piece of paper and nothing more. I'm given a guide as to what is on the paper but I'm essentially on my own. I've spent all my savings so far on this, but would need to take a loan for next year. I'm both a mature student (28) and living in a foreign country, therefore the traditional paths were not open to me.

Is it worth it? Should I just invest the time pursuing the free courses and hope that It does not impact my employ-ability?

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    It seems that your question is more "Distance Learning Vs Free Online Learning" and is not related that much University of London. If you don't mind, could you please reformulate your question so that it becomes more general? – user102 May 5 '12 at 21:38
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Basically, is your question is "Is it worth it to enroll in distance learning when you could do the same attending free online lectures?" I believe you can have some good input from Looking for sources of online graduate-level education and Does one get academic credit towards a degree for open online courses?.

The bottom line is: online lectures usually don't provide academic credits. So you can't show an official degree to an employer, so it depends on the kind of job you want to do: if it's enough to show what you can do (say, for instance, you want to be a web-designer, then your portfolio is likely to be more important than your degree), then why not. But otherwise, you might have to stick with the distance learning.

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    You can always use the free resources from Coursera and Udacity as support for your paid distance classes. (Equivalently, 100 years ago: If your required textbook isn't helpful, you can always check out a different textbook from the library to get a second opinion.) – JeffE May 6 '12 at 15:07
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It's true that most MOOCs these days provide more interaction than typical courses in the UoL external program (I've done both). However, you cannot get academic credit for a MOOC (except in some very limited cases - introductory courses, and the like). A UoL degree will be recognized as an accredited degree. Ironically, the emergence of MOOCs has, perhaps, made accredited degrees more valuable, as they distinguish you from MOOCs.

Your same question could be re-framed to include MOOCs vs. brick and mortar schools: Why am I paying a lot of money to sit in a classroom and listen to a professor when I can get a simulated version in a MOOC? Again, I think the answer boils down to academic credit. If you want the degree, you'll have to go the "traditional" route, where traditional, in this case, means traditional distance learning, or traditional brick and mortar.

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