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Remember a decade ago, when it was still appropriate to make statements like the ‘space-age 21st century’ and the ‘amazing world wide web’? Only a decade on, it all sounds so quaint. The internet used to be a sign of changing times. It was our very own episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

Nowadays, we’re like bitter cynics when it comes to the net. We’ll groan when a webpage takes more than a millisecond to load, sigh if a video buffers instead of starting immediately and practically smash our computers when a browser crashes.

How bloody entitled, eh? Technology has stampeded forward and reached astonishing heights, yet we’ve taken it for granted in an even quicker period of time. The rapidity of Moore’s Law means nothing to the impatience of the human condition.

It’s heartening, then, that certain corners of the internet still have the power to amaze –and when it comes to further education, the net has been making waves.

Going the distance

Indeed, a distance learning degree has become the preferred mode of study for a large number of people who don’t want to suffer the youth-tinged, heavy drinking campus lifestyle.

Gone are the days when distance learning was handled by post and studying was performed in isolation. As web connections have improved, so too have online degrees become more convenient to attain.

Classrooms have been replaced by laptops, tutors can be Skyped from their offices and modules can be completed whenever you’ve got a spare minute. By and large, they’re degrees for busy professionals who want to top up their skills with a bona fide degree.

Hi-tech homework

From a tech standpoint, the Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) used by universities are second to none. Comprising of huge databases of knowledge, primary and course materials are quite literally at your fingertips.

And if you’re still struggling with course materials, Google Books, Google Scholar, JSTOR and many other sites exist to help you out.

Massive education

But there’s no denying that distance learning degrees carry a price tag that might test your bank balance. For anyone in such a position, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been establishing themselves as the free alternative to university.

Usually comprising of short modules, MOOCs offer a free and comprehensive study of the subject of your choice. While they’re undeniably useful, they offer no official qualifications.

MOOCs have their uses, but they can’t hold a candle to a real degree. They’re best used as samplers for full-blown courses, allowing you to try before you buy.

Either way, education is still pushing new boundaries where tech is concerned. Long may we continue to be amazed by its capabilities.