These students chose to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree remotely

For some students, the start of the school year will take place at home. Employees, housewives, those retraining or even double majors… Every year in France there are thousands who complete their studies without setting foot in an amphitheater or walking through the halls of their university. These students are choosing distance learning, which is becoming increasingly common in higher education.

No time restrictions or loss of time during transport

Teaching from home has many advantages. No time restrictions, no loss of time during transport. This formula is particularly practical for working students. According to a survey published in June by the Observatory of Student Life (OVE), 46% of students have paid work during the academic year. However, according to UNEF, student employment is the leading cause of university failure.

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Through distance learning, employees can validate their year or write their final thesis in the evenings, weekends or on vacation. Of course, they do not escape certain requirements, such as submitting their work on time or physically attending the university at the time of final exams. This formula can also be an option for those who did not get a place in the desired industry.

However, independent learning requires unwavering motivation.

“The University of Nanterre is a pioneer in this field. Since its creation in 1967, its distance learning center has offered the possibility of taking courses on audio cassettes or paper documents sent by post,” explains François Regourd, head of distance learning at the University of Paris-Ouest. This year, almost 3,000 of the university's 35,000 students chose distance learning. Nine licenses, seven masters, four aggregations and around ten university diplomas (DU) are offered by COMETE (Optimized Center for Mediatization and Educational Technologies).

However, independent learning requires unwavering motivation. While in-person training provides a safe environment with its schedules and amenities, the student training remotely is left to their own devices, so to speak. But “thanks to technological progress, the disadvantages are getting smaller every year,” estimates François Regourd. Telephone, email, video conferencing or discussion forums allow you to stay in touch with teachers and other students. To break this isolation, most training courses set up an optional tutor system to coach students. The University of Nanterre is planning some half-day face-to-face internships to give students the opportunity to interact with their teachers.

“Distance learning allowed me to work at my own pace”

“A Facebook group allows us to stay in touch with other students and keep up to date with exam dates,” explains Éléonore, a Master 2 student in Modern Literature at the Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle. “But unfortunately we miss the atmosphere and proximity of a classroom.” However, that didn’t stop her from successfully completing her first year of master’s. “Distance learning allowed me to work at my own pace and according to my own organization. Since all courses are offered in advance, you are free to learn them in one go or at regular intervals,” adds Éléonore, who is also continuing her studies at a business school.

A cure for faculty overcrowding?

Some universities have made distance learning their trademark. La Téluq (for Télé-Université du Québec) is the only French-speaking university in America to offer all distance learning programs. The institution – if you can call it that – has 20,000 students, mostly based in Canada, France and the Maghreb. Nine out of ten registrants are employed. In France, the Cnam (National Center for Arts and Crafts), which has already launched numerous MOOCs, offers almost 500 teaching units (UE) entirely remotely.

Teaching outside the walls can be a salvation at a time when it is no longer possible to contain the increase in numbers. In 2015, universities welcomed 65,000 additional students, equivalent to three new universities. This year they are preparing to admit 40,000 new students. By 2024 there will be 106,000 more. Demographic pressure that leads to overcrowding in universities… and thus indirectly to a risk of deterioration in learning conditions.

How can you follow your courses remotely?

Not all universities have developed distance learning options. Likewise, certain training courses may only be offered in person. Find out more on your company's website in good time. For an initial registration, it is better to do this early: registrations usually start in April or May. Some facilities require proof of your unavailability (employment, illness, etc.). “At the University of Nanterre, all students are free to register for distance learning without giving any reason,” explains François Regourd. In addition to traditional university fees, students must pay certain fees to access the course platform. These fees, which vary from institution to institution, are usually around 200 euros.

List of distance learning courses (search engine)

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