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Learning online

  1. Mar 10, 2010 #1
    Greetings all. I graduated with a math degree about a decade ago, but what I'd really like to do is study physics. The problem is that I don't have great options locally, but my day job is going to keep me here, at least for now. I'm hoping to find something good in terms of online education. I'd like to earn actual credentials, so that kind of kills OpenCourseWare at MIT.

    I don't have very many physics credit (for what it's worth, I got an A a few years ago when I took an astrophysics course at University of Toronto, where I'm no longer living) so it'd be super-awesome to find something where I only need to take prerequisites necessary for what I'm interested in studying at the graduate level (namely theoretical particle physics).

    Any thoughts are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2010 #2
    It's possible to get an undergraduate degree in physics through distance learning from Thomas Edison State College, Charter Oak University, Excelsior University, or Western Governors University. I don't know anyone who has done so, but I know it's possible. This is only within the US. I do know that other countries have these sorts of programs, and I'd look at Open University and University of South Africa.

    As far as graduate work, since you would be doing something non-standard, I know it would be difficult to get a graduate school to take you, but I don't have a sense as to whether it would be difficult or impossible. John Bear has written about British Research Ph.D.'s that can be taken via distance learning.

    You are doing something different and different means harder, but what you are doing doesn't seem obviously impossible. One of the things that I will be doing at some point is to see what I can to turn MIT OCW into something that you can get college credit for, and I'd be interested in hearing your own experiences.

    Also I'm an MIT alumni, and one of the things that I'm trying to do is to push MIT to provide some mechanism that would allow people to get college credit for OCW, since I think it's absolute horrible that MIT has put up OCW and isn't taking the next logical steps.
  4. Mar 10, 2010 #3
    Thanks for the information. I'm starting to think that, at least at present, even if I don't have the best choices in the two nearby universities, meatspace classes will likely be better than most online options. Having said that, I'd happily switch to OCW if it became available for credit.

    Universities seem slow to adopt online learning. I wonder how much of it is because they don't think it will lead to as good an education, and how much of it is fear about new business models.
  5. Mar 10, 2010 #4


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    Online learning is hard for science classes, simply because there are required labs and I haven't seen a good way to get anything out of those online. Also, a good part of your graduate school application would normally be recommendations from professors, and hopefully ones you worked with on a research project, and that might not be possible online. Many students planning on heading to grad school will get some form of research experience, so you'll be competing against that.
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