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Math, Physics & Computer Science Online Majors

  1. Sep 23, 2014 #1
    Hi everybody,

    I am a math, physics, and English A-level and will be writing my final exams in October/November. My primary goal is to garner a BSc in math, physics, and computer science, before entering post-graduate study at a good research university in either math or physics, and hopefully in the ensuing years starting a career in academia. Unfortunately, due to a number of circumstances I will be unable to attend a physical local university (South Africa) for at least one year, if not longer. It is for this reason that I am leaning strongly towards online education.

    However, as great as the premise of online education seems, it has been exceedingly difficult to find respectable institutions that carry math, or physics degrees in particular, as the majority of programs seem to be focused primarily on degrees and courses in the humanities, law, and business. I attempted to use the Times Higher Education Rankings for the top 100 physical science universities as a guideline, as well as their general listings, but have only come across three seemingly viable platforms, Harvard's Extension School, which doesn't offer physics, and Indiana which doesn't seem to offer an entire bachelor's course in mathematics, it also lacks computer science. There is also the University of Illinois' programs, but they seem to be akin to community college degrees more than anything else. The one advantage that the University of Indiana does hold, at least in my view, is that they offer a BS degree, and not a liberal arts degree, as is the case with the Harvard Extension School, for their math courses.

    Both of these platforms still however don't solve my physics problem, nor have I received a large enough portion of unbiased information to feel even close to confident in upon future application to a non-distance institution that the degree and credits (if I am able to attend a physical institution in <4 years) are transferable to most top research universities.

    My question, is then what you guys would recommend I do given the above details. Are there perhaps, better, more concrete courses that I have simply neglected? I know that London University was mentioned in some threads from 2007, but they don't seem to carry the same physics program, or any physics at all. Should I perhaps do something completely different in terms of approach to garnering a degree? My local University is the University of the Witwaterstrand, which whilst one of the top universities in the country, is still only ranked in the approximately the 200-300 slot according to most ranking sites, and therefore I may only be aiming to maintain that status of a degree from there, or better it slightly, through distance learning. Of course, entry requirements would be seen as a positive more than a negative in my case for any suggested courses.

    Thank you, everybody, for reading, any and all comments, passing thoughts, or solutions to similar problems of this sort would be very much appreciated!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2014 #2
    Online schools have been taking a lot of heat lately because they generally are not as well respected and can be shady. Is there an option to take a year off and travel or find an entry level job in your field? Then attend a physical school?
  4. Oct 9, 2014 #3
    Thank you for your response. This is certainly an option, and may perhaps even be my best at this point. If I were to take the year off I would most likely concentrate on correcting my current problems, namely that of a physical disability, although I would still attempt to learn as much as possible on my own during that time as well. I guess I may simply be looking for a perfect remedy to this problem, when in actual fact one may not exist. I am still making inquiries into the online degree thing with the hope that maybe, tucked away in a dusty corner of some university's website, exists a viable online program for me -- but, that is probably incredibly wishful thinking. After all, the probability that there exist online physics and math degrees, endorsed by respected institutions, with entry requirements, and the like, without it being heavily discussed somewhere on the internet is slight. But, I'm still holding out hope on that end. I also have plans to evaluate the current status of my local university with regard to attending the campus, and whether or not that will be physically viable.
  5. Oct 9, 2014 #4


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    Harvard Extension School and other similar things may not offer a degree in physics, however they still allow you to take courses in those subjects. Why don't you just take some courses online and then next year when you go to a "real" university, you can have your credits transferred?
  6. Oct 12, 2014 #5
    Thanks for the reply. This is most certainly an option, the problem here, however, is that universities such as the Harvard Extension school, at least from my research, do not offer a wide enough range of courses with enough credit available in either mathematics or physics to make this a viable option. This is a link to the available Harvard Extension courses in mathematics and here is a link to those in physics -- as you can see these course options do not appear to be substantial enough for the amount of credits I would need, even for first year. Here is also a full list of the online science courses (there seems to be quite a lot available for computer science), however, I believe this list includes courses needed for Harvard Extension schools liberal arts degrees. Harvard Extension school does offer an entire mathematics liberal arts degree, but unfortunately it is only in mathematics education, which is certainly not the route I would like to head down. Am I perhaps neglecting something, or is there simply no viable option out there?

    Thanks again.
  7. Oct 12, 2014 #6


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    Actually, I can see that it has 2 Physics courses offered online and several mathematics ones (e.g. http://prntscr.com/4vh469). Also, Harvard isn't the only option. Something like http://extension.berkeley.edu/publicViewHome.do?method=load is also an option.
  8. Oct 14, 2014 #7
    I had a look at the Berkeley courses, unfortunately all of the physics courses require physical attendance. The mathematics courses, however, look fairly promising, although I will have to make inquiries into how exactly the calculus courses compare to those of other universities. Harvard also has a variety of courses, as your link shows, however, the two physics courses seem to have a strong Biology-focus, which could pose a problem -- and whilst one of their courses is labeled "college algebra", they do not in fact offer any linear algebra courses. I have investigated a few other extension schools, and a variety of other online programs, including those of UCLA, Yale, Cornell, University of New York, and University of Illinois -- most of which don't offer pure mathematics or physics courses. Here is the physical university's first year math syllabus, and whilst I assume it is somewhat standard, it is one that all of the extension/online university's I have looked into, don't seem to carry in full -- the same goes for the physics syllabus, perhaps even more so -- although, I have admittedly come closer with the Harvard Physics courses than anything else.
  9. Oct 14, 2014 #8
    You can always take the general education requirements (GERs) through such schools online, while maybe taking a few coursera classes in math and physics so when you do transfer, you can hit the ground running and not have to worry about any (or many) classes outside your major that they might require you to fill, such as English, history, social science, humanities, etc. Unlike some international schools, most schools in the U.S. make you take those, even for a bachelors of science, so its a good idea to go ahead and get those out of the way. I have a feeling graduate programs will look better at your application if you take ALL your math and science classes in person vs online. I transferred from a community college, and even there all our math and science classes were in person, while many of the others were offered online (through the school), because you needed the lab portion or I guess they felt it would be best for the student to have us come in to class for such subjects. Everything worked out good for me, got into the school I wanted with no problems.
  10. Oct 18, 2014 #9
    Whilst South African schools do not require GERs, or anything even remotely similar, if I do decide to apply to an American University at some point in the future, whether it be as a post-graduate or undergraduate, taking the GERs online seems to be a very good idea. I haven't mentioned it in this thread, but I very much enjoy English, and have had some very light dealings with linguistics, and from what I have experienced so far, I have enjoyed it very much -- the GERs are most definitely another option for next year. It's a shame that there doesn't seem to exist an online option with moderate to strong entry requirements, somehow offered by a respected institution. Although, I suppose the target audience for many of, if not most, of online degree programs are people who are currently in employment and are unable to attend a full-time university for whatever reason, which I suppose would make staunch entry requirements a problem.
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