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Making time to learn: how online study fits around your career

The new suite of computer science degrees from the University of London and member institution Goldsmiths offer you the opportunity to study your degree fully online. The flexibility this provides allows many students to continue working, while gaining a qualification that will support their future career ambitions. We spoke to three students about how they manage their studies with work, family and other commitments.

Written by Allie Fitzgibbon |

Woman on a laptop
"You don’t need to be in a classroom at a specific time each week – all you need is internet access."

Alexeia Wiesner had already completed the first year of a computer science degree at a local university when financial pressures forced him to withdraw to work full time. Now, with nearly 10 years of on-the-job experience as a web developer, he was determined to complete his qualification and decided the flexibility offered by the University of London’s online computer science programme would suit him perfectly.

“The University of London has a good track record for distance learning and this looked like a really good quality programme. I’m studying the Web and Mobile Development specialism which is in line with the field I’m working in and the flexibility of online study means I can still work three days a week. It’s good because you don’t need to be in a classroom at a specific time each week – all you need is internet access.”

I’m learning stuff that applies directly to my job – I can use it almost immediately.

The new programme, including a choice of seven specialisms, has been developed in partnership with academics from Goldsmiths, University of London and Coursera, one of the world’s largest online learning platforms. The interactive content has been carefully designed to engage and inspire students, whether they choose to study fully online or attend a local teaching centre.

“The programme is really well done. With the videos you’re still getting a sense of face-to-face teaching and the material is given to you in an interesting format – there’s a story behind it to keep you engaged. One of my modules is themed around you being a detective and using coding skills to solve puzzles.

“I can’t lie, it does take more effort to study around work and you have to be self-disciplined and plan your time well. But I’m already learning stuff that applies directly to my job – I can use it almost immediately. In the future I’m hoping to be a freelancer and work remotely, so this flexible approach to studying suits me well and is good preparation.”

Amanda Maria Bizzinotto Ferreira runs a digital marketing and web development agency. She initially studied a degree in mechanical engineering before a career change led her to a role in product testing and technical support. She learned a lot from her colleagues but decided that gaining a formal qualification would help fill the gaps in her skill set.

“I didn’t want to rely solely on what I’ve learned on my own. When you’re self-taught you often have to improvise and work around problems, but with a degree you know you’re learning best practice and getting really good quality instruction.”

Studying web and mobile development will really help my business. Bringing those skills in-house will help us expand the scope of the agency.

Having spent a year abroad in the UK during her first degree, Amanda was interested in studying at a British university.

“In Brazil it can take five years to complete a degree and I wanted to complete it quicker than that. I really enjoyed my year abroad in Britain but this programme is the best of both worlds – I didn’t have to pay to move to London but I still get a University of London qualification.

“Studying web and mobile development will really help my business. At the moment, if a client needs to have an app built – or even if I need something developed for the agency – I have to hire a developer. Bringing those skills in-house will help us expand the scope of the agency.”

Ricardo Diaz is a self-taught machine learning engineer. When he was offered sponsorship to work in Peru he had to quit his degree in his native Venezuela. Two years later he was determined to finish his formal education and having already completed other courses through online learning platform, Coursera, the University of London degree appealed to him.

The flexibility of online study is great. I like to jump right in and access as much content as possible so it’s good to be able to go at my own pace.

“I’ve always had a love for tech, ever since I was a child. To be self-taught you really have to have a passion for it. But I wanted to complete my qualification and when I heard about the University of London programme on Coursera it sounded interesting. The Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence specialism is particularly suited to my career path and it’s rare that you have the chance to study such advance concepts at an undergraduate level.”

In the long-term, Ricardo aims to use his love of tech to make a difference in the world and hopes that gaining a strong foundation of knowledge and skills will propel his career.

“Being self-taught can only take you so far. Having a formal qualification opens doors. I’m working full time as a machine learning engineer and have also recently been given a contract to write a book about machine learning so I don’t have a lot of free time. The flexibility of online study is great because I can work through four or five weeks’ work in a couple of days. I like to jump right in and access as much content as possible so it’s good to be able to go at my own pace.”

Find out how a BSc in Computer Science from the University of London could fit in with your career.