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Online degree courses: studying in Germany via the internet

Studying from home? The internet makes it possible to complete entire degree courses whenever and wherever you like. Online degree courses are a real alternative, especially for those who work. We want to show you how distance learning over the internet works.

From Solar Energy Engineering at the University of Freiburg and Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University of Berlin, thorough to Advanced Oncology at Ulm University – more and more German universities are providing international degree courses online. They allow students all over the world to complete their chosen degree course with a German university via the internet. Some of these online degree courses can also be taken on a part-time basis parallel to employment.

Studying for a degree over the Internet opens up new worlds. Whether you’re looking for certified training courses, post-graduate Master’s programmes or Bachelor’s degrees – it’s not just traditional German distance learning universities, some of which also have international students, that offer these courses. Public universities are also providing international study programmes that can be completed online.

Blended learning – a combined method

In Germany, there is a broad variety of degree courses that can be completed online, either in their entirety or with a few short classroom sessions, particularly for graduates who want to gain a Master’s degree. This mixed form of digital study, both online and in person at the university, is also known as blended learning.

Mona Ayoub completed a programme like this. The Deputy Director of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) office in Cairo did her Master’s degree in International Education Management online, also attending classes at the Helwan University in Cairo in Egypt and the Ludwigsburg University of Education in Germany.

“The biggest advantage of the programme was the flexibility. I could do my work whenever I had a gap – at night or after work. It allowed me to work on my degree anytime and anywhere.”

Mona Ayoub is the Deputy Director of the DAAD office in Cairo. From 2011 to 2014, she took part in the “International Education Management (INEMA)“ blended learning programme, ultimately gaining a Master’s degree. The online degree course was offered jointly by the Helwan University in Cairo, Egypt, and the Ludwigsburg University of Education in Germany.  

Interview with Mona Ayoub

Studying online alongside working

These blended learning and online degree courses are particularly attractive for people who want to complete their training alongside their job. Many digital study courses are designed so that studying and working can go hand in hand.

That was ideal for Mona Ayoub. She completed her Master’s degree over three years while working at the same time. “That was a massive relief for me,” she explains. “Otherwise, it would have become extremely stressful.” She ultimately secured a full-time job with a high level of responsibility at DAAD. Studying part-time on the internet made it easier for her to juggle her career, her degree and her family.

How is an online course structured?

The content of the degree modules is specifically designed for learning on the internet in virtual classrooms. On-screen self-study is supported by

  • interactive, personalised tasks
  • multimedia activities
  • web or video conferences
  • wikis
  • chats to exchange knowledge
  • help via WhatsApp groups or Skype and
  • personal support from tutors.

Blended learning programmes also involve workshops and seminars held on site at the university. How often these are organised and whether or not attendance is compulsory depends on the degree course and the university.

The German Federal Agency for Civic Education explains what e-learning is (in German only).

Recognised qualifications

Of course, a decisive factor in deciding to complete a course is whether or not the qualifications it gives you are actually recognised in your home country. As a general rule, universities, professional associations and the authorities in your home country are responsible for confirming the equivalence of these qualifications, both academically and professionally. Germany has agreements with many countries around the world for the mutual recognition of university qualifications.

Online degrees usually come at a price

Although degrees at public universities in Germany are largely free of charge, the same is not necessarily true for online courses. In addition to advanced training courses at public and private universities, it’s primarily post-graduate degree courses that charge a fee. Generally speaking, there are only a handful of courses on highly specific topics that are free – so-called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which do not provide certified qualifications. There are also MOOCs which you do receive a certificate for, but these often come at a cost.

Tuition fees for these degree courses can vary greatly and depend on the course itself and the university that is providing it. For example, you could complete certified further training in nanotechnology at the University of Kaiserslautern as a blended learning programme across two semesters for EUR 1,500, while the “Master of Business Administration Renewables” online study programme at the Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin costs EUR 2,800 per semester.

Abdessami Meghraoui is a Junior Consultant at the Pan African University in Algeria. Like Mona Ayoub, he also completed the international online Master’s degree in “International Education Management”. He talks about his experiences with the programme.

Where can I find online degree courses at German universities?

It’s not that easy to find a suitable online degree course. There’s no central database for international students who want to complete a degree or certified further education either entirely online or in the form of a blended learning programme. However, DAAD’s “International Programmes” database helps you discover quite a number of courses if you’re looking for e-learning opportunities.

Another possibility is the "Hochschulkompass" ("Higher Education Compass") provided by the German Rectors’ Conference, with (almost) all German universities entering their degree programmes into its database. If you search for the terms “berufsbegleitend” (“parallel to work”) and “Fernstudium” (“distance learning”), you will find online degree courses provided by German universities. You can also find many results by searching the term “online”. However, “online” in this sense doesn’t always mean that you’d be studying exclusively on the internet. How often you have to attend the university in person and which languages you can study in is different for each programme.

Information about online and blended learning degree programmes in Germany can also be found on DistanceLearningPortal.com, which was set up by international student organisations.

Distance learning – is it worth it?

Studying from home at an institution abroad is much easier than travelling half way around the world. However, it’s still hard work and takes a lot of self-discipline, not to mention the money that the course costs. Having said that, online degree courses are an attractive option, especially if they make it easier for those who are also working to complete a targeted further training programme. It’s therefore clear for Mona Ayoub that “studying as part of a blended learning programme is definitely an enormous benefit. I can only recommend this pathway.”

Author: Sabine Giehle

Have you already taken part in online courses or even completed an online degree course? Then why not tell us and other alumni about your experiences in the “Studies, Research and Education” group? You can also find the complete interview with Mona Ayoub there!

To the Community

March 2018

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