Distance learning courses in Mathematics

January 27th, 2009 | Categories: general math | Tags:

Has anyone out there had any experience with distance learning courses in Mathematics?  I would like to fill in the gaps in my mathematical knowledge and courses offered by institutions such as the Open University look perfect but I was wondering what alternatives there are out there.

I know that there are many alternatives to doing a paid course – For example, I could just read books or I could drop in on some maths lectures at the university where I work.  I already do this sort of thing and I find it difficult to stay focused on any particular topic.  I tend to start a month thinking about number theory, move on to a bit of statistics and then end up considering problems in global optimization!

The end result is that I know a little about a lot but I want to try and get more depth to my learning and the thought of a looming exam does wonders for my concentration.

So…What I am after is distance learning courses run by accredited institutions (No diploma mills please) that offer lots of modules which will (eventually) lead  to some sort of qualification.  Exams are a must!  One important criterion is that the course must be part time – I simply don’t have time to work through a one-year masters course.  The ability to be able to take individual modules (rather than the whole degree or nothing) would also be desirable.

As for academic level – I guess anything from undergraduate upwards will be fine.

Any suggestions?

  1. tom
    January 27th, 2009 at 17:01
    Reply | Quote | #1

    There is the MIT Open Courseware, available here: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/web/home/home/index.htm . Several of the math courses are complete with an entire semester’s worth of video lectures, and each are delivered by top-notch professors (i.e. Gilbert Strang, Arthur Mattuck, Walter Lewin …). There are other resources that do not stick in my mind at the moment, however I am sure this comment field will fill up with many excellent suggestions… as it turns out, you are not the only one in the market for this type of thing!

    P.S. Attending math lectures that you are not enrolled in can lead to the effect you describe – OR – they can be tremendously enriching, even beyond the joy of learning the math! So, my advice for achieving this second result… Make friends with the professor teaching the course you are interested in. Study with the other students in the class, and downplay the fact that you are ‘auditing’. The personal relationship with the professor is the most important piece, it will cause you to become obligated to stick with it, and you will gain a friend. (and dont hold yourself to understanding mathematics that you don’t have the pre-requisites for)

  2. D
    January 27th, 2009 at 20:22
    Reply | Quote | #2

    I think the OU is the best of its kind in the world. I have been doing its units for a couple years now, currently graph theory and Number theory and Logic. Their material is some of them best and clearest I have ever read. Often better than most textbooks on similar material I’ve read.

  3. January 27th, 2009 at 21:01
    Reply | Quote | #3

    Drexel offer’s a Online Master’s in Mathematics Learning and Teaching, it is a 45-credit program can be completed on a part-time basis, and there is a certificate program available as well. You can get more information here: http://www.drexel.com/online-degrees/education-degrees/ms-mlt/index.aspx

  4. Mike Croucher
    January 30th, 2009 at 17:13
    Reply | Quote | #4

    Thanks for the replies everyone…

    @Shawnee – The Drexel course looks great but leans too much towards education of my personal tastes. I don’t want to learn maths so I can teach it – I want to learn it for the sake of it. Some of the teachers who read this blog should definitely take a look though so thanks for letting me know about it.

    @D – It turns out that my Uni library has copies of some of the OU booklets and I have just borrowed one on Congruences. Looks good! Maybe OU is the way forward when the time comes for me to get serious about this.

    @tom – I’ll do what you suggest regarding auditing classes in the future. Maybe I could strike a deal with the lecturer – help me learn your stuff and I’ll provide Mathematica/MATLAB demonstrations for your course if it needs them.

  5. Will
    March 25th, 2010 at 15:29
    Reply | Quote | #5

    Hi Mike,

    Did you get anywhere with this? The reason I ask is that I am also a Maths enthusiast who works full time (came across this site whilst googling in my lunch hour).

    I’ve been doing Open University (which is fantastic) for a while, but am curious about alternatives.

    Hope you don’t mind me posting on your site!

  6. March 25th, 2010 at 15:54
    Reply | Quote | #6

    Hi Will

    I don’t mind you posting at all – that’s what the comment boxes are for :)

    I never followed it up to be honest since my job has offered me more than enough learning opportunities. I haven’t yet come across anything as good as the Open University so far although I am leaning on some people within my own university to see if they’ll be offering distance learning in subjects that interest me.

    For example, I’d like to do some MSc modules. Manchester University has some awesome MSc modules but I can’t pick and choose like I might at the OU – I have to do an entire MSc or nothing. This sucks!

    What I wish I could do is something like this:
    -Take an MSc module in financial mathematics (Black Scholes and stuff – not accountancy) from Manchester University
    -6 months later take a MSc module in statistics from Sheffield University.
    -A year later take a module in number theory from the OU

    Basically, I’d like to look at universities all over the world and take modules in whatever floats my boat from whatever university I like. Then, over time, I’d like to convert these disparate modules from different institutions to some sort of diploma in mathematics. I’m thinking of lifelong learning done on a part-time basis.

    The problem is that most MSc courses only cater for people who want to do an entire MSc in 1 year (or 4 years if done part time). What I want is to do 1 MSc over 10 years and then do another and another.


  7. Meg
    October 6th, 2010 at 14:01
    Reply | Quote | #7

    I couldnt find the details of the tuition fee on the OU website for the maths course. Does anybody has any idea how much it is?

  8. October 6th, 2010 at 15:27
    Reply | Quote | #8

    Hi Meg

    The fees appear to be on a module by module basis. For example, here’s a link to the costs of MU123, Discovering Mathematics, A 1st level Module.


  9. Meg
    October 7th, 2010 at 06:14
    Reply | Quote | #9

    Thanks Mike,
    I already have a bachelor’s engineering degree in Electronics and I was hoping to catch a graduate level program in Mathematics. Looks like this course is not available in India :(

  10. Ed
    October 14th, 2011 at 20:55

    Hi Meg and Mike

    If you are still interested in an online graduate program in math, and if you are interested in applied math (numerical methods and PDEs), then there are programs in the U.S. at Columbia University (CVN) and at the University of Washington (EDGE).

  11. Preeti
    August 24th, 2013 at 03:44

    Hey all,

    Finally we’re you able find an online undergraduate programme in Maths?? Unfortunately uk open university does not have this course available in south east Asia, so I am still checking out options. Please let me know…