I am a self-taught Software Engineer working in the industry for about 5 years. However, formal tertiary education has always been on my radar. This blog post describes my story, and why I chose a distance learning programme instead of an on-campus offering.
So, here is the standard path for a Computer Science career - you pass high school, go to college to study CS, learn to code, intern at a company and then get a full time role at a Software company. I exactly didn’t follow this set standard.
I started coding in 8th grade. I had my first serious internship handling consumer services at 10th grade. I wrote Android system components and firmware at 12th grade. When I got admitted into a brick-and-morter university for a B.Sc, I already started developing globally distributed web crawling and news aggregation systems.
At it turned out, continuing my university classes with strict attendance requirements was becoming impossible as I positioned myself as one of the senior resources at my organization. I had taken more responsibilties, tougher challanges. I struggled to do well in my university exams, and grades plummetted. At one point, I was so far behind my peers, I couldn’t complete half of my course requirements in 3 years. Full time work and fighting through Mirpur (Dhaka) traffic meant, I stayed outdoors from 7 AM - 8 PM.
Bad grades, not being able to attend classes became an issue. Although my employer had no issue with me taking classes during work hours, I felt that I deprived my employer of my precious work hours. I had to do something to get back my results, get more time to study and be fair with my employer.
I essentially had four options at hand.
- Continue as it is. Graduate in 3 more years (totalling 6) with terrible grades while risking my performance at work.
- Getting admitted into another local university where an evening CSE programme is offered.
- Leaving my emloyment, becoming a full-time student and passing in 1.5 - 2 years.
- Enrolling into an accredited and respected distance learning programme to continue my education alongside my professional work.
My family had not been in a position to support my education without any income contribution from me. Number 3 could be crossed off. Considering Dhaka traffic, the reputation of universities offering evening programmes, I decided to back off of number 2. Number 1 was just impractical, leaving me with number 4.
Taking the plunge
I researched a lot. Foreign degrees are valued in foreign currency, most beyond the reach of my income level. Many were affordable, but were questionable and not as respected. After a few months of research, I stumbled upon the programmes offered by the University of London. After some digging, I found that the university has a track record of successful distance learning programmes.
I myself was skeptical. Many of my well-wishers from the academia and industry reminded of the grey area status of distance learning programmes. I had to make a choice. I chose to continue with distance learning. I had already built a comparatively successful portfolio of work and past experiences working for major organizations and products. My target was to tick the degree checkbox.
I understood that my degree from Bangladesh would bear comparatively little value for my resume. I consulted a few foreign ministries to check the recognition of the distance learning programmes of the Uniersity of London. Namely, Ministry Of Manpower (Singapore). To my surprise, it was ranked higher than all of the Bachelors degrees offered from Bangladeshi universities (public and private).
I knew I was probably on the right track. I had more confidence. I applied. I got an offer, accepted and started the programme. I transferred from NSU to UoL.
So this is my story in short. Please remember that, distance learning programmes aren’t accepted everywhere. Do your homework before you decide to commit. I am in no way an educational consultant, just an average human sharing my story. If you want to hear more about this, or maybe how I applied and other stuff - leave a comment to let me know.