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Distance learning

We have been continuously offering a geology education since 1840, making us one of the oldest providers in London.

We are also specialists in distance-learning: all of our undergraduate degrees and certificates of higher education, and some of our postgraduate courses, are available for face-to-face evening study in central London or via distance learning, so you can study with us from anywhere in the world. We have an active community of over 300 undergraduate students, based in countries around the world, and many of our students are professionals who work during the day and study in the evening or at times that suit them.

Courses available via distance learning

Read more detailed information about each course - how it is structured, what it covers and how to apply for the distance-learning route - via our online prospectus.

Certificates of higher education

Undergraduate degrees

Postgraduate courses

How distance learning works

Distance learning is offered via full video streaming of lectures, digital lecture notes, email/phone/Skype tutorials, optional residential fieldwork classes, and Birkbeck Library’s extensive range of online resources.

Video streaming

  • Face-to-face classes in central London, which are typically one hour, are captured on video and streamed on the Internet, either live or the following day. The videos show the lecturer(s) and slide presentation, plus the students and any extra diagrams or notes written up by the lecturer(s). Usually, students stream the video in one browser window or tab and view the digital lecture notes in another. All videos are formatted to watch on desktop computers and mobile devices.
  • We also record face-to-face practicals in central London, which are typically 30 minutes long. These videos cover a variety of topics and include:
    • demonstrations - to show how to interpret geological maps and examine rocks and minerals of fossils
    • videos of microscopes - to show how to identify minerals and rock types
    • videos of software - to show how to plots graphs, produce graphics for reports and maps, and analysis remotely-sensed data.
  • We also use collaborate software that allows us to share our desktops with students over the Internet, with a live feed of the lecturer so you can learn how to use software such as graphics packages, chemistry analytical software, and spreadsheets.
  • We also run face-to-face sessions on Saturdays in central London, which are captured on video, where requested, to allow you to visit our teaching labs for study outside of your particular working hours.
  • Some of our students study entirely through watching these videos and never visit London. Other students mix - often on a weekly basis - face-to-face attendance in London with watching the videos (this does not affect the fee, so you can attend on one evening and study via videos on another). Distance-learning students study in the same weeks as face-to-face students, so assessed work for both cohorts is synchronised in time.

Digital lecture notes

  • All lectures and practicals are supported by digital lecture notes and practical notes, available to view as PDF files on a desktop computer or mobile device.
  • The notes include the full text of the lectures and any photographs, maps, diagrams or data for analysis in practicals. Some have embedded video files: for example, videos showing a lecturer plotting data by hand on graph paper or stereonets, or examining a rock or mineral.

Internet forum

  • We provide an Internet forum, so you can chat and discuss topics with fellow students and with staff.

Contacting your lecturer

  • We actively encourage you to contact your lecturer(s) and there are a number of ways to do this, including telephone, email and Skype conversations.


  • Residential fieldwork classes support the taught material and are available to all students, allowing you to meet and network with staff and other students from around the world.

Birkbeck Library’s e-resources

  • Birkbeck Library has an extensive e-library, so you can access the latest research articles in scientific journals from anywhere in the world. You may need to purchase some textbooks for your first-year classes, but the vast majority of the advanced-level material is available in journal articles that you can download from the e-library.
  • You can also find past exam papers online, to help you prepare for written examinations.