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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. Studying as a distance learning student allows you to study from anywhere in the world and includes the ability to study from home where commitments or disability make attending lectures impossible. 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. Distance learning students are encouraged to attend fieldclasses alongside face-to-face students allowing direct interaction with staff and other students.

Blended learning

As all lecture material is available in distance learning format, it is available for face-to-face students to study via blended learning: attending some lectures but taking others as a distance learner where personal circumstance dictates. As a face-to-face student you would have to maintain a minimum attendance level, but would have the flexibility to work at home when necessary.

In addition, all face-to-face lectures and practicals are available to distance learning students, who may attend any of these when it is possible for them to do so.


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 these channels:

  • live video streaming of lectures, which are then available online
  • digital lecture notes including all of the necessary text, illustrations, diagrams and film clips
  • email/phone/Skype tutorials
  • Birkbeck Library’s extensive range of online resources.
In addition there are optional residential fieldwork classes for some courses. Examinations are held in London and can also be organised for a suitable centre close to where you are resident.

Video streaming

  • Face-to-face classes in central London, which are conducted between 6 and 9pm local time, are captured on video and streamed live on the internet, with the uploaded recording available for download immediately afterwards. 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, which are typically immediately available after the correseponding lecture. 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 plot graphs, produce graphics for reports and maps, and analyse remotely-sensed data.
  • We also use collaborative 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. These may be attended by Distance Learning students when they are able to do so.
  • 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.


  • Examinations may be taken at Birkbeck alongside face-to-face students, or may be taken at a suitable centre elsewhere (for which there may be additional costs).

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.