Skip to main content

How distance learning works

Video streaming Lectures

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 web, 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. It's possible to ask questions during the live stream and join in group discussions through our collaborative software. Distance learning students study in the same weeks as face-to-face students, so assessed work for both cohorts is synchronised in time.

Other ways we use video streaming

  • We record and live stream face-to-face practical sessions, which are usually immediately available after the corresponding 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 geological and planetary data.
  • We use collaborative software to share our desktops with students over the web, with a live feed of the lecturer so you can learn how to use software such as graphics packages, chemistry analytical software and advanced numerical software.
  • We run face-to-face sessions on Saturdays in central London, which are captured on video, where requested, to allow you to view our teaching labs for study outside of your particular working hours. These sessions, like all our lectures and practical sessions, may be attended by distance learning students when they are able to do so.

Digital Lecture notes

All lectures and practical sessions are supported by digital lecture notes and practical notes, available to view as PDF/Word 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 practical sessions. 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.

Contacting your lecturer

We actively encourage you to contact your lecturer(s) and there are a number of ways to do this, including our collaborative software, telephone, email and other video conferencing or meeting software. Collaborative software also allows screen-sharing and one-to-one or group discussion as part of online tutorials and classes.


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. In the past, we've run trips to Wales, Scotland, Greece, Morocco and the Canary Islands.


Examinations may be taken at Birkbeck alongside face-to-face students, or may be taken at a suitable centre elsewhere. (There may be an additional cost for this.)

Birkbeck Library 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.