I'm currently enrolled as a first year student doing a computing related degree (my first) at the University of London (distance learning). Since I started, there has been a massive shifts in online education with a particular focus on the direction I want to take (computer science). With the exception to access to a wide-range of journals and digital libraries, the quality of the materials provided by the university are far eclipsed by those offered by sites such as Udacity and Coursera, plus there is no where near the same level of interaction among students or even lecturers for that matter.
Essentially, I feel like I am paying for a piece of paper and nothing more. I'm given a guide as to what is on the paper but I'm essentially on my own. I've spent all my savings so far on this, but would need to take a loan for next year. I'm both a mature student (28) and living in a foreign country, therefore the traditional paths were not open to me.
Is it worth it? Should I just invest the time pursuing the free courses and hope that It does not impact my employ-ability?
It's true that most MOOCs these days provide more interaction than typical courses in the UoL external program (I've done both). However, you cannot get academic credit for a MOOC (except in some very limited cases - introductory courses, and the like). A UoL degree will be recognized as an accredited degree. Ironically, the emergence of MOOCs has, perhaps, made accredited degrees more valuable, as they distinguish you from MOOCs.
Your same question could be re-framed to include MOOCs vs. brick and mortar schools: Why am I paying a lot of money to sit in a classroom and listen to a professor when I can get a simulated version in a MOOC? Again, I think the answer boils down to academic credit. If you want the degree, you'll have to go the "traditional" route, where traditional, in this case, means traditional distance learning, or traditional brick and mortar.