Distance Learning - What To Expect
The prospect of distance learning may be daunting if you’re more accustomed to studying in a tutored, classroom environment or are returning to further education later in life. Don’t be put off; you will find a strong network of support to help and guide you through your studies whichever Open University style course you choose.
Distance learning, just like working from home, is not for everyone. You will need to give careful consideration to where and when you are going to study and how regular study periods could fit into your life. Does your home have a quiet, comfortable area that could be converted into an office or study area? If not, could you find the time to study at your local library? If you are working, will you employer allow you time for study and to attend seminars, courses etc?
Here’s a brief guide which explains what to expect if you opt for the distance learning route.
No matter what course you choose you will be provided with appropriate course materials including text books, notes, text modules, mock examination papers etc. Sometimes many of these resources can be found online. The cost of these items is covered by the course fee but you should always check to see what extra study materials you might have to purchase in addition.
Most distance learning courses require students to have their own computer with good internet access and a fast, stable broadband connection. Many universities offer a virtual learning environment which enables students to:
· access some or all of the course materials;
· take part in online discussions with other students and tutors using discussion boards;
· access tutorials and presentations;
· submit assignments and access personal, confidential feedback;
· access the university library to order books or use online reference materials, e-books or e-journals.
As your course progresses, you may be required to submit essays and other coursework. Generally, these will be submitted online. Some courses demand strict deadlines for completion of the assessments so you must be prepared to commit to this before signing up for a course.
There may also be invigilated examinations which you will have to attend the university (or other pre-ordained venue) to take. The venues may not necessarily be local to you so make sure you are able to travel if necessary. If you are an overseas student, your course provider will usually arrange for you to take the examination at a venue which is local to you, depending upon the course.
Detailed feedback on all assignments, assessments and examinations will be provided by your dedicated tutor either by email, telephone or on a one to one basis at a tutorial meeting.
Some courses may include a short ‘summer school’ where practical aspects of your coursework is taught and then assessed. These elements are not always included in the cost of your course and can be expensive although most Open Universities will allow you to spread the cost while you are studying.
Studying alone at home is not easy and requires dedication, focus and self-motivation. You will be provided with the names and contact details of dedicated tutors and administrative staff at the start of your course. They will be your main point of contact and you can call on them with queries ranging from your progress on the course to the content of an individual module.
Make sure that you introduce yourself to these people when you begin your course and keep in regular contact with them. They are there to help, guide and support students and are only a phone call away to offer encouragement should you find your motivation slipping.
It’s easy to forget your fellow students when you’re working by yourself. Most courses have forums and discussion boards for students on all their courses and many people benefit from using social networking sites to set up groups and organise social events.
Distance learning offers those whose circumstances would otherwise preclude them from further education with a golden opportunity to gain extra qualifications and knowledge. With the wonders of the internet at our disposal we can now achieve much more in our spare time than previous generations could. Why not give distance learning a try; it might just change your life.