Open study is a great way to achieve a qualification. Generally, it is cheaper and less time consuming than qualifying from a ‘conventional’ university, and more people than ever are pursuing a distance learning course. Here are the top ten tips to getting a qualification by distance learning.
- Decide what you want to study
- Be Realistic
- Take advantage of the financial aid
- Plan and maintain a routine
- What is distance learning?
- Take advantage of study support
- Motivate yourself!
- What can you achieve?
- Be sponsored to study
- Useful info and sites
1. Decide what you want to study
Distance learning has become very popular, and Universities and institutions such as the Open University are offering an enormous range of Undergraduate, Postgraduate, and short courses - from MBAs and flexible PGCEs, though to Health Science Diplomas. With all this choice, you have to decide what you want to study and at what level. Read the course description carefully and contact the University for more information if you are unsure.
Distance studying is no walk in the park, and can require more motivation and planning than a ‘normal’ course. Examine your schedule and ask yourself how much time you can devote to studying. Also, be realistic about the commitment you are making. An Undergraduate degree with the Open University takes most students six years to complete, although it can be done in three years with some exceptionally hard work. Distance learning is something that most people enjoy once they begin, although the prospect can be daunting beforehand.
3. Take advantage of the financial aid
One of the biggest advantages of studying from home is the cost comparative to studying full time. A range of grants for course fees, study materials and other costs are available. The Open University also offers financial assistance for students with disabilities, medical conditions or specific learning difficulties (check with your course provider about the financial help they can offer). In addition, part time distance learning students can work while studying towards their qualification, as 80% of the Open University’s students do.
4. Plan and maintain a routine
The only way to achieve a qualification by distance learning is through good planning and hard work. Devise a schedule to include regular study and essay writing time. Remember, distance learning is flexible! If you want to study on a Saturday night or at the crack of dawn before going to work it is up to you. The important thing is to try maintain a routine and to ensure your university work isn’t set aside indefinitely.
5. What is distance learning?
Depending on your course provider distance learning is generally about open learning, or self-study. It will require reading through course materials and submitting written assignments on time for deadlines, either on paper or electronically. Course materials often include DVDs, computer programs or audio CDs. The Open University will assign a tutor to care for your studies and this tutor is your point of contact for any queries and the person who marks your assignments.
6. Take advantage of study support
The Open University has topped the nationwide student satisfaction tables two years in a row, and 95% of students say they are “satisfied or mostly satisfied” with their experience of the university. The cliché of a distance learning student being a hermit, waking up at 4am to watch the latest Open University program on BBC2 is long gone. Distance Learning courses now are actually highly interactive. Most courses have optional seminars, tutorials, day schools, residential schools, tutor and group contacts, and online resources. They are there for your benefit so use them!
7. Motivate yourself!
One of the main objections people have to distance learning is the necessity of self-motivation. So remind yourself why you are studying. What is the qualification going to do for you? What have you learnt from the course? If you can learn to enjoy your course, motivation becomes natural. These are skills that transfer to any part of life, and employers often appreciate the extra motivation that a distance learning course requires.
8. What can you achieve?
A distance learning qualification, like any other qualification, can open up new options and benefits. If you want to demonstrate to your employer your ability to improve, or if you want to pursue a career change, distance learning courses are an ideal route for progress without having to turn your life on its head. Of course, distance learning also gives you flexibility while studying – so if you want to travel the world while getting that MA in Philosophy then this is the way forward. Many course providers have a policy of having no entrance requirements, which is a big advantage for those who are not in possession of three A-levels. However, if it has been a long time since you last studied you might consider taking a short refresher course to ease you back into the student life.
9. Be sponsored to study
Employers recognise the value of a distance learning qualification. As such, more than 50,000 employers have sponsored their staff to study at The Open University. Distance learning students show they can prioritise and manage tasks effectively, and demonstrate an ambitious character. So if distance learning is something your employer encourages, take advantage of it!
10. Useful info and sites
Okay, so you’re convinced. What next? Check these sites:
www.open.ac.uk – the UK’s biggest distance learning course operator. www.londonexternal.ac.uk – A flexible route to a University of London qualification. www.icslearn.co.uk – Degrees, A-levels and GCSE’s at home.
www.direct.gov.uk – Government support for higher education.
www.ncchomelearning.co.uk - Distance learning from the National Consortium of Colleges