What is distance learning?

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1 What is distance learning? If you are reading this it means that you are already interested in, and excited by, the prospect of studying for a higher education (HE) qualification and that s great news. The even better news is that there are more options than ever before to make that aspiration a reality. Online distance learning is one such option, appealing to many students for its flexibility and affordability. But what exactly is online distance learning and what can students taking this option expect from the experience? This guide is designed to answer these questions and help individuals explore whether online distance learning is the right choice for them. For over 25 years we have been creating opportunities for people to achieve their goals, so whatever you decide, we hope you find the confidence and motivation to invest in yourself through Higher Education, as we know it can truly change your world. FREEPHONE 0800 COURSES / Changing your world through Higher Education

2 The big 4 Every week we receive thousands of enquiries from people curious about studying by online distance learning and there are 4 questions that always crop up. 1) What is Higher Education distance learning exactly? Distance learning is a way of studying for a Higher Education qualification remotely without the need to physically attend classes at college or university. Historically in the UK, this was done through correspondence courses (students being sent materials through the post), but as the internet has evolved, so too has distance learning and many courses are now carried out online. However all online study is not equal! There are a number of different factors which can determine your outcome, including the level of support you receive, whether tutors are qualified, your chosen provider and who the final certificate is awarded by. 2) What is the main benefit of studying this way? The continuous development of the internet means that modern distance learning now delivers Higher Education on the student s terms. For many, this is the biggest benefit - people love the flexibility to study online, around their career and remain in control of their lives. 3) How much will it cost? Affordability is another benefit for many students, as studying online for a Higher Education qualification with a distance learning provider is a lot less expensive than traditional face-to-face courses. Prices will vary between providers but there are several key things you should always look out for and be aware of. Check out the Making sense of money section for more detail. 4) Will I need specific qualifications? Whatever the learning model, Higher Education is still Higher Education, so there will be eligibility requirements and assessment. What many people don t realise though, is that work experience can actually count towards eligibility, particularly for masters and MBA programmes. This should always be something you explore as if you have been working recently; you are probably more eligible than you think.

3 How do I choose an online distance learning provider? Choosing a provider is a personal thing. You should always have at least one good direct conversation with them before you enrol as this will give you a sense of the organisation as a whole. Keep in mind that responses to your enquiries will be a good indication of how they will work with you and support you later in your studies! Firstly, you ll need to create a shortlist. Friends, family, reviews, online searches and forums are often places people begin, but don t be afraid to pick up the phone and chat to admissions teams as every day they speak to people who are completely new to Higher Education study. Good support can make the difference... If you are wondering what questions to ask, here s a quick checklist to help It is important to ask about the support you will receive. It is always worth reflecting on what is likely to be most important to you; academic support to help you understand and apply learning materials, student support to ensure you know what is expected of you and how to make your learning time efficient, or pastoral support to help you get through the tough times. A good provider will ensure you can access all of these when you need them, and be able to talk you through all the resources available to you. Excellent support can make all the difference once you are studying. 1. What is on the certificate? Is it a university or another provider? 2. What is the total cost of my study? What other fees are there? 3. How do you support learners? Who are your tutors? How will I contact them? 4. What happens if I stop in: i) one month ii) 3 months ii) one year? 5. What do I need to do to enrol? What will you be doing for me during this time? 6. What if I am not enjoying the course? 7. What if I think I m going to fail?

4 I ve chosen a providerwhat next? Remember, you should never feel like you are being pressured into a decision. Even once you apply (which should be free!) this should simply lead to a conversation about your study choices. Take your time and make sure you ask about the practicalities. Duration of course, start dates, modules, credits, levels and types of assessment are all common topics. Not everyone knows about Higher Education and how it works, so a good provider will happily talk you through these elements and any other aspect of your course, until you are completely in the know.

5 Making sense of money When it comes to the money side of things, what exactly should you be looking out for? Understand how fees work It is always worth checking whether any annual registration fees are presented. You will need to factor these in to your total costs. Also, keep asking what if and ensure you understand what happens if you have to retake an assessment or an entire module. There should be options for several different payment methods and schedules such as pay as you go and pay by level. Clarity of fees is one of the best indications that the organisation is focused on the student s experience, right from the start of their journey. Know your funding options Providers may offer Student Loans Company funding for undergraduate programmes. Remember, distance learning students have the same repayment criteria as full-time students, but typically have lower fees. There are also private loan providers available specifically for study which can sometimes offer better repayment criteria during study, so shop around for the best deal for you. If you are employed, you may be surprised to discover your employer offering to help support your development too. It is always worth taking time to see what opportunities there may be. Even if employer funding is not available up-front, it could be that the qualification you are studying for will mean you are eligible for a promotion that wasn t possible before.

6 It s natural to have questions and concerns about embarking on a higher education qualification, particularly if you haven t studied for a while. And if you haven t studied online with a distance learning provider before, there may be some specific questions that spring to mind. Here s our frequent what if rundown: What if I can t keep up with my studies? A good provider will notice this early and proactively connect with you. There are several options open to you rather than completely halting your studies and if dealt with early, this can be the difference between stopping and coming back stronger to complete your course. I m not very good at assessments? Many people fear assessments, but these are an essential part of Higher Education. When staged correctly, they should be built to demonstrate your learning and are a chance for you to show what you ve learnt; not trip you up. The tutors and support teams should be preparing you for the process, so you can focus on the learning, so again, ask what preparation you will receive before each assessment. I need to stop my studies? Once a student pauses their studies, it can be difficult to restart. However, Distance learning is designed to be flexible to allow studies to fit around your life. Life happens though, so pausing is an option and there should be no financial penalty from your provider. I don t enjoy it? Tutors, support teams, the learning platform and other students are there to help you engage and enrich your studies. At times, we all struggle with studying and need that helping hand or someone to motivate us. That s why a good provider focuses not only on quality materials but the quality of the support. Interested to find out if you could be eligible to study? Take a free, 2 minute eligibility checker here:

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