Friday, 28 August 2015

Help! How do I choose what subject to study for my distance learning course?


The upcoming bank holiday has got us thinking – with an extra day of free time for many, it might just be the perfect time to learning something new. But how might you go about choosing a subject to focus on, especially if you are new to distance learning? This week’s blog aims to help you make sense of your options and choose what you might want to study, and how it works.

(It’s a particularly good bank holiday weekend if you want to study at GCSE level: during August we have been offering £100 off all GCSE and IGCSE subjects including Maths, English, and Science, so if you or someone you know wants to get a Level 2 qualification under their belt, ensure you enrol before bank holiday Monday ends!)

Why choose distance learning?

Distance learning, or home study, is a flexible and versatile way to do a course designed to fit around a learner’s busy life. It doesn’t require travelling to a physical campus or adhering to lesson times set by a timetable. Instead, learners study at any time and place that is convenient for them – after dinner in the living room, on the train to and from work, or in between doing household chores.

This makes distance learning perfect for many different people with a wide variety of personal circumstances, including full-time workers, people with caring or family commitments, people living in remote areas where travelling to college every day would be impractical, and those who find it difficult to access mainstream education due to ill health or a disability.

Knowing your have the option to study at any time and any place means distance learning provides plenty of opportunities for you to successfully complete your course. For more information on the benefits of distance learning, have a look at our list of reasons why distance learning can work for you.

Choosing a subject area

Sometimes when you’re looking for a course you’ll already have an idea of what you want to study. But what if you’re not quite sure? With so many possibilities when it comes to what to learn about, where do you start if you’re trying to narrow down your choices?

Start by asking yourself why you want to learn something in the first place. Is it to progress in your career, go to university, or get a new job? If so, there will usually be guidance on what subject areas and what types of courses might be required or prefered depending on where you want to go.

For example, if you want to study a particular subject at university, you can check the course requirements in their prospectus or on their website to see if they express a preference for certain subjects at A level or equivalent. Bear in mind that different universities will have different requirements, so make sure you know what you need for the institution you are applying to.

On the other hand, perhaps you just want to learn for pleasure, or to broaden your understanding of the way the world works. Some people choose a course after being inspired by a science documentary on television, for example, or hearing a news report that made them want to learn more about the social, political or economic factors that affect the society they live in. Identifying subject areas that are relevant to you personally in this way is a good method of narrowing down your choices when it comes to what to study.

For NEC courses, you can also get a taste of what any particular course has to offer by downloading a free course sample from our website. Free course samples are available for most of our courses, including our Book-keeping and Creative courses as well as our wide range of A levels, GCSEs and IGCSEs. Downloading a selection of different samples and looking through them can help you pick out which subjects you like best.

Our course samples also make great little short courses in their own right and we’ve previously put together a guide for how you can make the most of them. As a quick and easy way of learning something new, why not see what you could learn from them? After all, they’re free!

For a final boost of inspiration, you can also have a look at our previous blog where NEC staff members based at our offices in Cambridge told us what their favourite subjects were and why. Are any of their choices subjects that you would be interested in studying for yourself?

Learn something new

Once you’ve chosen your course, all that’s left to do is to enrol and get started. We hope this guide has helped you think about how you might start the next step of your learning journey, and we wish you all the best and hope you enjoy your course!

About NEC

To find out more about NEC and our wide range of distance learning courses, visit our website. You can also get in touch directly and speak to our team, who are always happy to help. We can also be found on social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

To keep up with all the latest NEC news and events, you can subscribe to our email newsletter or follow this blog.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

GCSE and IGCSE results: the culmination of another year in lifelong learning

Exam Information.jpg

You can’t fail to notice that across the country young people are receiving their GCSE and IGCSE results today. Usually taken aged 16, a GCSE is classed as the first significant mark of achievement in a subject, showing that you have a good level of understanding of a subject area.

Many careers and further education options require a GCSE level education, often in maths and English, such as childcare, teaching, midwifery, physiotherapy and many more. So what happens if you didn’t get that all important C grade while you were at school?

That’s where NEC comes in.

Our students are also getting their results today, but unlike schools up and down the country, our learners come from all walks of life and range in age from 9 to 95! Many are taking a second chance at learning to change their lives and take a new career path.

NEC Student Services Administrator Maria told us, ‘I’m always inspired by our students on results day. I get to know them well throughout the course, I know who suffers with nerves and who really needs this pass to get onto a teaching course. I know who struggled to fit study in around their job and family life, and who managed to study a lot quicker than they anticipated. Each and every one of our students has different barriers and aspirations, but on this day they all share something. They can be proud of what they have achieved and that they are a step closer to changing their lives.’

One student who received an excellent result today is Jacqueline, who studied IGCSE History and got an A grade. 'I'm amazed and thrilled to bits,' she said. 'It's been 32 years since I was at school, leaving with only CSEs, so I wasn't expecting to get this kind of result. My tutor, Susan, worked hard to keep me focused throughout the course. I'm just over the moon.'

Of course not everyone will achieve the grade they hoped for. To those students, both at NEC or at any other school or college, our CEO Ros Morpeth has this to say: ‘If you don’t get the results you wanted, don’t panic. Remember to ask for advice and to explore other options. If you need to resit a subject your own school or college may be able to help.

‘If you cannot go back to school or college possibly because of work and family commitments, NEC will be able to help you to get that important GCSE or A level qualification and you will be able to study wherever you are and in the time you have available.

‘NEC was set up to help students who need the opportunity to try again, who missed out at school the first time round, or who wanted to retrain mid-career to go into a different profession.’

Can NEC help you on the next step of your journey? Visit our website to find out more about our wide range of flexible distance learning courses and talk to our team to find out how we could support you. We can also be found on social networks including Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

A level results: changing lives for students


A level results day is one of our favourite days in the office at NEC. We get to see our students’ hard work pay off and bring them a step closer to their ambitions.

‘Every year I feel inspired and full of admiration by the success of our students. This year has been no exception,’ says Ros Morpeth, CEO of NEC. ‘We often say at NEC that a second chance at education can change your life and the stories we hear from students on results day give us all the evidence we need.

‘From a lone parent taking an A level to get on to a university course to become a teacher, to a young person doing their GCSEs at home because of an illness that prevents them from going to school, every single one of our students should feel proud in their achievements.’

One of our students, Grace, achieved three A* grades this year, two of those in the A Level Biology and A Level Maths courses that she took with NEC. She told us, ‘The results mean that I will almost certainly be able to study psychology in Germany as the next step on my way to becoming a psychotherapist. Competition for these places at public universities is horrific because there are no tuition fees, so I look at the money invested in the NEC courses as having hopefully saved me around 30,000 euros! Thank you so much to everyone at NEC for the support.’

Louise, NEC’s Student Services Development Manager, is our exams officer helping students to enter for their examinations. ‘Results day is an early start for me making sure I have enough time to get results out to students, respond to queries and liaise with our partnership exam centres,’ she said. ‘It’s also a day I look forward to each year. I get to know our students while they are studying with us and sometimes I think I wake up more nervous than they do!

‘This year has been particularly exciting because we have more partnership exam centres making a total of 8, with another 2 due to be on board by the next summer exam session.’

Have you received A level results today? Get in touch on Facebook, Twitter or by email to and let us know how you got on!