Friday, 4 September 2015

How to choose a distance learning course

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Last week we talked about how you might narrow down your choice of subject for a distance learning course. We are following that up by talking this week about distance learning in general.

Hopefully last week’s blog has helped you pick out what subject area you want to study. The next step is enrolling, but you might have already tried to look for a course only to find there are many distance learning courses being offered by different course providers for your chosen subject -- just search for “distance learning A levels” on Google to see what we mean!

Today’s post will help you narrow down your choice of courses in your subject so you can choose the best provider for your needs.

What to look for in a course

Regardless of who your course provider is there are always things worth keeping an eye out for to ensure you are given the support and guidance you need to succeed.

  1. To help you get the most of our your course, it should be engaging and exciting to study. So it’s a good idea to try and find out what the learning materials you will be studying from look like. If you cannot find a course sample, try to find out what previous students have thought about them. You could ask questions in communities such as The Student Room and see what other people have written there.

  1. The course materials will ideally include plenty of activities and exercises to help you process and reflect on what you have learned, so that it feels more interactive than simply reading through text. See if any key terms are highlighted and explained, and if any learning or exam tips are mentioned in the materials.

  1. It’s also good to have the reassurance of knowing there’s someone to guide you if you get stuck, so check what kind of tuition or help is available. Does your course come with personal one-to-one support from a qualified tutor? Does the tutor specialise in the subject area you wish to study? What kind of opportunities for them to give you feedback on your work are built into your course (look for any assignments or similar exercises which your tutor can mark for you), and will they mark any assignments or tasks the course asks you to do? Is it possible to ask them to mark a past paper for you so you can practise for any written exams?

  1. If your course involves a written exam, coursework, or a practical assessment (such as a workplace observation for a childcare qualification), check how this will be handled by your course. How is coursework dealt with? How much would it cost to sit an exam? And how many times might you have to travel to an exam centre during your course?

  1. Will you be provided with a guaranteed exam place to sit written papers at an exam centre, and how confident is the provider that their materials and support will allow you to pass your exams? What can you do if you’ve done your best throughout the course but did not pass your exams? Is there any support in place to help you try again?

  1. Check whether there are any costs in addition to the course fee and, if in doubt, ask. For example, if you need to sit an exam, the centre where you will go to sit it will charge you a fee, and this exam fee is separate from a course fee that a course provider will charge you. If the exam fee is not included in the provider’s course fees, they need to be transparent about this cost and make it clear to you before you enrol.

  1. Similarly, if there any additional text books to get for your course, these should be clearly listed or you should be able to ask what they are.

  1. Is the course entirely flexible, with no need to schedule for web classes or other learning sessions, to allow you to complete the course at a time and pace that suits your needs?

As you can see, there’s quite a lot to consider when you enrol on a course. It is a big decision after all! But hopefully you have found this list helpful. If you would like to know more about any of the points covered in this blog post, or want to find out how over 50 years of experience -- and the experiences of the thousands of students who have enrolled with us -- have given us insight into what learners need to succeed, why not get in touch and speak to our friendly and helpful team at NEC?

About NEC

NEC supports learners in many different ways to help them successfully complete their courses. We have previously put together a list of questions you should ask your learning provider which you may also find helpful.

To find out more about NEC and our wide range of distance learning courses, visit our website. 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.

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