Distance learning is not new. Years ago, people studied correspondence courses and were sent weighty boxes full of learning material. Nowadays, with accessibility being easy for most, distance learning has been made possible for everyone.
As an Oxford Home Learning tutor, I understand the challenges that students face: not meeting their subject tutors but only speaking to them on the phone; submitting work electronically, or via the post; managing their own time and deadlines, whilst juggling other things. Having studied distance learning courses for many years, I have learned three crucial lessons:
• Time management: as a learner, I have had to be in charge of my own deadlines. The beauty of this is that I have not been expected to work to a deadline with 30 other students. For me, this works – and this is because I enjoy manging my workload and setting myself deadlines. Keeping a schedule is useful, as is a check list.
• Making progress: sometimes, an assignment may not be as good as the previous one. I have always expected to improve each time. However, depending on the course, content or topic, this is not always the case, particularly if different skills are being practised. I have learned to give myself a break and to value the feedback I receive from my tutors.
• Setting targets: one of the benefits of distance learning is that you get to set yourself targets. I may be guided – say, one assignment per month – but if my work schedule allows for greater productivity, or if I need more time, so be it. It is this flexibility that appeals to me – and as long as I keep my tutor informed, so they are aware of what is going on, that’s fine. Distance learning is not just about my needs, but the work demands of the tutors/assessors, too, and this should always be remembered.
Distance learning courses can, usually, be accessed from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a decent Internet connection. Yes, there are always going to be deadlines to meet, but if you want to progress, and receive constructive feedback, this is something that should not be an issue. To be a successful distance learning student, I have learned that it is about getting into the rhythm of working flexibly while, at the same time, sticking to deadlines that meet the expectations of all involved.