You’ve been Scammed, on BBC1, made some disparaging comments about home study providers this week.
We can but hope that the viewer did not form the impression that distance learning was to be avoided at all costs. The truth is that there are a number of distance learning organizations which work hard to provide an excellent service and very few which are fraudulent. Oxford Open Learning and Oxford Home Schooling are two which work very hard indeed.
The problem for Joe Public is not one of spotting the fraudsters but of locating the organization which will give them the help they need to study successfully. Too many perfectly legal distance learning organizations will send out a set of flimsy course materials and leave the student to their own devices. It is not surprising that most of their customers fail to make any study progress at all.
There are a number of key questions that a would-be distance learner could and should ask before they sign up for a home study course. The first is this:
Will I get my own personal, named tutor whom I may contact by phone (or e-mail) at any time?
The answer to this question has to be “yes”. Too many distance learning providers will fail to name a specific tutor. They will ask you to channel any study “queries” to them and, if you are lucky, they will find a teacher to respond. This is simply not good enough. The learner feels immediately isolated, fails to ask questions and then fails to study at all. The second key question is this:
Will my personal tutor have a PGCE teaching qualification and classroom teaching experience in the specific subject that I am being taught?
It seems obvious, but make sure that the answer to this question is a guaranteed “yes”, not just “probably”. Next you should ask this:
Will my tutor ring me on a regular basis, at least once a month, rather than waiting for me to ring them?
This is the most important question of all. Your chances of studying successfully as a distance learner are hugely increased if a specialist tutor is in regular contact with you, encouraging you, commenting on your assignments, offering study tips, answering questions, etc. It makes all the difference between succeeding and failing. So ask how often you can expect your tutor to ring you. The opportunity to ring them is simply not enough.
A key part of the study process is the tutor-marked assignment. Even a poor home study organization will promise to mark your assignments. Here the key question is this:
As well as a thorough marking job from your personal tutor, will a full set of Suggested Answers be supplied when my script is returned to me?
To make good study progress, it is vital that the distance learner can compare their answers with a set of model answers, step by step, and see where they could have done better.
Don’t sign up for a distance learning course without asking these key questions. If the answer is “yes” to all of them, you can be sure that you are studying with an organization which is giving you the best chance of the success you deserve.