Distance learning providers offer students a wide and varied number of courses ranging from ‘hobby courses’ all the way through to Access to Higher Education Diplomas.
The breadth of courses on offer is designed to cater for as many people as possible to meet their individual learning objectives.
While some people are seeking education to retrain or improve their job prospects, some simply want to learn a new skill.
If you fall into the first category, then the most crucial question is whether the course you are studying will help you achieve.
Providing you have enrolled with an accredited distance learning institute then the qualification you are hoping to achieve will be recognised by both employers and educators alike.
Although there is the odd exception. A handful of universities do not recognise the Access to Higher Education Diploma. But this is more to do with their entry standards rather than the qualification not being recognised.
How are Distance Learning Course Regulated?
Any online course that offers you a recognised qualification – such as an A Level – has to be regulated in the exact same way as any other course.
Ofqual (the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) regulates all awarding organisations regardless of how the learning is delivered. This ensures the student is protected and it is fair in terms of the course material and any exams or course work.
This prevents one learning provider offering easier courses over another. Not that such a thing would benefit any student who enrolled as they would not gain the necessary knowledge.
In addition to this regulation, distance learning courses are developed by subject experts so you can be assured that the material you cover will be relevant.
Similarly, universities work with course providers to develop the Access to Higher Education Diplomas. The benefit to the student is you get to cover the most up to date material. Whereas the universities get students who are fully prepared for degree level learning.
The result of all this is, when you pass your course, you are guaranteed a nationally recognised qualification. Whether that’s a level 3 certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools or an A Level in History.
However, there are some courses that will award you a certificate, but they aren’t necessarily qualifications.
The difference being that the certificate represents you have completed the course – and therefore you have gained knowledge and insight. But you are not qualified in that field.
There has been no extended study period of a formal – regulated – exam at the end of your studies.
This isn’t a drawback as not everything requires a qualification. Taking a short course in using Office 365 will be appealing to a potential employer but there’s little benefit in a formal qualification process.
There is nothing wrong with taking a course that provides you with a completion certificate providing that meets your desired outcome.
If the objective is to learn more about something – perhaps simply to be better at your job – then the skills course is entirely the right approach.
Is Distance Learning Right for You?
Distance learning is just a different mode of education. When we think of education most of us cast our minds back to where we went to school. For many of us that throws up imagery of ugly square buildings, echoing corridors, and tired classrooms.
But perversely we prefer that idea of education to the more abstract idea of distance learning. That with a click of a button someone somewhere provides us with our course material and we just get on with it.
However, when you strip down education to its bare bones, the process is centred around the student learning and understanding the subject matter.
How that material is delivered is almost incidental. Providing you are given the correct materials, your work is marked fairly, and you are awarded your qualification based on the same criteria as everyone else, it really makes little difference.
Although, distance learning won’t suit everyone. It can be challenging in several ways, not least of which is it’s not teacher lead.
Your learning and the rate at which you progress through the course would be down to you. If you struggle to get organised or you’re not one for self-motivation you could struggle.
However, if you can make a plan and stick to it, the experience can be highly rewarding. And because education should be accessible to all, distance learning can make this possible.
Especially if you would struggle to attend classes due to work commitments, family issues, physical disability, or mental health issues.
Distance learning fits around your existing commitments. There are no classes to attend so there’s no uncertainty about whether or not you could rejig your life to attend them.
The beauty of distance learning is not only can you focus on the learning, but you can start from the moment you’ve enrolled.
Ultimately, the question isn’t necessarily whether distance learning is right for you, but whether or not you are able to do the work.
In most instances you have two years to complete the course. Providing you organise your time to balance your studies with other commitments, you should be able to complete your studies with time to spare.
Moreover, you’re not alone. You will have the support of your personal tutor to help you. They are on hand to answer questions and they will feedback on your work too.
There is also an administrative team that can help you with any issues you may have regarding finances.
What to do next?
If you think distance learning would be beneficial then the next step is to work out which course is right for you.
This is dependent on your learning objectives. Specifically, what you want to get out of your studies.
If you want to go to university but lack the qualifications, then identifying which course or courses will get you there is the next logical step.
If there is more than one route – A Levels or an Access to HE Diploma for example – you need to weigh up time, cost and what you’ll get out of your studies beyond the qualification/s.
Time is an especially important to factor to weigh up ahead of enrolling on any course. Although you have two years to complete most courses, you need to have the spare time to begin with.
Assuming you can balance study, work and home life, and you know what course you want to do, the next step is to enrol.
You don’t need to wait until September to start learning. With distance learning courses you can start straight away, just enrol on your chosen course and login. All the course materials will be waiting there for you.
It is then just a case of planning out your study sessions and getting to work.
Whichever course you opt for, Stonebridge Associated Colleges can help you in your studies. All you need to do is get in touch with a member of the sales team or enrol online. There are flexible payment terms available to help you spread the cost.
You will also have access to a dedicated tutor who will help you through the process. Check out our blog for useful tips on how to get the most out of your study experience.
Click below to check out our A Level courses today.