First off, let’s not forget that distance learning doesn’t only mean online classes. It covers ‘paper and pen’ style courses as well. But whichever option you choose, you will get the most benefit from classes that have the following features built in.
First and foremost, what kind of support is offered? The support you receive is an essential part of successfully completing any course, and it is arguably even more important when it comes to distance learning. After all, there is no classroom, no classmates, no teacher and no discussion with distance learning. Instead, there’s you, a pen and notepad, perhaps a computer, and that’s pretty much it.
If you have questions or queries, how will they be answered? With online courses this hurdle can be overcome more easily, as email support is able to offer a more immediate solution.
It pays to do your research into this area before committing to any course. Many years ago I did an excellent writing course, which relied on the postal system to correspond with its students. Before I enrolled I found out all I could about how the system worked, and it lived up to expectations. My personal tutor was very quick to answers questions (usually by return of post) and assignments were marked, commented on and returned just as quickly.
The next important point is to find out what is included with the course. The aforementioned writing course included some fifteen assignments, a personal tutor that was matched to you and your writing strengths after you’d filled in a questionnaire about your skills and ambitions, four books, two huge A4 manuals, and plenty of other bonuses to help you in completing the course.
Many online classes will provide access to similar support materials online; again, find out exactly what you will be getting for your money.
Next up, will you be gaining a qualification for completing the course successfully?
Not all courses have a recognized qualification at the end of them. My writing course didn’t, but then I wasn’t looking for letters after my name. I wanted a course that would teach me how to write with a view to being published and paid for it, and that’s exactly what I got. And I more than got my money’s worth.
Find out up front what, if any, qualification is gained, so there won’t be any misunderstandings or nasty surprises.
Finally, is there a time limit the program has to be completed in? Mine was open ended, so I could put it down for several months and then resume it if I wanted. This is a useful feature if you are fitting the course around work and other commitments.
If there is a time limit, or a weekly requirement to commit to a certain amount of work or lessons, make sure you will be able to meet this requirement before enrolling. Work out a realistic timetable first – it could save you some problems.
Distance learning is an effective way to widen your knowledge, and a flexible way to learn in today’s busy world. If you know up front what you’re getting, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.