Written by: Joanne Parcell
So. I lost my job last year. When it happened, I thought it was the worst moment of my life – I work in a specialist sector in a declining industry and to say the prospects aren’t rosy is putting it mildly.
At the time I felt like going to the local scrap heap and dramatically throwing myself onto it with along with the rusting cars and caravans, but then I investigated long distance learning.
What I thought was a career dead-end became a world of opportunity, although long-distance learning is not for everybody.
As with all types of educational programs, distance learning has its advantages and disadvantages. It can be tempting to sign up to a course that promises letters after your name and enhanced employment opportunities, but before you enrol in any program, you need to carefully consider your personal strengths, needs, and career ambitions. And hopefully, my tips should help guide you in the right direction.
Advantages of distance learning:
No need to commute- money and time saving
Because you study from home, you’ll save cash on fuel, or public transport. There is also the time element – it can save you hours every day. You can then reinvest these precious minutes back into studying, family time, or paid employment. It’s quite a wonderful thing to wake up and know your morning commute is nothing but a short shuffle across the lounge to the computer. It can be rather liberating to work in your dressing gown as opposed to a twinset.
A degree of flexibility
Providing you have a laptop and Internet connection, you can work anywhere, and any time you want. I didn’t go back to university because of this issue – the class timetables would not fit around my family life. Now I’m a long distance learner, I make the timetable fit around me, and I can work in a Starbucks whenever I want.
Another reason I chose long-distance learning – I live in a small village, and the nearest university is 40 miles away, plus they didn’t offer the course I wanted to do anyway. Becoming a distance learner means you can choose from vast variety of courses – the world suddenly becomes your your oyster.
If you live in a community with limited access to educational establishments, don’t let it put you off improving your qualifications – your options increase greatly once you consider long distance learning.
Taking an online course works out much cheaper than going to university for several reasons – take into consideration commuting, course fees, meals and accommodation and you can see how this can potentially add up to thousands of pounds per year.
Keep your job
Keeping your job gives you income, stability and experience, but it can lead to a hectic schedule. Before you embark on a distance learning course, ask yourself if you will have time to fit it all in. A clashing schedule of overtime, a 5000 word essay, and your daughter’s school play is not a pretty thing.
Disadvantages of distance learning:
It’s not ideal for everybody
If you have problems with procrastination, concentration, and motivation, then a distance course may not be for you. Alas, the joy of dallying the day away on Facebook and Twitter can be all too tempting. Also, if you prefer individual attention from a tutor, this will be markedly absent during your home studies.
If you love the buzz of the classroom environment and making new friends, then you may want to reconsider distance learning. There is a small degree of social interaction, thanks to chat rooms, email, and discussion boards, but it doesn’t compete with classroom camaraderie whatsoever.
Depending on which course you take, you may need to upgrade your computer and get to grips with new technologies too. You will be expected have a basic knowledge of computers and the Internet so you can navigate your way through your online course.
Some employers will not accept online degrees
Thankfully, the stigma attached to distance learning is changing, although some employers still may not accept your hard-earned qualification. And chances are, you won’t find out until you qualify and attempt to apply for a job.
No immediate feedback
Here’s a great new word – distance classes are ‘asynchronous’ – tutors and students do not log on at the same time, nor will you get immediate feedback or responses if you have any questions that require attention.
However, if you have the time and motivation, a long distance learning course can be a life-changing event. I qualify to work in social care this summer, and I can’t wait to throw my virtual mortar board in the air and start my new job.