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What Does Distance Learning Look Like?

5th August 2020

Have you been hearing about distance learning but you’re not quite sure what it looks like in practice?

Perhaps you’ve got an idea how it works but need more detailed information to decide how well it can fit into your lifestyle and blend with your family commitments?

By the end of this blog you’ll have the lowdown on distance learning and be ready to take the next step towards a more fulfilling career – let’s get started!

What is distance learning?

Distance learning doesn’t concern how long it takes to get from Croydon to Kalamazoo (3,853 miles as the crow flies – handy for your next Zoom quiz!)

Instead, it’s an innovative learning method that allows you to study off-campus using your favourite electronic device and an internet connection to access your educational materials. It’s an engaging way to earn a new qualification and makes balancing your studies with your work and home life simple.

So if your present job no longer satisfies you as much as it used to, this is a great way of earning a formal qualification that lets you migrate to an exciting career where Monday mornings feel like Friday afternoons.

Course choices are diverse too – these days you can switch to a career in anything from digital marketing to healthcare management or psychology, all while studying from anywhere that suits and with no need to give up your current job or compromise family commitments.

So now you know distance learning is one of the most versatile ways to study for a life-enhancing qualification, you might want some more details on how it actually works – your wish is our command!

What should your study space look like?

The ideal study space for distance learning is a penthouse apartment in Manhattan with a private sundeck, hot tub and scenic views over Central Park.

But if you don’t have that type of bijou pad, don’t worry – the beauty of distance learning is that you can complete your course from just about anywhere that has an internet connection.

So you might squeeze in some study time on your office computer while you wolf down a sandwich at lunchtime, or make your commute more bearable by plugging into your latest online lecture. Alternatively, you could catch up with coursework on your cosy settee once your kids are safely asleep or grab five minutes during Gogglebox to get in touch with your tutor.

You won’t need to splash out on an expensive computer either – as long as your dream machine has a browser like Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge installed, and standard office software like Excel or Word, you’ll be fine.

The perfect study space should be quiet, calm and distraction-free (just like that Manhattan penthouse!) but since life doesn’t always serve up that type of serenity, distance learning allows you to study anywhere you can focus for a few minutes or more. So you can cram for exams in the clamour of the morning commute or the haven of your home office, and you’ll still have access to the same vast network of resources.

How does a university deliver distance learning?

The modern-day distance learning process is moons away from its origins as a postal-based service in the 19th century. Nowadays universities provide an accessible virtual campus to teach and support students in the most immersive way possible.

The Learning Management System (LMS) Canvas at ARU Distance Learning, for example, delivers your education online in a number of dynamic ways:

  • The convenience of studying on your phone or tablet in a couple of clicks.
  • Integrated multimedia, including embedded video, audio, imagery and text to suit different study styles and bring your learning experience alive.
  • Full optimisation for your mobile, so you can access your coursework, supporting documents and class activities on your phone from anywhere and with push notifications so you never miss a course update.
  • Discussion boards which allow you to shoot the breeze with classmates, catch up with group projects and check in with tutors.
  • Access to live or pre-recorded lectures, delivered by a specialist tutor.
  • Quizzes and collaborative learning activities to help immerse you in the learning process.

As you can see, distance learning is designed to balance your learning journey with real life, because there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for success.

What does your schedule look like?

One of the main benefits of distance learning, and what differentiates it from other brick and mortar teaching institutions, is that you’re completely in control of your schedule.

Live lectures will be available on many courses but they’re usually recorded and available any time after they’ve been delivered. You’ll also be able to access your teaching materials 24/7 allowing you to fit study around any kind of working shift pattern or family commitments.

Although the freedom for flexible study suits a part-time learning environment, you’ll need to stay disciplined, motivated and organised in order to tackle your course and graduate at the end of it.

So while your study schedule might be more ad hoc than it might be for a full-time student (and this will suit you down to the ground) you’ll need some sort of study schedule to make sure that you’re committing enough of your time in order to move through your modules as smoothly as possible.

Ideally, you’ll be able to commit to a certain average number of hours per week to complete your course within a reasonable timescale and with the grade you want. However, you’ll have the flexibility to alter your schedule if your circumstances have changed in any way.

So scheduling skilfully lets you maintain a healthy balance while you work toward achieving your aspirations.

Which age groups like distance learning?

Distance learning allows people of any age to attain a new qualification, whether you’re leaving school, entering retirement or managing a mid-life career change.

According to this research paper from Journal of Educators Online, educational styles vary depending on age:

The results of the data analysis revealed a statistically significant relationship between student age and student preference for certain types of online learning activities. Older students in the study indicated a much stronger preference for videos of the professor lecturing, while younger students tended to prefer more interactive learning strategies.

A well-designed course will take this into account and by nature, distance learning is agile and inclusive, containing a choice of delivery methods to suit every age, stage and learning style.

Many of the older students at ARU Distance Learning have reported a positive experience during their remote studies.

Take the word of Cert HE Charity and Social Enterprise Management graduate Tom Jenkins (84), who said ‘Studying has given me a new lease of life both mentally and physically. Through my example a number of older people with whom I am acquainted are now themselves realising that they should be seeking an intellectually more stimulating lifestyle.

‘You will be surprised at what you can achieve and the boost it gives to your well-being. It will make you feel years younger.’

Will it be possible to balance my home and work life?

Definitely – the flexibility of distance learning allows you to switch up your study patterns to suit your family and professional life, ensuring that a new qualification isn’t out of reach for anyone.

The fact that distance learning is part-time enhances its flexibility – it unlocks opportunities for people who previously thought earning a formal qualification wasn’t feasible, like new parents or anyone in a full-time job!

How much contact time will I receive from my tutor?

Despite being off-campus, you’ll most likely be able to stay in touch with your course leader and module tutors at your leisure. Specialist tutors will be available to you during live lectures, and the Canvas LMS will allow them to interact with students in much the same way as a real classroom.

You can also reach out to tutors via email or other communication platforms and all of these specialists will happily to provide you with additional feedback, advice and guidance.

While the amount of ‘contact time’ will vary from student to student, you can expect to stay in touch with your module tutors regularly, especially when deadlines and exams approach.

You’ll receive an equal level of one-on-one support as if you were in the same room as your tutor – take a look at our Meet our Students page to see what former ARU students have to say on the topic.

Final thoughts

If you want a flexible learning experience that allows you to earn a valuable qualification without making unsustainable adjustments to your lifestyle, distance learning could be exactly what you’ve been searching for.

So whether you want to top up your qualifications to make a career move or simply study for achievement’s sake, this mode of study is made for you.

To find out more about distance learning, take a look at these blogs: