If you are considering starting a distance learning course, or are currently studying one, then this article is for you. If you are an employer, supporting a member of your staff as they prepare for, or work on, a distance learning course, then this if for you too.
distance learning,courses,business,management,HND,HNC,marketing,dms,CQI,quality,project management,pre-degree,foundation,postgraduate,cms
So, what needs to be done to ensure that a distance learning course is a success, in a nutshell, treat it like a project. In this project, the project team is made up of you the student, the provider and their back up team and resources, the tutor that will work with you, and some important stakeholders. If you are the student, appoint yourself as the project manager. If you are an employer, appoint yourself as the client and behave like a major stakeholder in this project.
It is important that you research potential providers. Look at the range of courses they offer. If it is massive, everything from dog handling to nuclear physics, then back away. If it is focused, with a core area of expertise, investigate that provider further, they are more likely to be serious and knowledgeable in that area of expertise. Check out the potential providers? accreditations. In the UK and most developed countries, there are government appointed, or approved, accreditation bodies, sometimes known as validation bodies. If the provider is nationally accredited, in their field of expertise, by that county?s recognised accreditation bodies, that is a very positive sign.
Once you have selected your provider and course, you need to prepare. This means thinking about what your planned course of study will mean to your lifestyle, your time, your social life, your domestic situation, your workload. With all these in mind, start preparing for your course of study by thinking. Think about the implications, think about what resources you will need. This includes computer equipment, almost certainly broadband access, and a physical study area. Although most of these can be found outside the home, most distance learning students do study at home. Think about what changes you will have to make, some small, some major, to successfully complete the course. This can include changes to your lifestyle, your social life, your domestic life, your work patterns, your hobbies and interests, there may, not always but often, need to be changes in some or all of these areas. Think about all the people who will be affected by your decision to take up a course of studies, see Stakeholders, below.
Stakeholders, these, as in project management terms, are any people who have a legitimate interest in the project. In the case of a student taking a distance learning course, this means, partner, family, social friends, work colleagues, managers, employer, all have an interest in your decision and your study project, this means they are stakeholders in your project. Treat them in the same way that professional project managers treat their stakeholders. Think about their needs, think about their concerns, keep them informed appropriately, of your progress, treat them as partners in your project.
Planning: plan how, and when, and what with, you will study. Draw up a timetable, if this is not already laid down by the demands of the course of its assignment or examination deadlines. Break it down into manageable periods. The course requirements, units, modules, assignments, examinations, will usually give you this structure. Plan when you will study, where you will study, how you will study. Plan time for reading, going on the internet, visiting the library, writing up assignments, traveling to sit examinations, all these need careful planning. Your course Tutor will often be able to help with this. She/he will have experience of assisting new students in planning their studies.
Monitoring: monitor your progress on a regular, usually weekly, no less than monthly, basis. Use your tutor, she/he will be happy to give you deadlines, objectives, advice and guidance, that will help you manage the course and stay on target.
Respond to changing circumstances. One of the most attractive features of studying by distance learning is that it is a flexible, adaptable, method of studying. All human beings, run into personal problems, illnesses, difficulties at work, family crises, become temporarily disenchanted, temporarily lose interest in the course. The bonus is that as a distance learning student, on most courses, you can manage these difficulties by slowing down, stopping, starting up again, speeding up, as often as it takes, because you are on a distance learning course.
At the end of a project, professional project managers make sure that they carry out a close down routine.
Make sure that you have successfully completed all the assignments, passed all the examinations, if any, and studied the course materials fully. Inform all the stakeholders that you have successfully completed the course, and achieved the qualification. Receive confirmation of completion, a certificate of achievement, a letter confirming your examination successes, for example. Thank all the people who have helped you succeed!.