Cheaper Alternatives: Part Time and Distance Learning
The media is saturated with talk of university tuition fees and the financial struggles faced by many students today. For some, the high costs of a university education can prove off-putting or even prohibitive. Those keen to learn should be aware that a variety of other, more affordable, options are available to them. We explore the benefits of both part-time and distance learning.
Distance LearningDistance learning institutions such as The Open University (OU), Oxford Online and LearnDirect all offer home learning courses that are frequently far cheaper than their university-based counterparts. The Open University frequently tops the National Student Survey for overall satisfaction. Whilst the quality of teaching and the flexible learning style are both factors, value for money is a key focus amongst students.
These days, courses are usually completed online. You will receive reading and study materials in the post and will probably be set weekly tasks to complete. Distance learning students are encouraged to contribute regularly to course forums, igniting discussion and sharing ideas. Indeed, you may be assessed in part on your online participation. Students are usually examined by way of a series of coursework tasks, which will be marked by the course tutor. Most students find that the feedback is detailed and useful. Some courses, particularly larger units worth more 'credits', will require you to visit a local examination centre to sit a formal exam.
Through institutions such as The Open University, it is possible to build up credits after taking a number of different courses at varying levels. A whole degree can be achieved at a fraction of the cost of taking the conventional, university route. Many distance learning students work full time to support themselves and their families whilst fulfilling their academic ambitions. Vocational courses can also be studied online, allowing you to boost your skills and add to your CV whilst maintaining your lifestyle and looking after your bank balance.
Part-time LearningWhilst distance learning usually occurs on a part-time basis, many potential students forget that it is often possible to study at university or college part-time too. If you are thinking of joining a masters course, for example, be sure to enquire as to whether it is possible to study for the course part time, over two years instead of one. Whilst the course will still cost you the same amount in the long run, many people find it helpful for large outlays to be spread over a greater period of time.
If you are keen to learn but are unable to attend a university due to financial, child care, work or time commitments, why not consider enrolling on an evening course? From learning a language to discovering the secrets of the Victorian domestic interior, local colleges, schools, universities, museums, adult learning centres and town halls offer a huge variety of classes to suit different schedules and budgets. Courses typically run for ten to twelve weeks. Payment schedules vary but most courses require you to pay in full before beginning your programme of classes.
For many, taking a course at a local college can prove a satisfying, more manageable alternative to a university course. Others look to distance or part-time learning as a flexible and affordable means of working towards a conventional degree certificate. Whatever your ambitions, distance and part-time learning are certainly worth investigating.