How to initiate a distance education course? Once you’ve decided it would be a good idea to improve your knowledge or qualifications in a particular area, that’s the question facing you if you’ve never pursued one before. Here are nine things to consider:
- Have a really good think about what you want to achieve. It may sound obvious, but there might be a temptation to pick a course you don’t really need. If, for example, you just want to visit Shanghai because you saw the skyline in Mission Impossible 3, you might decide you need lessons in Chinese. But do you need Mandarin or Cantonese? Do you want to know a set of traveler’s phrases (enough to ask directions, order meals and go shopping) or do you want something a little deeper? The answers will determine what courses you should look at.
- Find the program you need to follow. Where to look for your distance education course? Online is an obvious contender. Magazines devoted to the subject you’re interested in are another. Such courses will appear in the classified advertisement section, or, if they’re really popular, somewhere among the editorial. They’ll usually be smallish box ads (though not necessarily: Linguaphone have been known to take out much larger display adverts)
- Ask yourself if accredited distance learning programs are what you should be considering. Accreditation may be important, depending on what you’re setting out to achieve.
- Consider how you’ll plan and manage an e-learning program or correspondence course. You will be making a commitment of time and money, and on top of that, you’ll be putting in some work. If you’re following an e-learning program, will you have access to a computer when you need it? These things will need some thought on your part.
- Arrange the money. You may have to arrange a loan via your bank, or, if the course is a long and expensive one (and depending on your status), a student loan.
- Arrange the time. YOu can’t just decide you’ll lock yourself away for two hours a week and study: if other people share your life, they’ll probably want to impinge on your time. Family members in your immediate household will need warning.
- Approach your boss if the course is work-related. If you’re studying to improve your work prospects, let your boss know and ask if there’s any chance of help with the costs, some free time at work to study (a couple of hours a week, say), or perhaps a little leeway in your attendance if you need to be elsewhere for exams and the like (you’ll make the time up later, obviously)
- Take the plunge! Sign up for that course!
- Have some counter-measure in place for when enthusiasm dips. No article on how to initiate a distance learning course would be complete without mentioning that after about four weeks of hard work, you’ll experience the occasional dip in enthusiasm. It’s important to have some means of to keeping motivated. A good trick is to write out your goals (see point 1 above). Next to each goal, write why it’s important to achieve it. Then, when you feel enthusiasm flagging, get out your list and remind yourself why you’re doing this.