What turns distance learning into effective learning?

Author:Bell, Malcolm

Compared to a few years ago there's now a wealth of distance learning packages on the market If you are considering using this approach for your CIMA studies, it's important that you find a distance learning course that will be effective for you: We've put some questions to Malcolm Bell, BPP's Head of Distance Learning, on what students should look for in a distance-learning course

Q: What are the key things to look for in a distance-learning course?

MB: The two key aspects to consider are the level of proactive support you will be provided with (to get you through the inevitable periods of self-study blues!), and the flexibility you will have to study exactly when you want to.

Q: Why is proactive support important?

MB: We have statistics that suggest that up to 25 per cent of typical distance-learning students don't turn up to the exam that they are booked onto. This means they have paid the exam entry fee, but are not motivated or confident enough to attempt the exam. An effective distance-learning course should prevent this from happening.

Q: What should students look for in terms of proactive support?

MB: A key feature to check for in any distance-learning package is the level of support you are offered and, importantly, is this support reactive or proactive? With BPP's online classroom a group of students study together in a cohort under the guidance of their named cohort tutor. This tutor proactively sends them weekly emails providing guidance, motivation and focus, and monitors a cohort-specific forum to answer queries that may arise during the course. We specifically contact students who appear to have been "inactive" for a while to check that everything is OK.

Q: Do you have any feedback from your students on this?

MB: Lots! Here's some from a P2 student ... "I was very impressed with the weekly emails from tutors, even if it was just to keep in touch. Advising on where they think you should be up to in the study notes was both helpful and a lot of the time reassuring. The forums / emails have really reinforced the study material. They help me not feel alone while studying and the feedback/questions from other students has, at times, helped me understand difficult points."

Q: Don't all courses offer this level of support?

MB: It's easy to say you've got "24/7 tutor support" if that means a tutor is at the end of a generic email address...

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