Top Ten Tips for Distance Learners


To celebrate our 10th birthday, every month in 2018 we’re publishing our ten top tips for different areas of our work. Drawing on our experience with the Level 4 Certificate for Music Educators, and our suite of online learning courses, this month Dr Elizabeth Stafford presents our top tips for Distance Learning.

  1. Distance Learning requires concentration. If you’re doing it on your laptop in front of the TV, then you’re doing it wrong! Set aside a time and place with no distractions and treat it as if it’s a classroom situation. You probably wouldn’t watch Killing Eve in a lecture, so don’t do it when you’re trying to self-study…
  2. Limit your screen-time. Human beings weren’t originally designed to stare at light-emitting devices all day, so just because it’s Distance Learning it doesn’t have to involve your computer 100% of the time. Try printing off some of the materials so that you can read them old-school style instead.
  3. Make the most of your Distance Learning community. If there is a forum, post to it. If you know other people on the same course, keep in touch with them. If you have a tutor or mentor, don’t be afraid to contact them. Distance Learning can be a lonely business, so try and build a community around you so that you can offer each other advice and support, and combat any feelings of isolation.
  4. Set yourself realistic deadlines, and stick to them. When you’re working by yourself, it’s easy to get distracted by the day-to-day and suddenly realise that the end of the course is looming. On the very first day that you start your Distance Learning programme, you should look at how much time you have to complete, and then work backwards from that, factoring in all the other events and commitments in your life, setting some realistic deadlines along the way so that you’re not left with the entire course left to do the day before your deadline!
  5. Don’t procrastinate. You’ve set your deadlines, now stick to them! Don’t let other tasks or projects play havoc with your distance learning timetable. If you procrastinate now, you will pay for it later! Yes life throws us a curved ball once in a while, but most of us can tell the difference between a real unavoidable emergency and the sudden desire to do ANYTHING other than settle down and study!
  6. Don’t rush, mull it over. While procrastination is a no-no, so is rushing through all your distance learning tasks at surface level. While the flexibility of distance learning means that you can often get courses done in a fraction of the time that a face-to-face course would take you, this is not always a good thing! Sometimes taking extra time to think about theories and concepts can deepen your understanding, which in turn can improve the quality of your assignments.
  7. Use external sources. Just because your course provider offers a ‘complete’ learning package, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t more information out there in the big wide world. Depending on when the course was created, there may be more up-to-date material published that you could draw on, or views from different perspectives to consider. Researching outside the course for additional materials can help you to make your assignments richer and more stand-out, which is particularly good if your qualification can be achieved at different levels!
  8. Print out and proof read. Our eyes see what we want them to see – so it’s ideal if you can print out your final assignments and evidence and proof read them on paper. You’ll notice far more of the errors than you would if you were reading on screen.
  9. Relate it to the real world. There’s no point learning anything if you’re not going to apply it in real life. As you go along your Distance Learning journey, make sure you pause to reflect on the relevance of what you have learnt to your current career. It’s ideal if you can start to put the theories and techniques you’ve learnt into practice as soon as possible, otherwise you’ll find yourself thinking in a few years time ‘I sort of remember learning something about that once…’
  10. Celebrate your achievement! Just because it’s Distance Learning doesn’t mean you can’t make a fuss when you pass! There may not be a graduation ceremony, but you can still shout about your achievements to family and friends. We won’t tell anyone if you throw your hat in the air in your own front room!

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