Like many students, you may be considering the option to take a distance learning course. This is an important decision and choosing the right provider can mean the difference between a pass and a fail.
The benefits of distance learning include a structure to your studying, a support group/tutor for questions, additional training materials, and flexibility. I studied for one of my qualifications by myself at home and it can get very tough, especially when you are stuck and don’t know what to do.
The benefits have to be compared to the costs of course but apart from price there are other factors to think about that students often overlook:
Factors to consider
There are a 7 main factors to consider when choosing a distance learning course. They may vary in priority for you but are:
Choosing the cheapest provider is not necessarily the best thing to do. You need to look at the additional factors below before making a decision.
Distance learning can be offered in a variety of formats using any combination of the following formats: paper-based, online study material, online lectures, tutor support, and an offline option to attend lectures/do practice exams. Choose the one that fits your needs best.
Different providers have different styles of teaching, and it’s up to you to pick the right one. Make sure you look at example materials and demos e.g. of the online lectures, to get an idea.
Quality of Provider
The large providers all have some sort of stamp of certification from the qualification they are providing training for, check to see what this is for. Smaller providers may not have achieved this level of recognition yet, but it doesn’t mean the training is any worse. Check to see the background of the tutors – often they are former employees of a larger training provider.
Coverage of Qualification
As some companies are only recently setting up full distance learning and online courses make sure they cover or will cover all your qualification. If you find a style of teaching you like and that works you want to stick with it!
Additional Services Included
These can vary but include additional options such as extra practice exams, the options to come to classroom lectures for revision courses etc. and a pass guarantee (see below). Again review these to see what you need versus what they offer.
Some training providers provide guarantees on you passing your exams. This doesn’t mean they guarantee that you will pass! Rather that if you fail you will be able to take the course again for free. Check that the guarantee applies to the course you are taking, and check the terms and conditions – for example additional learning materials may cost extra.
There are a number of providers now available for distance learning varying from international companies to smaller “start-ups”. Each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages. For example a smaller provider is often cheaper and more modern in it’s delivery – but can lack coverage in terms of products provided – e.g. only ebooks and no video lectures etc. The larger providers can provide an excellent range of products but can be too expensive for some.
There’s not enough space here to go into all the providers – I am setting up a review site to do just that – but please use the above factors in making your decision.
For me the best provider currently is BPP with their Class of the Future service (for ACCA and CIMA students). Apart from the fact BPP is a world-class provider of training, for me it stands out with one feature – you’re assigned your own named tutor, who you can access throughout your course.
This means that the same person gets to understand you and your challenges – so you get better, more focussed support and training. For more on what other students are saying click here
Make sure you pick the course that suits you and your needs best. However you choose to learn I wish you the best of luck for your exams!