What, where, how to study

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Flexible ways to study

With different study modes and a range of places where you can study, you should be able to find a higher education level course to suit your needs.

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Higher education level qualifications can be gained through one (or a mixture) of the following settings: 

  • universities
  • further education colleges
  • training providers
  • in the workplace 

In addition, you can take a course on a full-time, part-time or distance-learning basis, or through a blend of self-study and classroom/residential study. 

Full-time courses 

The amount of time involved in ‘full-time' study can vary. Depending on the course you want to take, the attendance time may only be equivalent to a couple of days’ study each week, for others it can mean a full timetable. 

If attendance time is important to you, look at detailed course descriptions. These will help you decide whether you could study a course full time alongside your current job or other commitments. Remember that just because a course doesn’t involve a full teaching timetable, this doesn’t mean that you won’t have a lot of independent study (assignments, essays, reading, revision etc) to do. Find out how many hours you should commit to your studies each week.

Part-time courses

Part-time study may be an option if you wish to continue to work or if you have other commitments. Part-time courses may be run, for example: 

  • in the evenings
  • on a regular day each week
  • at weekends
  • a mixture of the above 

Obviously, part-time courses will take longer to complete than an equivalent full-time programme. This may be an important consideration if you need or want to gain a qualification in order to change career or for some other reason.

Short/block courses

Certain courses, particularly professional and other work-related programmes, are offered as short courses. Such courses may last just a few days or weeks (full time or part time). Some short courses are very intensive. 

Employees sometimes train through block release whereby teaching is provided on certain weekends, or blocks of a week or so spread throughout a course. 

Distance learning

Distance learning involves studying on your own, in your home or another suitable place (a café or library, for instance). It usually involves reading course materials, and working on activities and assignments. These days, most distance learning is delivered online, so it’s sometimes known as e-learning.

Distance learning is a great way to combine studying with employment or caring commitments as it provides a great deal of flexibility. It does, however, demand a lot of motivation and commitment. You are usually allocated a tutor who will be able to keep you on track either online or over the phone.

If you want to undertake distance learning, make sure that the provider has a good reputation or is well known, such as The Open University. Find out exactly what is included in your course fee and how much support you will receive.

Distance learning doesn’t have to be lonely. Electronic chat rooms and message boards available through the course provider or generally (e.g. The Student Room) can keep you in touch with other learners. 

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