Newcomers to New Zealand sometimes decide they would like to improve their qualifications, or perhaps even study for a new career. For an increasing number of learners, distance or flexible learning is a useful alternative or complement to attending an on campus course.
Distance learning is a way of taking courses without having to attend classes at a school or university. It is used by people of all ages and in a wide range of careers. Many of New Zealand’s universities offer some of their courses as distance learning, and so do many polytechnics and other training institutes.
Some schools, like the Open Polytechnic and Massey University, specialise in distance learning. Distance learning courses will often earn the students qualifications recognised by the NZQA (New Zealand Qualifications Authority).
In some smaller towns, tertiary institutions based in the cities have a small campus which uses a combination of face to face and distance learning to deliver programmes.
How distance learning works
At first, distance learning was introduced through “correspondence” courses, where information and assignments were sent through the post to students, who then sent completed assignments and tests back to the course leaders for marking. While this option is still available in some cases, most distance learning is now done over the internet. Widespread access to the internet in New Zealand makes it fast and easy to send and receive assignments, and to access course materials.
While distance learning may lack the personal touch of having a tutor in the room, students normally have a staff member assigned to the course whom they can contact with any questions or problems they encounter. Many distance learning courses also include recorded lectures, so that the distance students can see the same lecture as the students attending the class in person.
Benefits of distance learning
One advantage of distance learning is the chance to study at your own pace. While for some people this is an excuse to be lazy and take their time, many distance students use this flexibility to finish their courses more quickly than students attending regular classes. If you are a quick learner and devote a lot of time to your courses, you can cut months of study off of a diploma or degree course, getting your qualification sooner.
Distance learning gives you the freedom to work from home at your own pace. For some people this is very helpful, but for others it is difficult to make the time and stay focused.
One of the great advantages of distance learning is that you can take a course at whatever school best matches your needs, regardless of where it is located. You can live in New Plymouth and study at the University of Otago, or Massey University, if you wish.
In fact, you aren’t even limited to New Zealand. Distance learning is offered by schools all around the world, who may offer specialised courses not available in New Zealand. You can study at Oxford or Harvard from your home in New Zealand.
Be aware, however, that not all courses are recognised by the NZQA, so check first before signing up for any distance training.
Fees and loans
Fees for distance courses vary depending on the school and subject. They will also be higher for international students than for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. Those who would qualify for student loans for attending a school can also get a loan for distance learning. This includes the interest-free loans available to residents. Individual schools may also offer scholarships and grants to those who qualify. To find out more contact schools directly.
Is distance learning right for me?
Here are some questions to keep in mind when choosing a school or a course:
Is it a “real” school? There are a lot of misleading advertisements on the internet about earning a degree cheaply and quickly. Always check out the school’s credentials before you sign up with them. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Do their teaching methods work for you? Some people learn well on their own with written materials to study from. Others need more interaction with the tutor. Ask for details before you decide on a course. Is it the right course for you? If you are looking for a specific qualification or set of skills, make sure the course you take will give you what you need.
Find out more about distance learning below.