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Distance Learning - Offering Freedoms People Never Thought Possible

Jennifer Priory has wanted to be a champion swimmer all her life. For the last two years of training she has got out of her bed at four o'clock in the morning, trained for three hours, and continued on to school for her daily lessons. This way of life has caused a considerable amount of stress on her parents and family, and taken her away from her social life which most consider important in the development of their children. As Jennifer had homework to complete when she arrived home from school, her studying continued after school, and as she was getting up so early in the morning, she was ready for bed and asleep by eight o'clock in the evening. She didn't see her siblings or father throughout the week, and felt more lonely as time went on. Her parents knew something had to change.

Jennifer's mother did some investigating, and came up with a schedule for Jennifer that offered her the time for training, schooling, and a social life. She would be able to spend time with her father in the evenings, and even participate in some after school activities which would give her the added bonus of keeping up friendships with people her own age. Her solution was 'distance learning'. Some may know this as 'open learning'.

'Distance and Open learning' are forms of education which have proven to be as effective as the education a student receives at an 'attendance' school', and because the student is able to take their studies at their own time, they are usually able to get ahead easily without having to wait for others to catch up with them. The student is also able to fit other activities into their life with the time they save. Jennifer started this new schedule a few months ago, and has found this time effective schedule to fit in with her life instead of her trying to fit in with someone else's schedule.

Jennifer's daily schedule goes like this. She wakes up at seven o'clock along with her siblings. They all have breakfast and they leave for school whilst Jennifer goes to the pool for training. She trains and is home by lunch time. She studies for four to five hours and this leaves the evenings to her to decide what to do with. Jennifer is much more comfortable with this way of studying and says:

"Before my mother found out about the 'distance learning' programs that were open to me, my life was a nightmare! Getting up at four o'clock in the morning broke into every aspect of my life, and put a strain on my parents. Now my schedule is very much like my brothers and we act more as a family unit. I have time in the morning for training, and if I feel I need to train more at certain times, the time is there. It is the same with studying. If I feel I need more time to study, the time is there, and I have personal tutors for all of my courses who I can contact for any reason if I find any aspect confusing, or don't understand everything I need to. But most importantly, I am able to see friends, and I don't miss out on studying time or have to catch up after I have been away at a competition. I am even completing my AS and A2 levels in one year instead of two!"

Distance learning is quickly becoming the favourite way to study by students wanting to get ahead and parents wanting to see their children excel in their studies and other activities. Melissa Roe had the same problem with 'time'. Her 'attendance' school didn't afford her the time to pursue theatre classes and go to auditions as was her dream, but her parents didn't want her to give up her studies well aware of the fierce competition in the area she wanted to pursue. Distance and open learning offered her the freedom to immerse herself in something she loved without skimping on the study hours. She says:

"By rearranging my schedule, I was no longer having arguments with my parents about taking me out of school for auditions and extra daily classes. Everything fits in and I'm not loosing out anywhere, in fact I am able to fill my requirement for education at a faster pace than my friends which will enable my entry into further education sooner which I am also planning on doing by distance learning."

This effective study pattern is not just for those that need a different 'time' schedule. Distance learning is for the masses too. The benefits of creating your own schedule simply give people the ability to get on with their lives and fulfil their education ambitions. People with careers that are established have the ability to further themselves without disruption to their lives and their employer's contracts. Most employers will support their employees with training bursaries for these courses because it offers them the benefit of utilising their employee's new knowledge during working hours. Emma Jones, the Director of Hugo Alan, a headhunting business in the city of London says:

"Offering employees adequate training programs is beneficial to all involved."

Caroline Needham offers a different point of view. She writes:

" The questions were always the same. Do you have wheelchair access? When I get into the building, are there stairs to get to the classroom on another floor? Do you have elevators? Do you have parking close to the building?

"There are a lot of reasons to dread having to find out about courses to take if you are disabled, and it is not only difficult for those with motor problems. This can affect the visually impaired, the hard of hearing and alike no matter what age they may be.

"Distance learning has taken the strain out of this experience as the learning doesn't accompany any stress. It is a way of gaining a quality education through home study with the support of a tutor, and there is no requirement of boxing off certain times in your week for lectures, and no requirement of the stress of travel. Computers have changed the structure of most industries, and the education industry is no exception. Being able to contact tutors with questions and send in class work through the wonder of the computer has cleared the way for people to have their questions answered quickly, and their work graded within hours and days instead of weeks which allow the student to continue on with their studies at a pace they are comfortable with.

"People need more flexibility and quality for their money and if the education industry doesn't step up to the mark, they will simply fall behind. People have a choice of who they study with these days, and they will go with the establishments that offer them the flexibility they need, and the quality they deserve. I study with Oxford College ODL because they support me and let me do things my way. I am an adult and don't need to be told how to run my life. Distance learning outlines the rules of what has to be adhered to, and lets the student make all the other decisions which never leaves the student with the stress of having to change their lives and make usually insurmountable efforts to adhere to rules that are simply there to make life easier not for the student, but the establishment they are learning with. Distance learning is a modern, responsible, and quality way of learning, and it is definitely the way forward for everybody and not just those with special needs."

Distance and open learning are slowly becoming the biggest recognised option for study by the public because of its lack of restraints. This option is recognised by the British government to be worth offering funding and advancement so much so that they believe it will offer more than fifty percent of students that wouldn't have studied further than their GCSE level of study a place in the next five years. The government sees this as progress in the field of education, and offers the scheme a great amount of leeway.

About the Author

Article written by Paul Beasley for the 'Morning Break' newspaper March 17th, 2005 edition. For more information on Oxford Distance Learning please see http://www.oxforddistancelearning.com/.


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