Many think distance learning means you get no help. Robyn spoke to Isaac Jansen at Damelin Correspondence to find out if their students get adequate support with distance learning.
The scariest part about committing to a distance learning course is knowing whether you have support, or lack thereof. Questions fill your mind. Will you understand the material? What happens if you’re stuck? Will someone be able to help you? The reality is that this type of doubt isn’t unique to you. There are many people who experience this and are in the same situation. Plus, distance learning institutions are aware of this too.
Let’s put these burning questions and anxiety to rest. Perhaps you’re currently looking to apply for a distance learning course because it suits your lifestyle and situation better than full-time studies would. Check. That’s the first major decision done. You know what you want, now you just need the courage to go full-steam ahead with it. My aim here is to settle your doubts so that you can take the leap and go for it.
Support with Distance Learning
Distance learning is extremely different to full-time studies. You don’t have lecturers to speak to after class or tutorial sessions to make sure you understand your work. There is absolutely no face-to-face time. Which is why you might be worried about how you’ll be able to cope and understand all of the work.
Distance learning institutions have various methods in place so that you don’t feel lost and hopeless in the middle of your course. At some point or another, you WILL need some help understanding something. Support can be provided through online forums, communication with the institution via email or telephonically and there is the opportunity to set up appointments.
I was in contact with the Cape Town manager at Damelin Correspondence, Isaac Jansen, about what goes on behind the scenes in their distance learning institute and how they provide support to their students. His answers will definitely put your mind at ease.
1. After the student has registered, is there any form of communication between student and lecturer/tutor/supervisor?
The student is required to stay in touch. We do have different means of communication. We will provide the student with cut-off dates if applicable to their course. This information is available in the orientation guide or by contacting our call centre.
The student can contact our call centre on 0860 41 41 41, or use our support email re email@example.com or they can visit one of our branches to receive face to face support
2. What sort of assessments are there?
The assessments fall into two categories.
Formative assessments (assignments / and or learning activities) – see page 18 in the orientation guide – these could be tests, written assignments, portfolio’s (learning activities) and or practical assignment’s.
Summative assessments – see page 19 in the orientation guide – Students have to write an exam and pass all the exams to be able to receive their award / certificate.
3. Who does the assessments and marking of assignments and exams?
If you are doing a course that has an exam with Damelin Correspondence, then we will have our own examiners. They would set the question papers and a different marker would the mark your exam.
In this instance, you could make an appointment with one of them to run through your exams or help you understand your work before the exam.
Assignment / tests – these are set up by the tutors and also marked by the tutors.
4. Is there a lecturer or someone else to contact in case of questions?
The student can contact a tutor re any questions. Currently we have a service called Dial a Tutor or DAT for short. The student will phone and they need to provide details as to what they are struggling with. The student is encouraged to be very specific as to what the problem is, for example:
- What is the question in an assignment they are struggling with?
- What page is the question on?
- What section of the textbook does it refer to?
- The name of the subject / test code?
The tutor will investigate the problem and come back with feedback re the issue. Please be advised that the tutor will not be able to explain a whole chapter to the student via telephone or email.
5. Is there any form of support provided to students who struggle?
The tutor will provide feedback re assignments / tests as to where the student went wrong or what they need to improve on. Students might want to seek help from external tutors with certain subjects like accounting or mathematics.
6. How do students receive their study material? Who wrote this material?
Currently the study material is available on a flash drive. The student can use the learner portal on our website to access the study material, their details, etc.
7. If a student fails, must they redo the course or can they just redo the exam/assessment?
We do allow the student to redo a failed assignment / test. The tutor would normally provide feedback to the student as to what to focus on more or where they went wrong. We normally allow the student to redo a failed assignment / test 3 times.
A student that has failed an exam would be given an opportunity to rewrite that exam provided the course is still current. (Normally our courses runs for about 2 years on average. If the course has expired we will allow you 2 exam sessions to rewrite the subject. The student would have to pay the exam fee and there might be a cost for updated study material.
8. Can a student come into DCC offices for help or support or to ask any questions they may have?
We welcome our students to the branches. Any Damelin Correspondence branch can assist the student.
9. Are there tutorial groups or means available for students to connect with other students to provide support for one another?
We don’t provide information about our students re courses being studied to other students. The student is welcome to start their own study group.
10. Any word of advice for a student looking to do distance-learning?
Distance learning takes a lot of discipline. Start a study schedule as soon as possible. Start with your difficult subjects first, since this causes most of the stress to students and they eventually run out of time and still have the difficult subject left.
Stay motivated. Read up on the course / subject in the library.
11. If a student has always struggled academically, would DCC be a good option or would you suggest something else?
My personal opinion is this: It depends on what the student wants to achieve. If you are working and want to do a course that is work related, it might be an easier option, as you would have the background. But if you are a school leaver and looking to study to build a career and you struggled academically in school, you might struggle with any correspondence option. We do offer face to face studies with DEG, which might be a better option for students who struggled in school.
Education is Never a Bad Idea
With places like Damelin Correspondence, you can be rest assured that the institution will provide all the information and support you need. And if it doesn’t, tutors are one call or visit away.
Mr Jansen also provided me with some helpful time-planning tips and a schedule that you can use to optimise your study time and to get a routine.
If you’re still worried about performing well, start building a relationship with your tutors from the beginning. That way they’re more likely to put that extra effort in to help you when things get tough or busy.
Education is so easily accessible with the development of technology and the Internet. Distance learning could be the key to a more educated country. Take the plunge and build up your skill set or expand on the skills that you already have.
Advice from a Fellow Distance Learning Student
Making the final decision to do distance learning and registering is quite a big step. It’s natural to worry, since you’ve never done distance learning before. You don’t know whether you’re dedicated enough to complete your assignments in time and if you’ll actually study. I’m here to let you know that if you heed the advice given to you in this article and plan your time wisely, you will be able to complete your qualification and it is possible to perform exceptionally well while having a career and social life.
I am currently doing distance learning and I work full-time. If you have any questions or doubts, leave a comment on this post and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
When committing to a distance learning or an online course, it’s important to remember that balance is key. You don’t need to give up your career or social life. You may have to cut down slightly on some things, like seeing friends, but you won’t become a hermit. Institutions like Damelin Correspondence will provide you with all the support you may need to help you achieve your qualification, so don’t let the fear of lack of support stop you, go for it.