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Studying flexibly via distance learning

Looking at the advantages and challenges of studying via distance learning.

Written by Lucy Bodenham |

Student studying
Collaborate with other students via Moodle chat rooms on the student portal.

Distance learning can afford flexible opportunities to fit study around your work and career aspirations plus suit your lifestyle.

Deborah Regal studied for a Master of Laws even though she had a demanding schedule involving full-time work and being a mother to two young children.

Learning via distance allowed Deborah to be in charge of her studies, plan her weekly schedule and being able to draw on top class resources from the comfort of her home. Shortly after completing the LLM Deborah was head hunted by a firm for a new role and she is now completing her PhD.

Postgraduate study can further your career, so it's worth finding out if your employer can sponsor you. You can choose update your professional knowledge with the option to study individual modules on a stand-alone basis.

If you are an undergraduate you can spread your learning over a period of time. The Laws programme currently offers a period of 3 to 6 years to obtain the Bachelor of Laws.

Lara Macfarlane studied for her master's while she was away from home and worked abroad. Her employer supported her volunteer role in Bangladesh on an Australian government initiative.

If you need more hands-on support there are options to study at a teaching centre in your country. Institutions offer benefits such as computers and resource centres. Do find out if they host open days for visits.

You can gain an independent approach with lifelong learning and do so at any stage of your career. IT specialist Frederick Josephidou took redundancy following the global financial crisis in 2008 and ended up in an unfulfilling role. He became stuck in a rut until his wife brought home details of the online MSc Finance programme which revived his career aspirations.

Studying on your own can be challenging, work around that with planning and structure the year ahead. Check your programme syllabus and mark key dates with a yearly schedule using apps or a paper planner. You will develop useful time management skills along the way.

The student guide and programme handbooks contains lots of useful info to help you on the way.

Keeping motivated isn’t easy, so tell your work or family about your goals, you may find support in unexpected places.

Set up a personal space where you can study uninterrupted. A go to space will get you in the mind set. A tablet or phone can help you use dead time during your daily commute to read pre-downloaded PDFs. Or you can use Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote to take, share and archive notes - these apps also allow you to annotate notes on your device.

In the student portal join a forum for your specific programme. Another place to read or post is the The Student blog where you can see the tags for study tips and much more from students around the globe.

Alumni inspiration, Deborah Regal talks about the flexibility of the LLM.

Tips for distance learning students:

  • Be a pro-active learner – use apps like StudyBlue to upload study materials and make your own flashcards to study or share.
  • Get set up with Skype to take part in online study seminars.
  • Join our social media communities – interact with fellow students on Facebook or LinkedIn.
  • Collaborate with other students via Moodle chat rooms on the student portal.
  • Find a study partner - fellow students Sandarenu and Sarasi posted about their experience.
  • Keep your eye open for organised summer camps like the LSE Summer School related to study programmes.

Challenges of distance learning:

  • Requires motivation – a routine will help and use dead time to read your dissertation on way to work.
  • Check for events, we host international events around the world.
  • If being motivated is challenging then use apps to manage daily, weekly or yearly goals.
  • If you have trouble waking up use Alarmy – this annoying app will get you out of bed to take a photo of your study desk or registered object!
  • Speak to an alumni ambassador to find out what distance learning is like, ambassadors can advise prospective and current students.

More tips from our student community

Read posts on the Official Student Blog by fellow students on all sorts of topics. Anase writes about parenting while doing exams. One of her tips is ‘Establish your priorities from the beginning’.