A Guide to Distance Education

There comes a time when all the kids are finally at school (or if they are older kids have left home!) and you suddenly have a stack of spare time on your hands. It is during this time that you might start to re-evaluate life and think about what you want to do with this newfound chunk of “me time”. Or, you may still have your littlies at home with you, but want to fill in what spare time you may have doing something you enjoy. Many parents at one time or another choose to refresh their own knowledge or learn something completely new. This could be with a view to future employment opportunities or just for the sheer enjoyment of exercising the brain! Now if you have young children, life can still be busy (understatement of the year!) so going to lectures and classes may not be convenient for those wanting to study a course. You may also live in an area where there are no tertiary education institutions. This is where distance education (or correspondence) can be the most feasible option as you can study at home at home and at your own pace.

I hope to be able to give you an overview of the distance education process so you have a little bit of an idea about how it works and what options are available to you. I have just commenced studying aromatherapy via distance education, so have researched the process at length!

Education Options

The beauty of distance education is that it is extremely flexible both in length of your chosen course, and course delivery. Depending on the type of course, the duration can be anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. You can study anything from a “statement of attainment” to a Bachelor or even a Masters degree! You can chose to study full-time or part-time.

Some courses are fully via correspondence (which means study is done at home), whereas others can be a mixture of correspondence and attendance at classes or lectures. Many learning institutions offer online courses, and others send out your learning materials and you submit assignments via email or “snail-mail”.

Distance Education Institutions

The institutions which offer distance education are varied. Most TAFES and universities offer distance education courses (such as Open Universities Australia, plus there are other colleges dedicated to particular modalities (such as business or natural health colleges which concentrate on one area). You also have dedicated distance education institutions such as Courses Direct and Cengage which offer statement or certificate courses, plus some short courses. It is best to stick with recognised learning institutions which have accredited courses either with the government or with an affiliated, well-known national or international association, as this increases your employability when you have finished the course.


This is a big factor which will influence most people as to which course they will study. Some courses only cost a few hundred dollars while other courses (especially ones offered by universities) will cost thousands. The fees charged are dependent on the duration and degree of difficulty of the course being studied. Some course fees include study materials such as text books while others do not and you will need to buy study materials separately, so remember to take that into account. Many learning institutions these days offer payment plans and student loans or government assistance packages like Austudy or VET Fee-help to assist with the costs of the course. Always ask if you think you will require assistance to pay for the course as most institutions will be more than happy to oblige.

The best advice I can give to those of you thinking about studying a course is to fully research the different courses offered, ask questions of the learning institutions, and make sure you are truly ready and this is what you really want to do before committing yourself. Once you’ve done this, the world is your oyster (as they say!)


(Author – Admin Nic)

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