5 Myths about Distance Learning

distance learning

Distance learning, correspondence study, home study, e-learning, and online studying are terms that are often used interchangeably. They all refer to a method of studying that allows the student to study from a destination of their choice – students are thus not required to attend classes or a physical campus.

This is not the “traditional” way of studying, and – as with anything that falls outside of convention – it brings about scepticism. It is normal to be sceptical about things, but sometimes this is simply as a result of not having enough information on the topic, or being misinformed.

So, for your convenience, we will resolve 5 of the most common myths regarding distance learning.

Myth #1 – Distance learning courses are not accepted by employers

This is not true. Employers realise that some people have full-time duties, and are thus not able to attend classes. In fact, distance learning shows true dedication, because these students do not let other responsibilities get in the way of furthering their education. Employers recognise this diligence and dedication, and are happy to welcome such hardworking people to their team.

Myth #2 – Distance learning is an expensive method of studying

Many people believe that distance learning is expensive. The truth is, however, that distance learning is often much more affordable than full-time “traditional” studies. Furthermore, you do not have to budget for travelling costs, campus accommodation costs, and miscellaneous student fees that are usually part and parcel of traditional studies.

Myth #3 – Distance learning does not offer student support

Although this may be true of certain distance learning institutions, it is not difficult to find a quality distance learning college that offers professional student support. With new technologies that the digital era offers us, student support via distance learning has become instant and effortless.

Myth #4 – Distance learning is for anti-social people

This is definitely not true! Distance learning is for all types of students – anti-social or not! People usually choose to study through correspondence if they have full-time responsibilities, such as a job or children to look after. It has nothing to do with their personalities – their circumstances simply don’t allow for them to study full-time on a physical campus.

Myth #5 – Distance learning is for lazy people

Again – definitely not true! Distance learning requires a lot of self-motivation, as there is no lecturer in front of you telling you what to do. Furthermore, distance learning students usually have other responsibilities on top of their studies, such as a full-time job. Most distance learning students are thus juggling various tasks, and can certainly not be lazy!

study, distance learning, read

We hope that you are now more informed about this method of studying, and would perhaps even consider taking up a few courses via distance learning.

  • Do you have a full-time job?
  • Do you have children or other family members to look after?
  • Are you stuck without any reliable transport?
  • Do you live far away from learning institutions?

Distance learning is a perfect solution to all of the above, so why not welcome the opportunity?

Are there any other myths about distance learning that you would like us to resolve for you? Let us know in the comment box below!

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The Joy of Learning and Chewing Chappies

Today I bought a Kit Kat bar at the café across the road from College SA’s offices. I gave my money, got my Kit Kat, and took my R2 change. And then I decided to do something that I haven’t done since primary school: I bought a whole handful of Chappies.

As I sit down now behind my desk and shove the first little colourful square into my mouth, I can’t help but think back to those good old school days. I remember sitting down and eating Chappies with my friends (with a whole pocketful still to go) and swapping ‘Did you know?’ facts with them. Those ‘Did you know?’ facts were (and still are) written on the inside of each Chappie wrapper.

Did you know? Hurricanes start to take shape when the sea surface temperature is at least 27 degrees Celsius”

“Did you know? The Southeast Asia is the oldest rainforest in the world. It has been around for over 70 million years.”

Did you know? Deserts cover a third of the world’s surface”

(Obviously I had an environment-themed Chappie here).

Reading my Chappie facts (while chewing away), I can’t help but experience that same pleasure I felt back then. The pleasure of discovering another little fact and thinking, “No, I didn’t know that. But I do now!” I realise now that part of the joy I experienced when I was younger, was due to the pleasure one gets from learning and knowing new things.

Did you know? Human beings experience actual pleasure from learning.”

Jordan Litman, a professor at the University of South Florida,even published a paper on it, stating that the satisfaction we feel when learning something new is experienced in the same parts of the brain that experience satisfaction when we appease our appetites. We literally get hungry for knowledge, and experience pleasure when we appease that knowledge-hunger.

This makes me wonder about why we choose to study. Why do you study? To get a job one day? To improve yourself? To receive a diploma or certificate? These are all good reasons, I guess. But I think we all too often forget about the joys of learning when we study. We get so caught up in the piece of paper that a course promises (the certificate or diploma or degree) that we completely forget to enjoy the process of learning.

“Curiosity is a gift, a capacity of pleasure in knowing,” wrote John Rushkin. We are curious beings and we get pleasure from satisfying our curiosity. And what’s more: learning is the cornerstone of self-advancement, self-improvement, and personal (and professional) growth. And this is the focus of many of our provider programmes.

At College SA, we offer provider programmes to give you the knowledge that you want and need, without requiring you to spend a fortune on your education. Remember: knowledge is power; a diploma is just a piece of paper. It’s not the Chappie wrapper, but the facts written on it, that really matter.
You should study for the knowledge, and the pleasure of knowing, rather than just for the piece of paper you’ll get at the end, because:

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest

Is the brain really better than the computer?

I always thought the brain was much better than the computer: stronger, faster, and more powerful! Or that the brain is a computer – just more complex than what any computer programmer would ever be able to code. But then someone asked me a question which made me start wondering whether this was really true:

“If your brain is so much better than a computer, why can’t you tell me what 1532 multiplied by 3254 is, but a computer can?”

I realised that I don’t really have an answer to that question (the answer to the sum, however, is 4985128 – according to my computer). So, I decided to do some good old research on the subject, and this is what I found:

  • Computers are better than human brains at making calculations. Computers can do complex calculations in micro-seconds. You even get quantum computers that are made to do quantum physics (all the while, I don’t even know what quantum physics is!).
  • Computers are better at storing data. As long as a computer’s hardware does not get corrupted, it can store exact data for, well… ever! Even the tiniest detail will never go missing (but go ahead and try to remember what you had for dinner two days ago…).

The Human Brain

Now we get to the interesting parts:

  • While the computer is good at calculations, it is bad at adapting. To illustrate, here is a famous story:

In 1997, the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue defeated chess master Garry Kasparov in a groundbreaking (and historic) chess match. This match demonstrated that computers have the potential to logically outthink even the smartest chess player in the world.

What they also found, however, was that if a chess player was to switch his or her style in the middle of the match, the computer opponent would suddenly start struggling to win. This is because computers aren’t programmed to adapt to changes (see my next point for more on this).

Two people playing chess

  • Computers process information differently than the brain does. A computer is digital, while the brain is organic. This means that the brain is always changing, developing, and adapting. When you learn things, you actually change the physical structure of the brain as well. A computer can only change or adapt when new hardware or software is installed.
  • The brain can’t switch off. When a computer’s off button is held in, it stops transmitting signals. The brain, however, never stops transmitting signals. Did you know? The brain can even be moreactiveduring sleep than during wakefulness.
  • Computers cannot yet mimic certain brain functions, such as emotional responses. While computers have very limited functions, the brain has a complex array of abilities. Just because you can’t multiply 345 by 543 at the drop of a hat, doesn’t mean your brain can’t do other equally complex tasks, such as: interpreting emotions; thinking abstractly; interacting socially; planning; reasoning; making jokes; or showing empathy.
  • Computers don’t have a sense of self-awareness. This is one of the most profound features of the brain’s evolution: self-awareness. “I think, therefore I am,” Descartes famously said. Can you think how freaky it would be if a computer knew that it was a computer? (Ever seen the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey? Creepy stuff).
  • The brain is extremely good at learning through observation and experimentation. Even though computer scientists are working on Artificial Intelligence that can ‘learn’, the brain is unrivalled in observational learning. A child can learn a whole new language just by being exposed to it – without needing any lessons.

Can effortlessly learn any language, only while you're too young to care

  • The brain is extremely efficient. While a supercomputer will consume about 96 000 000 Watts of energy every day, the brain consumes only about 20 Watts (just enough to power a small light bulb).

Now, that last comparison means nothing if you don’t fully appreciate the difference in processing power between the brain and the computer. So here is another story:
In January 2014, Japanese and German scientists, for the first time ever, simulated 1% of a single second of the brain’s processing power. They used Japan’s K. computer, the 4th most powerful supercomputer in the world. The K. computer could recreate 1.73 billion virtual nerve cells and 10.4 trillion synapses, which in total added up to only 1% of 1 second of the brain’s processing power!

K.Computer

And here comes the big finish, the ultimate proof that the brain is better than the computer:

Everything that a computer can do better than the human brain is merely a product of human ingenuity, intelligence, and creativity. We can programme and build supercomputers that do quantum calculations, because we use our creativity and imagination.

Human creativity is, at the end of the day, the trump card that the brain holds over the computer. No matter how complex a computer might be, it still functions within pre-programmed parameters, while human creativity and imagination have no boundaries.

Reading – and how you can learn anything

There is nothing you can’t learn through reading. I myself have been reading up on writing recently (what a poetic sentence, don’t you think?). Writing of all sorts: from copywriting, to content writing, to short fiction writing. I even Googled ‘Haiku’, but I still don’t really understand this style of poems.

Reading

Reading up on things is not just for writers, even though there seems to be a natural correlation between the two activities (“the one implies the other”, a quasi-philosopher would say). But the reason I personally and particularly started reading up on writing was because writing is part of my job, and I wanted to become better at what I do.

Amongst other things, I started reading a book by the influential literary editor, Sol Stein. Though he talks about fiction, plot, narrative, and characters, the information can be applied to anything from composing adverts to newsletters.

Stein on Writing

Here are some things that he says – which are applicable to any kind of writing, really:

“Successful writing immerses the reader in heightened experience- emotional, intellectual, or both”

and:

“Your entire story or novel may depend on that first sentence arresting the reader’s attention”

and very relevantly:

“By practice one learns to use what one has understood. Only writers, it seems, expect to achieve some level of mastery without practice”

Successful writing can help with various types of work that you might end up doing.

Think about it: what kind of job are you possibly going to get where you won’t have to write an occasional e-mail, proposal, report, or letter? And what about getting a job in the first place: if you can ”arrest the reader’s attention” with the first sentence of your CV’s cover letter, then you are already halfway there!

Pile of books

But what about getting ahead by reading about something else, besides writing? When I write about the College SA courses, I often find myself repeating the same sentiment when talking about building a successful career in business, wedding planning, or whatever else I’m discussing. “But if you want to become successful,” I will usually write, “you’ll need to read up on, and build knowledge of, [this] and [that] and [all these other things you might’ve thought were unrelated to your field].”

Okay, so let’s say you want to become a writer, for example:

To become successful, you’ll need to read up on and build knowledge of: marketing (to market yourself as a writer, a brand, an up-and-coming star); sales tactics (you are going to have to essentially ‘sell’ your book to a publisher); and working as a freelancer (there are few South African authors who can make a living from just writing novels).

If you are interested in self-publishing, you must essentially become your own agent, advertiser, and online marketing strategist. The most successful self-published authors know how to use the internet to advertise and sell their novels successfully. “Read up on e-commerce,” I’d say, “and how to sell your novel as an e-book on Amazon.”

Alternatively, you might want to start your own writing blog or online magazine as a sideline project, so you’ll need to learn how to do a bit of HTML coding, some basic layout and designing, as well as how to strategically employ SEO in your writing. (SEO = Search Engine Optimisation, which is a big part of what I do here at College SA. Go read up on it if you don’t know what it is).

The best way to become a well-rounded, multi-talented, and knowledgeable professional is to go and read up on all these things: HTML, graphic design, self-publishing, marketing, advertising, etc. And you don’t have to go buy books on each subject. There are other ways to source information.

Reading on laptop

What about taking a short course in web design through distance learning? Naturally, there will be a difference between reading up on Wikipedia, and using College SA’s study material – in terms of the depth, extent, quality, relevance, and reliability of the things that you’ll learn through your reading.

Now that I’ve segued into the topic of distance learning, there are many misconceptions about distance learning as opposed to going to a campus university. But I can tell you from experience that succeeding in your studies does not depend on classes, lecturers, and study buddies. Succeeding in your studies is all about reading.

While at university, I knew a lot of people who went to all their classes, but never picked up their textbooks, and thus went on to fail miserably. On the other end of the spectrum, I knew plenty of students who didn’t go to a single class, yet passed their courses with flying colours, because they read and reread their work zealously. Studying is all about reading.

To strengthen my point, I’ve even gone ahead and read up on the word ‘study’:

‘Study’ comes from the 12th Century Old French estudier, which meant “to apply oneself” and “show zeal”. The French word itself came from Medieval Latin studium, which originally meant “eagerness”.

The Old French phrase estudier was actually also used to describe the act of “reading a book or writing intently”. (If you Google Image search ‘study’, you’ll find pictures of people reading).

Reading

Distance learning itself, like any other form of learning, is all about reading and studying. It caters for those ambitious individuals who want to know more, learn more, read more, and get ahead in life.

Maybe, in light of this, I’ll even give up trying to Google-educate myself on things like ‘Haiku’, and rather just take one of our very own writing courses.

How to Study: Tricks, Tips, Techniques and Methods

It’s a couple of days before the exam (maybe even the Saturday before the big test on Monday) and you are staring at that thick textbook just lying there in front of you. The book seems like a slab of granite – immovable, oppressive, and weighing you down.

How do you start studying? How do you keep it up? How do you succeed, and how do you make studying more enjoyable?

I’ve been a student myself (a couple of times, actually). Studying is hard, I know. But you can make it easier for yourself.

I looked back at what helped me succeed. I searched far and wide and did some research, and I came up with a list of 10 tips, tricks and techniques that will help you get through.

So here we go!

  1. Make summaries

I know, it’s even more work that you’ll need to do. But you will be extremely grateful that you made the effort in the end! Summarise your course content using headings, subheadings and bullet-points.

Summarising will help you in 2 important ways:

  • It will help you internalise the work as you put it in your own words.
  • It will make it easier and faster for you to study the work, as you will have short synopses of the course content.

Make summaries as you go through the work the first time. Then, when exams come, you are going to have a much easier time studying and revising.

  1. Learn the concepts first

It is important that you grasp general concepts before learning the details.

If you try to memorise details without fully understanding how they fit into the theme or topic, you are most likely going to forget them!

Understanding the general concept first will allow your brain to remember the details and facts as they relate to it.

  1. Change location

This is a great tip that often worked for me. Tired of studying? Change your scenery. Go study in a park, at a coffee shop, or even just in another room. Go get some fresh air, and take your books with you!

Not only will this refresh your mind, but studies have shown that changing locations increases your likelihood of remembering things you learn. Memory is connected to environment.

This is also a benefit of distance learning, as it affords you the opportunity to study wherever you want and wherever you feel most comfortable.

Change your studying environment

  1. Study with someone

This is one of the fears that most correspondence students have: the fear of studying alone. But just because you aren’t in a classroom with peers, it doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from studying with someone! Ask a friend or family member to quiz you on your work.

And if you get stuck, College SA provides an excellent student support system that you can use: e-mail, Skype, or call your tutor for help.

5. Find your study method

I used to draw little pictures in the margins of my notes to help me retain the information. Some people benefit from drawing diagrams or mind maps.

Study methods - mind map

If you are struggling to keep the information in your head, maybe you just haven’t figured out which approach suits you best.

Remember: You aren’t necessarily bad at memorising things – you are mostly likely just using a study method that isn’t working for you!

6. Goals

This is a great motivational tool. Set yourself daily study goals. Then determine how many study sessions you’ll need each day, and how much you’ll need to learn in each session.

This will help you overcome procrastination, as well as allow you to pace yourself for greater ease and relaxation. You’ll feel much more prepared when you’ve got some structure in your study routine.

7. Reward yourself
If you keep to your goals, reward yourself. This is a great way to stay motivated and disciplined.

Studying incentive: When you reach a gummy bear, you get to eat it.

8. Take breaks
Don’t exhaust yourself in one session. The rule is 15 minute breaks every hour. But this rule is more of a guideline: you can make your own schedule. I used to take a 15 minute break every half an hour, in fact!

Just don’t fall into this trap:

Study for ten minutes. Reward self with two hours of pointless internet use.

Find a pace that works for you, and then stick to it!

9. Get enough sleep

Too many students cram for exams the night before. This is not a great idea, as the more tired you are, the less information your mind will retain.

Make sure you get enough sleep during your study time, as well as the night before the exam.

And again: don’t only sleep! Remember to stick to your study schedule.

10. Enjoy it!

I’ve been roommates with a number of different students – all studying an array of different courses. One thing I noticed is that studying was easier for those who enjoyed their subjects. This is why you should choose a study direction that you are actually interested in! What is the point of studying a subject if you don’t actually enjoy the work?

Do you really want to make a career out of something you don’t like? You don’t have to! Find your passion, and studying will become much easier.

Once last thing…
Don’t stress so much! Stress will not only hamper your memory retention, but will often paralyse you when you actually need to be studying.

So, take a deep breath. Relax. And remember:

Everything will be okay