Distance learning, a term that some people may not be familiar with, and similarly, if you are you may not fully understand what it means. Not to worry, that’s why I’m here! I would say in short, it basically means getting some sort of education through a platform that doesn’t require you to physically show up at a venue for lectures, let alone be in the same country. The dream, right?… Not necessarily. There is so much more to enrolling for a degree or a course offered through distance learning than some can imagine. I’m here to share a few of the things I’ve learnt on my journey so far…
I feel like in my short lifetime I have had quite the blend of different learning environments, and I will always be grateful for that. Firstly there was school (duh), then I went on to study makeup, which was OH SO different to my school days! I then studied at the University of Wits for a year, and after having suffered through a draining first year of law, I decided that none of it was for me. I had my blog already, plus my passion for makeup and skincare just kept on growing, and I felt that I didn’t have the time to do everything I wanted. Distance learning had always been appealing to me, but I suppose I wanted to experience that university student lifestyle while I could – before discovering it was far from what I wanted. And so, 2017 began my journey of my online BA Communication Science degree…
One of the best things distance learning has given me is time freedom. The photos in this post aren’t just randomly placed here, I promise! I’m including them in here because these were taken at a blogging event I attended a while ago. My schedule is all dependent on me now that I have no set lecture timetable. This can be a little bit daunting, but ultimately it allows me to plan my days so that I can now attend things like this; events and experiences that essentially fuel my biggest passion: blogging. I just thought I should include this little disclaimer, so my vision makes more sense to anyone reading. 😜 Now onto what you actually came for!
WHAT I’VE LEARNT SO FAR.
Trust your gut – you always know what’s best for yourself.
When I look back and think about making the decision to move over to distance learning through UNISA (University of South Africa) I am always filled with gratitude. Some people were hesitant and couldn’t really understand why I’d chosen to study this way, and others were more understanding and could see it fitting with my interests. But mainly, I was satisfied with my decision because I could finally set my own timetable, focus on other things that are as important to me, if not more, than my studies, and also, study something I’m actually interested in! (That’s pretty important.)
Setting an alarm and getting dressed is as important as doing the actual work.
Yes, you read right. It may sound very strange, but think about it. Whenever I tell people what I do I always get the same question: don’t you get tempted to sleep late and stay in pajamas all day? For some people that may be the case. But when I made the decision I also promised myself that I would work just as much as if I were attending lectures. That being said, I’ve always been quite a dedicated person and if I know I have to get something done then I can’t sit around and not do it! The minute you become lazy, switch off your alarm clock and choose not to get dressed, that’s when you forget you are actually still studying, regardless of the location or method.
It can easily get lonely.
If you’re someone who thrives off social interaction and class debates, etc, then distance learning is not for you! I love being around people, but I also love being in my own company. In school I hated it when teachers used to single students out to answer questions that they hadn’t raised their hand for, so being put on the spot in a lecture hall about something I’m not really interested in didn’t make me too excited either. Some people love that! Don’t get me wrong though – working at home can get lonely, no matter how much you enjoy being by yourself. I always knew this would be a part of it so it never came as a shock to me, but I do try to get out of the house to see friends and my boyfriend, whether that’s to study together or otherwise. But again, this freedom from set timetables and physical venues is what pushed me in the first place, so when I get to attend events and so on without missing lectures, it makes the lonelier days so worth it. And anyway, I’ve got Biscotti who keeps me company and smothers me in cuddles all the time!
It takes a lot of dedication and it’s a lot of responsibility – so be proud of yourself!
It’s so easy to get caught up in others’ opinions of disapproval because it’s not the conventional way of studying, but believe me, it takes a lot of commitment to create your own schedule and stick to it. I’m still learning that it’s okay that I’m studying in a way that isn’t usually the “norm”. Though, being worried about doing things differently to others shouldn’t even be a valid concern of ours! Not everyone is suited for university in its conventional sense, and that’s actually one of the biggest obstacles I’ve learnt to overcome.
Take the holidays just like everyone else.
With Unisa, I always receive my study material in advance, which means that I can always start working before other universities start. At the beginning I was too afraid to take the week-long mid semester break like my friends were getting, in fear that I would fall behind. However, I quickly learnt that it’s so important to take these breaks too, because burnout is a real thing! I guess I also felt as though I had to prove myself, or validate the way I was doing things. Because I spend most of my time working from my laptop at home, it always felt to me that if I took a few days off, others would assume that was what my normal everyday was like, and I didn’t want that. Best believe I got over that really quickly and take well-deserved breaks now too!
My experience with distance learning has been a very positive one up to now, and a move I will always be grateful I made. Everyday is different in terms of what work I do first – whether it’s varsity work and assignments, blog posts, events or makeup jobs – but however the day goes, I know I always need to get up, get dressed, and show up (at the event or my desk – either one!) These are only a few things I’ve learnt along the way. I know I can mention many more, but you probably get the gist. Anyway, I’m going to go chill and watch Netflix now, because it’s 2:15 p.m on a Wednesday and I’m living the dream! (Juuuuust kidding!)
What are your thoughts on distance learning, university and taking a different path to others? Let me know!