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Studying flexibly via distance learning

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

Written by Lucy Bodenham |

A student thinking about attending an event in her country
Find out if there are any events via the International Chapter Network in your country.

Lara's employer was very supportive of her wish to volunteer in Bangladesh on an Australian government initiative

The benefits of studying via distance learning is that it can afford flexible opportunities to fit study around your work and career aspirations. Distance learning offers options to suit your lifestyle, whether studying from home or at work.

Deborah Regal choose to do the LLM even though she has a demanding schedule involving full-time work, being a mother to two young children, all while undertaking extensive voluntary work. A key factor in her distance learning was remaining in charge of her studies from the comfort of her home.

Postgraduate study could tie in with furthering your career. It's worth finding out if your employer can sponsor you. You can also choose to study individual modules on a stand-alone basis. This is an ideal way to update your professional knowledge or to sample a full master's degree.

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 8 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 was very supportive of her wish to volunteer in Bangladesh on an Australian government initiative.

Some of you may need more hands-on support so there are options to study at a teaching institution in your country. Institutions can offer benefits such as computers and resource centres so do find out if they host open days for visits. This kind of support can be vital for law students, particularly for team-working skills.

Other benefits of distance learning include giving you an independent approach to lifelong learning which you can do at any stage of your career. Alumnus Janet Naidu gained on personal and professional levels as she worked alongside her own practice in Human Resources while studying law.

If you find it challenging to study on your own, plan and prioritise for structure and consistency for the year ahead. Check your programme syllabus and note key dates with a yearly schedule using apps or a paper planner. You will pick up useful time management skills along the way. The student guide and programme handbooks also contain lots of useful info to help you plan ahead. Keeping motivated isn’t easy, so tell your work or family about your study goals and you may find support in unexpected places.

Our programmes require you to have internet access and you should also think about a personal space where you can study uninterrupted. Set up a good space to get you in the mindset, for example your local library. Alternatively, a tablet or android phone will help you use dead time during daily commuting so you can 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.

An internet connection also gets you access to the student portal where you can join forums for specific programmes. You can even find a study buddy in another country to share this period of study with. Sandarenu and Sarasi, both law students, posted on the Official Student blog about their experiences of  studying together. Also keep your eye open for organised summer camps related to study programmes.

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

    Tips for distance learning students:

    • Be a pro-active learner – use apps to manage your study time.
    • 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 student portal.
    • For prospective or new students get in touch with an Alumni Ambassadors in your country and ask about study experiences.
    • Find a study partner - see fellow students Sandarenu and Sarasi's post on our Official Student Blog.

    Challenges of distance learning:

    • Requires motivation – establish a routine, use dead time to read your dissertation on way to work.
    • Feeling isolated – online student communities like LinkedIn help make you feel part of a community.
    • Lack of social engagement – Find a study buddy or check for events via International Chapter Network, also see our upcoming events.
    • 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!

    More information

    Read posts on the Official Student Blog by fellow students about all sorts of topics like how to cope with exams. Carmen Yong Kah Mun from Malaysia writes about exams and her study experience, all helpful stuff for prospective students to get a feel for what its like to be a distance learning student.

    • Read Debora's thoughts about studying law on the Postgraduate search website or watch the video on this page.