Let’s be honest, studying an AAT course by distance learning is not an easy option, so why do it?
Many students will say that it is because they are unable to attend a college course, perhaps because of childcare issues or shift-work patterns. Other students prefer to be able to work at their own pace, whether that is faster or slower than the pace of a college course. Distance learning provides flexibility that is not available on other courses. There is one reason that I have never heard students mention – the opportunity for personal development. I believe this goes a long way to explain why distance learning students can achieve such remarkable results. What do I mean by ‘personal development’?
Before I started working at Accountancy Learning I had been teaching AAT in a college for twenty years. My colleagues and I worked hard to support our students and our students achieved some good, or even very good, results. Then I started working at Accountancy Learning and initially felt a bit inadequate. The exam results were amazing. Who were these incredible students and who were the brilliant tutors who supported them? Did I belong here? Was I good enough to support these students?
As time went on I realised that, although the exam results were generally fantastic, this didn’t give the whole picture. Quite a few students didn’t get to the point of taking their exams or completing their course. For some, the very factors that led them to choose distance learning in the first place meant that they just had too many obstacles to overcome. Despite their hopes and best intentions, they could not complete their course. But nevertheless, a lot of students did succeed and achieved amazing results. Why? What are the factors that allowed these students to succeed and to succeed so well?
Surprised as you might be to read this, the reason for these results is not because Accountancy Learning only enrols geniuses! In my view success comes from the ability of distance learning students to acquire and make effective use of a range of personal skills, the ones that employers refer to as soft skills. Let’s have a look at them.
Distance learning students are engaged in problem-solving all the time. Problem 1. how do I study when I can’t get to a college course? Problem 2. how do I fit my studying round my job and family responsibilities? Problem 3. when can I find time to do my next exam? Problem 4. Problem 5. etc. etc. We all lead such busy lives and there is a continual struggle to fit everything in. Distance learning students have to find solutions for all these problems if they are to succeed on their course.
Time management and scheduling
One of the tasks in the Foundation Synoptic exam is usually to complete a work schedule for the week. This is something that distance learning students do every week and their schedules are often a lot more complicated than the one in the exam! If you decided to enrol with Accountancy Learning, you will also have access to AGAR’s time management course for FREE! This also looks great on your CV.
It can be difficult and even painful at times, but distance learning students have to give priority to their studies if they are to succeed. Recognising that an exam is looming and time is needed for study rather than work or family, is something that all distance learning students have to grapple with on a regular basis. Keep an eye on our Facebook page at the beginning of every month because we create an editable calendar that you can use to add in your study sessions and prepare for the all-important exam!
Even if you have signed up for tutor support, as a distance learning student you have to be able to get on with your studies, without anyone telling you what to do or when to do it. Tutors can certainly be asked for advice but really it is all down to you.
When you attend a college course there are other students and tutors around to ask questions if you need help. This may not be good for you, as someone else has done your thinking for you. As a distance learning student, you are on your own most of the time. You can ask your tutor for help but if you are studying at 5am before you go to work, you will not find many tutors around to help you! You have to work things out for yourself. Although this can be really challenging, it means that you gain a much better understanding of the material you are learning and if you understand it thoroughly, you will be able to remember it better. This goes a long way to explain those excellent exam results.
Resilience and Persistence
Things can get in the way of your studies. You fail an exam, you or a family member is ill, your job is re-structured and you are desperately trying to stay on top of things. Some students will not be able to continue with their studies, others will try to keep going but will do less and less and their studies will just fizzle out. But there are a few students who face a lot of problems but are ABSOLUTELY DETERMINED TO PASS THE COURSE and nothing is going to stop them. It may take a long time, they may have to re-sit several exams but they keep going. Of all the personal skills mentioned here, this resilience to get over all the obstacles and the persistence to keep going regardless are the ones that are the student’s best friends.
Now let’s pause for a moment and think. Did you realise that you had all these skills? How many of them are already included on your CV? All of them? Any of them? We are generally not very good at recognising our strengths and tend to sell ourselves short. Sometimes we think that we can only mention the skills we have gained in the workplace. But passing exams as a distance learning student is a really notable achievement so don’t be afraid to tell people what you have done and the skills you used to get there. With a bit of thought, you will be able to come up with lots of examples that you can highlight on your CV.
You may have been wondering about the title of this blog. The distance learning secret weapon? Of course, the answer is ….YOU!
By Pat Leahy