Deciding to take the plunge and return to education can be difficult. In a time of economic hardship, where any job – no matter how unfulfilling – is seen as a blessing, how are you meant to risk everything for your education? Especially for those of us with families or other dependents to support, the idea of losing income is enough to make us put our own education plans on hold for the good of our household. But there are ways to get round concerns about losing income, or studying and working at the same time. While a full-time university degree might not necessarily be the most financially viable option, there are other ways to develop your education. One of these ways is by learning at home. Choosing to study from home can be a rewarding experience, and one that enables you to continue with your job as well as improving your education. In many cases, taking part in home learning and choosing from a wide range of courses, whether vocational or otherwise, can increase career and employment prospects quite dramatically. From evening and part time courses, to a bachelor’s degree or other higher education qualification, home learning can adapt to your needs and ensure that no one has to miss out. However, there are some key things to remember before embarking on a home learning course. Many people begin part time or home-led education without fully realizing the impact it can have on their free time and home life. As most home learning courses require you to work independently, unlike a university degree or many other education courses, it’s essential that you understand how much time home learning can take up, and the personal motivation you need to succeed. Adjusting from work to education or vice versa can be quite tricky, and balancing the two can be very tricky indeed. However, there are some simple ways to ensure you are making the most of the opportunities home learning provides. One of the best ways to make the most of a home learning course is to plan in the time where you work on the course very strictly. Creating a workable timetable for yourself, that fits in around your regular employment, other hobbies and family commitments will mean that you’re more likely to stick with your home learning course and make the most of it. Similarly, if you feel your motivation levels are a little low, ensure you invest in a home learning course that has some elements of group tutoring or access to student forums. Talking to fellow students in a similar position as yourself will help you to motivate yourself to do well, as well as ensuring you don’t go stir crazy! Photo Credit: Shutterstock

With the increase in university tuition fees and simultaneously the rise in the number of unemployed individuals, taking time out of work to go back to study either at college or university full-time is becoming less of a viable option for most people. The opportunity of being able to be a full-time student for three or four years, without the security of full-, or even part-time, employment isn’t open to most people – but what if you are still interested in continuing your education? Previously, the doorways to education were limited: if you wanted to undertake courses in ICT, management, business or other "vocational" subjects, you would’ve had to attend college or university on a regular basis. However, since the development of distance learning organizations, the opportunity to expand your educational horizons while still holding down a full-time job has become available for many people. If you have been considered returning to education – or even just "topping up" the skills you have – alongside looking at local evening and part-time courses, you should consider distance learning. It is essential if you undertake any of the many distance learning courses available you understand the requirements needed to make the learning opportunity a success. Unlike traditional forms of education or learning institutions, online education requires you to have a great deal of personal motivation and discipline. Coming back after a long day at work, when you’re tired and peckish, the last thing you might want to do is study. It’s important, with distance learning, to be able to manage your course workload effectively around the rest of your life – including work, hobbies and social activities. However, these personality traits will only benefit you in the future. Being able to manage your time effectively, developing a strong sense of personal motivation, and using your own initiative to complete tasks are all strongly desirable traits for a potential employee, and you will develop all of them during your time undertaking distance learning. Many people believe a negative aspect of online learning is the solitary nature of the educational experience: however, with many contemporary distance learning organizations and courses, provision is made for group tutorials and other peer-to-peer interaction using online resources. Social media, online forums, and even relatively new developments like Google Hangouts can be used by students and lecturers to inform and expand the distance learning experience, and alleviate some of the solitude that can come with distance learning courses. The use of online resources is another key aspect to distance learning. With the increased availability of online communication, researching and learning about particular courses from distance learning providers is even easier. Online resources also play a key role in the substance of the course, with many distance learning courses being driven and directed by the use of websites, social media and even video content. Therefore, ensuring your online capabilities are up to scratch is another key element in making the most of distance learning courses. However, completing a preliminary IT skills course could also be an excellent way to get into distance learning and establish a firm foundation for any following educational courses you undertake. Online education image from Shutterstock
If you’re in a position at your existing job where a potential promotion will bring you into the ranks of management, then you may feel you’d like extra training. Some of the best management training can be learnt on the job – after all, there’s nothing like a baptism by fire! However, undertaking an official course in management can be very beneficial, especially if you feel there are particular areas that you need to improve upon. In-depth and professional management courses can also be a great help to those managers who feel they need to brush up on existing skills, as they cover a variety of skills including project management and planning, business planning, and handling operations management. But even if you want to undertake a management course, the question centres on how to do this without letting your existing employment fall by the wayside. For busy individuals, working out how to fit in home, work and education can be incredibly difficult. One of the most successful ways to further your education while working in full-time employment can be to undertake a distance learning course or courses. Distance learning does what it says on the tin, meaning you can study from the comfort of your own home, save time commuting, and still benefit from the range of management courses that are on offer. A key aspect of distance learning is the use of online resources. A variety of interesting and useful online resources is available for those taking part in distance learning, and using social media – including student forums – is integral to this. As well as improving your skills in this area, it means that, unlike other forms of home learning, this type of distance learning still has a sociable, shared element to it: discussing issues with your fellow students can be some of the most fruitful ways of finding new paths through your education. To make the most of distance learning, it’s essential you understand what will be required of you – and not just coursework! Being a motivated and driven individual is essential for succeeding with distance learning, as you’re responsible for your own education. Excellent timekeeping is also very important, as working out the balance between all the different facets of your work, life and education can be challenging. Most importantly though, you need to choose your course carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re already in management, you might be used to working independently – which is a good thing – but if you want to get back into education, it’s essential that you recognise when you need to work closely with others and ask for their advice. A benefit of using online resources and undertaking distance learning is that firing off an email asking for advice only takes five minutes – rather than waiting in a queue outside a tutor’s university office! Online and distance learning courses are readily available, with a huge range to choose from. Picking the right management course for you may take time but the benefits to your career in the long run will make it worth your while. Online education resources image from Shutterstock
Name: Kaplan Open Learning UK Website: www.kaplanopenlearning.org.uk Twitter: @KOLOnline LinkedIn: /company/kaplan-open-learning Bio: Kaplan Open Learning and the University of Essex are working together to offer online degrees to working adults in the UK. This affiliation helps to widen participation in UK higher education and enhance the aggregate skill set of the UK workforce. If you are working full or part time, our online degree courses will provide you with a flexible means of achieving a UK university qualification. Articles: The Facts About Online Education Boost Your Career By Learning at Home Using Online Resources to Boost Your Education