Up close and personal with a distance learner

June 2016


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EVELYN LEWIS says distance learning allows her greater connectivity with peers and tutors compared with being one of many in a lecture room. 

Q: Education Review: What are you studying and what stage are you at in your qualification?

A: Evelyn Lewis: I have just completed my MEd in E-Learning through Massey University. I am looking forward to commencing doctoral studies later this year.


Q: Why did you opt for distance learning?

A: Having teenage children and a family home a long way from any tertiary education provider drew me towards distance learning. The courses and the papers being offered by Massey University were particularly interesting to me. The more I looked into distance learning, the more I was drawn to the flexibility it could offer me – while still being able to manage family life.


Q: How does it compare with other ‘face-to-face’ educational experiences?

A: My face-to-face learning experiences are from some time ago now. Notwithstanding this I feel that my distance learning gave me far greater connectivity with both peers and tutors. Through the online environment that Massey uses to provide access to its courses, I was able to develop working relationships with peers. It was really easy to seek advice and guidance from tutors, who were only ever an email away. Comparing this to back in the days when I was one of many in a lecture room, when there was little chance to ask a question, has made my distance learning a far superior experience.


Q: What are the main advantages of distance learning?

A: For me the key is the flexibility it provides. I was able to plan my study schedule within the parameters provided by my courses. I could study early in the morning or late into the evening – really whenever it worked for me. I could access learning anywhere there was internet access – so even if I wasn’t at home for a few days I could carry on with my studies.

Not having to spend time travelling to access study, meant I could devote more time to the actual learning.


Q: And what are the more challenging aspects?

A: Although you can tell I am pretty much sold on the whole experience, I have to be honest and say that it can be a lonely experience – if you don’t connect with other learners. Motivation can be hard to maintain, but by keeping connected with peer learners and tutors it can be overcome.

Q: What advice would you give others considering studying via distance learning?

A: Choose your courses carefully – pick subjects and papers that really interest you as it will be much easier to keep your enthusiasm going as the semester(s) progress.

Work at building those relationships with peers and tutors. If there are on-campus meetings attend – so that you can meet face to face. Make use of all the support mechanisms available via your institution, from teaching staff to the library and student support staff.

Be kind to yourself. When you choose courses take the advice on how much time you are expected to study seriously – tutors will have planned your learning to use the specified time.

Plan your schedule and be realistic about how you need to work to achieve it to meet deadlines without giving yourself undue stress.

Devote quality time to study and make sure you schedule some rest and relaxation to recharge your batteries.

Last – but not least – go for it! Meet new people, open your mind to new ideas, and most of all pursue your dream.


New eCampus paves the way for online education 

Online learning will take on a new dimension for students of a group of tertiary institutes in New Zealand with the launch of an innovative new online learning platform.

Ara Institute of Canterbury, Otago Polytechnic, Universal College of Learning Palmerston North, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and Eastern Institute of Technology have collaborated to offer online education across the country via a new online learning platform, TANZ eCampus.

Kay Giles, chief executive of Ara, says offering programmes through online learning creates new opportunities for potential students who can now study at the time, place and pace of their choice.

“The services provided by the TANZ eCampus will ensure that students receive a comparable level of support to if they were studying face-to-face at a physical campus, with the eCampus therefore not just improving access but also increasing the likelihood of successful completion for remote learners.”

 A qualification from one of the participating institutes undertaken through TANZ eCampus is industry recognised and accepted by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) and students may attend the graduation ceremony of any of the partner institutes.

Initially, students will be able to access more than 40 courses through the TANZ eCampus service, including a significant number of business-related courses and qualifications.

Pamela Simpson, Executive Director of TANZ eCampus says that study through TANZ eCampus will be of particular interest to workplace learners looking to extend their job prospects or gain a new business-related skill, for example in project management.

“We will be using innovative student analysis to keep a finger on the pulse of student needs – adapting with students so that the learning platform performs at its best. In addition, students will be well supported by real people. They will each have a personal advisor who will follow them through their learning journey, as well as access to experienced course facilitators who are dedicated to helping them achieve their study goals,” Simpson says.

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