Lynn Bright, of College-on-the-Net, explains how distance learning works.

The great advantage of online distance learning is its flexibility. Students of any age can start at any time, from anywhere and are not tied to academic terms. With so many local courses closing, online learning offers the opportunity to study archaeology to those who would otherwise have no access to it.

Students sign up using an online enrolment form. They may pay by cheque or credit card, in full or in three equal instalments over 6 months. Advice and guidance is free. Each student has a Personal Tutor and a Personal Study Page accessed by a unique password. This contains the individual lesson links and a Record of Assessment table so that students can keep track of their progress.

The Welcome Pack contains a wealth of information about the official specification, exam centres and local and national societies. They are encouraged to subscribe to e.g. Current Archaeology, Current World Archaeology and the Council for British Archaeology. I also encourage them to join a training dig. I do not use a set text book but a recommended reading list is provided. This is followed by Study and Internet Research Skills advice as it is important to be able to evaluate the material on the internet. The hyperlinked lessons provide easy access to other appropriate internet sites containing useful images and further information. Each lesson has a computer-graded Self Assessment and a Tutor-Marked Assignment, which are optional but recommended.

At the end of a module students are asked to complete a past paper (supplied by post) to the best of their ability but not under exam conditions – they are allowed to use books. A little later they have the opportunity of completing a second paper as a mock paper under exam conditions using all the feedback and tutor tips provided earlier. This ensures that they are well prepared for the exam should they wish to take it. I have now added a Student Common Room (Forum) so that online students can talk to each other. Unfortunately most exams can now only be taken in the UK but that hasn’t deterred students from Australia, Europe, the Far East and the US signing up for an archaeology course as study opportunities like this are rare. Some students have actually met either by chance on digs, on a visit that I have arranged or a British Museum A-Level Study Day. Studying is addictive and many students sign up for another course as soon as they have completed the first one. Although I started with courses in Archaeology, I now also offer some other exciting options for those with a passion for the past – Classical Civilisation, History, Local History, Egyptology and even Forensics! The most rewarding time for me is when the exam results are published.

Online students do incredibly well and sometimes even query what 100% means! Several mature online students have fulfilled their wildest dreams and gained a place at university to study archaeology – something they say would never have been possible without a distance learning course. News such as that is priceless. Lynn Bright MA, College-on-the-Net 81 Warwick Road, Sutton, Surrey SM1 4BL Tel: 020 8642 1063 Email: lynn@college-on-the-net.co.uk, Website: www.college-on-the-net.co.uk

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