If you are not sure whether external study is suitable for you, the following points might help you decide.
Work full-time: Most lectures and tutorials on campus take place Monday to Friday during normal office hours. If you work a full-time Monday to Friday job, it can be difficult to attend. When you are studying externally, you are not required to visit the campus during office hours, allowing greater flexibility for deciding when you want to study.
Have young children or caring responsibilities: If you are a new parent or a parent with young children, it can be difficult getting away during the week and childcare can be expensive. If you are caring for a family member or friend it can also be challenging. External study allows you to study from home and set your own pace.
Live a long distance from campus: If you are based in a regional or remote location, or live in a community without a nearby uni campus, external study can be the best mode of study.
Have a disability, mobility, mental health or medical condition: For students who may have health conditions impacting their studies, the option to study externally may be helpful. You will still be eligible for access to Access and Inclusion Services.
Learn best through face-to-face teaching: Some people thrive best when interacting with others, and can find external study lonely. There are plenty of strategies for making contact with other external students and making the most of external study. See External study: Staying motivated for more information. However, you should think carefully about what mode of study will work best for you.
Are not comfortable using computers: Whether you are an internal or external student, you will be dependent on regular computer access, but even more so for external study, as the internet will be your main way of accessing information. If you wish to study externally but are uncomfortable using computers, we suggest doing a computer course offered by your local community library or adult learning institution (e.g. WEA) before you start.
Do not have the time: While external study gives you greater flexibility in deciding on your study hours and studying from home, it will not work if you do not have the time in your weekly schedule to study. Look at your list of weekly commitments - work, family, recreation - and then consider the time you have left over. A standard university course/subject requires 8-10 hours of your time per week to listen to the course lecture, complete set weekly readings, read messages and email, and work on major assignments and/or smaller activities. If you can accommodate one or more courses (you can study a minimum of one and maximum of four courses per study period), then external study would be feasible. If not, you might need to reconsider your options.
It is really important to manage your time and set aside blocks of time to get immersed in your study with no other interruptions. You may need to switch the phone off and other internet distractions such as Facebook and Twitter, to allow for full focus. External student discussion boards are useful for posting questions and answers about your learning. Carefully collect your information remembering the detail required for referencing. Allocate plenty of time for editing and accurate referencing. Build a relationship with your Course Coordinator and seek help when required.
Joanne, Graduate Diploma in Library and Information Management student
My tips for external students:
Make up a weekly schedule and schedule time for your study. Work out when you study best (morning/night) and plan around that time.
Ensure you allow downtime with family and friends. Keep some perspective.
Tap into your support networks, online forums, tutors - they are all there to help you!
Don't over think it! Follow the Study Guide and the lessons and you will be on your way before you know it.
Chris, Foundation Studies student