Home study doesn’t mean the same thing for everybody. While for some it might conjure romantic images of reading Dickens by a roaring fire, others could be envisioning hours of effort that ends with a home-printed, essentially useless certificate. Both of these imaginings are perfectly possible because there is a huge variety of home learning courses out there to choose from. They range from the highly prestigious to the highly enjoyable to the pretty rubbish, so you must do your homework before you enrol on a home study course. This article will aim to give you a little bit of guidance if you are completely new to home study.
The History of Home Study
Until a change in the law in 1876, receiving an education was not compulsory in England and Wales. Schools were around but most of these were heavily religious. The majority of poor children needed to go to work in order to help the family income. Meanwhile, most wealthier children were educated through home study with a private tutor or governess.
Go back far enough and book-learning disappears altogether. It is unlikely that Ancient Celtic children paid much heed to the languorous thoughts of Greek philosophers. After all, you can’t feed a family on Plato’s Dialogues or defend yourself from a bear by reading to it. Instead, for most of history children and adults learned the practical skills that they needed in everyday life.
This is essentially a driving force behind home study today. While many home study students are simply interested in academia, many more study with a specific purpose. From home learning practical skills like cooking or domestic electrics, to earning a full degree that will allow entry into their chosen profession. Home study is a convenient and efficient way to gain the knowledge and skills you need.
Methods of Home Study
Over the years, home study courses have been delivered through post, radio and cassette tape, to name a few.
The most common method of home study nowadays in online study. Online courses allow for fast and effective learning using our computers or smartphones. There are still correspondence courses (home study courses delivered by post) dotted about, but these are few and far between. Most online universities or colleges will email you or give you access to a series of documents, presentations and videos.
Live online is a more modern twist on online home study that fixes the problem of lack of interaction with teachers and other students. Rather than listening to a recording of a lecture, live online courses conduct lectures in a webinar meeting style, specifically for online learners. This allows home study students to ask questions and discuss topics as they would in a normal university seminar.
Choosing your Topic
One of the most attractive things about home study is the choice. Unlike school, nobody forces you to study subjects that you’re not remotely interested in or passionately despise (naming no names Drama). Also, unlike university, you don’t need to live up to strict entry requirements or take location into consideration. This means that you could well have access to subjects that would otherwise be off-limits.
Home study is the house of second chances. You may regret the decisions you made at school and still hold a burning ambition to realise your talents or change careers. There might have been circumstances beyond your control that prevented you from gaining the qualifications you wanted. As long as you’ve got a real interest in your subject and the drive to put the work in, you can make a success of whatever you choose, even if it is Drama.
Here are a few key areas that might interest you:
- Maths and Science
- Construction and Engineering
- Humanities and the Arts
- Nature and Animal Care
- Money and Business
- IT and Technology
- Politics and Law
- Education and Childcare
- Hair and Beauty
- Health and Social Care
- Sewing, Dressmaking and Crafts
- Life Skills
Choosing your Course
If you’re interested in boosting your brain through home study but don’t know where to start then think about the following questions:
Are you hoping to gain a qualification or simply improve your knowledge?
There is a home study course for almost anything you could possibly want to learn (as long as it’s legal). The main thing to consider then is the purpose of your learning. Do you want to learn to cook in order to win first prize with your sponge cake at the village fayre or are you hoping to become a professional chef? Are you hoping to enter your chosen career path or to back up your extensive professional experience with a qualification?
How much do you already know about the subject?
Now that you’ve got some idea about what you want to do and why, it’s time to be practical about your level of entry. Even if you aspire to a Bachelor’s Degree in French, you can’t dive straight into it if your French is limited to “oú est la gare?”. Without traditional institutions’ stricter entry requirements, it’s up to you to decide what level you feel you will be able to study at. Bear in mind you want to push yourself and learn new skills, but you also want to complete the course. There is an abundance of different levels of home study available. Here are some recommendations of which home study courses to choose, according to your ability.
Beginner: Beginner courses, CPD courses, Access courses and GCSEs.
Intermediate: Certificates, Diplomas, NVQs (Levels 1-5), HNCs, A-Levels and BTECs.
Advanced: HNDs, Bachelor’s Degrees, Master’s Degrees, Advanced Diplomas, NVQ Level 6 or 7.
Where will you home study?
‘At home’ is the obvious answer here but there’s more to it than that. Doing a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture from home is going to need a lot more space than a CPD course. A long course may need plenty of space for ring binders full of notes. Desk space is always beneficial, particularly if you’re doing something like dressmaking or art. If you have children running around, keeping your work on the kitchen table might be a recipe for disaster.
Setting up a home study corner or room that is appropriate for the course you’re doing is a really good idea. It will give you the physical space and peace and quiet that you need to concentrate. If this isn’t possible, is there somewhere else you could quietly go to do your work every week? Libraries and book shops are bursting with reading material and provide a quiet environment. Cafes are a favourite and pubs are actually a hidden gem for study. They are usually extremely quiet during the day as well as providing cosy alcoves and firesides to study by.
How much money are you willing to spend?
As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean to say that the most expensive home study course you can find is the best. But, education is an investment and you should be prepared to cough up for worthwhile courses. While online courses are generally cheaper than face-to-face courses, a degree could still set you back a few thousand pounds a year.
That being said, if you’re not fussed about getting a qualification, many UK universities now offer free home study courses. What’s more, the majority of these are self-paced and online. As such, you can learn a bit about a topic that interests you from top academics. A key benefit of free university home study courses is that they usually include up-to-date findings that might not be featured in books or documentaries on the subject.
Who will award your qualification?
It’s really important to check which awarding body your home study qualification will be awarded by. This is not the same as where you study. For example, a GCSE should be awarded by AQA, OCR, or Edexcel, not a school or college. A degree should always be awarded by a university. Any course provider should be able to tell you who your qualification is awarded by and if you think they might be fibbing, it’s within your rights to request a copy of their Recognised Course Provider certificate.
Who will be teaching you?
Good home study courses are designed and delivered by academics or professionals with expert knowledge and experience in the subject they’re teaching. Sometimes the website will advertise your teacher but if not it’s worth asking. Given GDPR laws, course providers cannot necessarily give you the name of your teacher before you enrol but you should be able to find out a bit about their credentials.
The Value of Home Study Qualifications
Will anyone care about your home study qualification? The short answer is yes. Any employer that hasn’t been living under a rock since the turn of the millennium is aware that the academic standards required of home study courses are almost always identical to those studied at college or university. It’s the same curriculum with the same course objectives, just a different method of delivery. Add to that the motivation, dedication, time-management and sheer hard work that goes into managing home study and work, and potential employers will be very impressed indeed.
Obviously this like-for-like trope applies to bad courses too. A home study course in Ping-Pong Management will open no more career opportunities than a traditional one would.
As long as you’ve been savvy about your subject, course provider and awarding body, your online qualification will be as credible as any other.