A Guest Post by Diana Nadin
- Before you do anything, you should ask yourself whether you’re the kind of person who can self-motivate. Distance learning can be lonely and there is a temptation to enrol and then put off sending in your first assignment. But, let’s be honest, if you can’t self-motivate then you’re never going to make it as a writer.
- Next, do your searches and check review sites. You’re going to be sending a reasonable chunk of your hard-earned cash to the college, so you need to be sure that it’s reputable and not operating a scam.
- Make sure you get a trial period. This is important because even when you’ve seen full details online or in a prospectus the depth or complexity of the material might not be what you expect. If you’re a complete novice you want something basic – if you’ve already had a measure of success you want something more detailed. A reputable college will have a ‘cooling off’ period and will refund your fees if you do not want to proceed and return the material within the stated period.
- Ensure there is enough tutor feedback. This is a vital element of any distance learning course for writers. How can you hope to improve if you don’t get constructive criticism and help from experts? And the best thing about it is that you’re working privately on a one-to-one basis with your tutor. You’re not in a class with other students having to read your work in front of them. And if you’ve got a question that you think might sound silly or inexperienced, you can ask your tutor without anyone else knowing.
- Check that the tutors are qualified and are writing NOW. You don’t want people who used to write but have been retired for years. You need tutors who are familiar with current markets and current practice in the publishing industry.
- You need to be able to study and submit your assignments in the way that suits you best. So, if you like working online – check that’s what you’ll be doing. If you prefer printed booklets or submitting assignments by post then go for a college that offers that. Also, look at the timescale. You’re writing – not doing a sprint – and family/work issues can arise unexpectedly. So, make sure the course allows enough time for you to enjoy it without feeling rushed or under pressure.
- Finally, if you’re to get the best value from a course, you must be prepared to listen to advice. I don’t say you’ve got to take it – because at the end of the day, writing is a very subjective thing. But you’ve got to be receptive, willing to weigh the pros and cons, and then you can make an informed decision.
I mentioned at the beginning that studying by distance learning can be a bit lonely. So it helps if the college has a thriving student community where you can chat to others, share opinions – and hopefully successes. Also essential is a Student Services team who can be contacted quickly if you need help with admin or have a problem with your tutor – and yes, even the best college can team you up with a tutor that’s not right for you. If the college cares, they’ll be quick to find you a different tutor with whom you can build up a better rapport if you are not happy with the way your studies are going
About the Author
Diana Nadin has been Director of Studies at the Writers Bureau (www.writersbureau.com) since it was launched over 20 years ago. She ensures that the courses are kept up-to-date; tutors provide helpful feedback to students and any questions you might ask are answered promptly and fully. You can read her weekly blog at www.writersbureau.com/blog