Blog: February 2017

Friday, 24 February 2017

Our top 10 reasons to love distance learning

Love is in the air at NEC. Valentine's day inspired a chat in the office about all the things we love about online and distance learning courses. Here are our top ten reasons to love online and distance learning:

1. Enrol at any time.

Motivation comes and goes, so if you have a flash of inspiration in February to get that GCSE Maths that eluded you at school, you don’t want to wait until September to enrol. You can enrol whenever you like on an online, distance learning course.

2. Study whenever you want.

Set classes don’t always fit in with your schedule. If you’re a shift worker for example, you might not have a regular free evening each week. So why not study whenever you like, whether that is 3am or 3pm, you can set your own timetable.

3. Study wherever you want.

Whether it’s at home, at work or while you’re travelling you can study anywhere you like. This makes distance learning accessible to people who otherwise might not be able to study, perhaps a naval officer serving on a submarine or an offender serving a custodial sentence.

4. Choice.

There’s a wide range of courses available online. At NEC alone you can study anything from Art History to Physics. If you’re not looking for qualifications or support, but want to learn more about something that interests you, you might be able to find a free course online.

5. Gain new skills.

If you’re planning on going onto university, independent study skills will be essential. Distance and online learning helps you to develop these in a supported and structured way, so you’ll finish your course with a new set of skills as well as the course!

6. A more diverse peer group.

If you have the opportunity to interact with students on the same course as you, this can be a rich and rewarding experience. Imagine a group made up of people from around the world, all with different experiences. Forums are an excellent feature of NEC courses.

7. Take it at your own pace.

You may need to take the course quickly, or life might get in the way, meaning that you’ll need to take break from your studies. The flexibility of distance learning means that you’re in control of the pace of study.

8. You get a second chance.

If you didn’t get the grades you wanted the first time round, online and distance learning gives you another chance. Perhaps maths GCSE didn’t seem important at age 16, but now you’re thinking of retraining as a teacher, it’s essential.

9. Study at any age.

There is no set age to study. At NEC we have students aged from 9 to 86. From law to Spanish, you’re never too old to learn something new!

10. Build your confidence.

If you’ve been out of study for a while and feel daunted by jumping back in. An online or distance learning course can help you get you gain confidence in your abilities.

What do you love about distance learning, has it changed your life? Let us know on social media or comment below.
 

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Thursday, 23 February 2017

The importance of GCSE Maths

In our blog this week, NEC Maths tutor Sally talks about the importance of GCSE Maths and introduces our new online GCSE Maths course.

Following the recent changes to GCSE specifications, we’ve been working hard on getting our brand new GCSE Maths course ready. We’re really pleased with it and can’t wait to tell you all about it!

But first I’ll answer the question that, as a maths teacher, I’m often asked: ‘Why is maths GCSE so important?’

Maths is something we use every day – often without even realising it. When you work out how much something would cost with the discount voucher you have, add up how much your weekly shop comes to, or figure out how much paint you need to decorate your living room. It’s all maths.

You’ll often find that you need it if you decide to go on to higher education. If you want to change career and get into teaching, nursing and many other things, maths will be on the list of essential qualifications that the admissions team will want to see. This is to gauge your suitability for higher study and in many cases, because maths will factor into the course in some way.

GCSE Maths is also something you’ll often see on job adverts as a requirement. This is one way employers assess whether you’re suitable for the position.

Maths can make a big difference between right and wrong. In a recent case, that was widely publicised, an error in maths had near-fatal consequences. Students at the University of Northumbria were part of an experiment to measure the effect of caffeine on exercise. A calculation error saw two students accidentally given a dose of caffeine equivalent to 300 cups of coffee. Both were admitted to intensive care and eventually given dialysis.

In the case above, a simply misplaced decimal point was responsible for this tragic accident. Both students went on to make a full recovery, but this case really does highlight how maths can and does have a huge impact on us.

A new course for 2017

I love maths. I love the elegant way everything fits together. I love the clever tricks that turn a complicated problem into something that is recognisable and (relatively!) easy to solve. I love the way equations can model sometimes very complicated real life situations. My aim is to pass the passion I have for my subject on to others. I want to support students to achieve their potential through flexible and supportive tuition – appreciating that each learner has different commitments, motivations and ways of learning.

NEC’s new GCSE Maths is an excellent way to learn maths. As well as being the lead tutor, I have been involved in the development of the new online course. The self-contained course guides you through the specification, helping you to understand mathematical concepts by using videos, examples, detailed explanations and most importantly, plenty of opportunity to practice.

You’ll have an expert tutor, like me, to help you by interacting with you in the forums, marking and giving you comprehensive feedback on assignments and answering your questions. You’ll also have the support of your NEC course co-ordinator who will help you through any technical issues and processes such as booking your exams.

Another great feature of the new GCSE Maths is the flexibility between the foundation and the higher levels. Everyone will start off with the topics needed to cover the foundation specification. If they find they do well, they can opt to carry on and do the additional topics required for the higher specification.

I know that not everyone feels the same way as me about maths. For many, the concept of mathematics can seem daunting. If you – like many people – are daunted by maths, please don’t despair. Many adults find the childhood maths they struggled so hard with makes more sense in their adult lives. As adults we solve millions of little problems each day and maths is often really just about developing logical thinking skills, solving problems and looking for patterns and relationships – something that often comes naturally.

Read more about the new Maths GCSE from NEC, or get in touch with the Course Advice team on 0800 389 2839 or email them at info@nec.ac.uk

About the Author

Dr Sally Everitt is an NEC tutor for A level and IGCSE maths. After achieving a BSc from Leeds University she went on to do a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education). Sally taught in schools for several years and became deputy head of the maths department. When she and her husband decided to relocate to Yorkshire she studied for a PhD. Sally taught undergraduates during and after this time, teaching foundation and undergraduate courses. She is also an A level examiner.
 

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Friday, 17 February 2017

The importance of time management in exams

This week’s blog is written by NEC team member Carly, who recently sat a GCSE exam and learned a valuable lesson.

Our NEC tutors tell us often that managing your time is the key to success when studying an online, distance learning course. You’re responsible for your own timetable, so giving yourself enough time to fit your study in around other commitments is essential. Because you can start at any time, you also need to think about the bigger picture: is there enough time to complete the course between now and when you plan to sit the exam? If you need to spend 10 hours a week studying, do you have that time available? Have you factored in time off when you go on holiday?

Managing your time is an essential life skill that learning at a distance can help you to develop and it really comes into its own when you have an exam. I learned first hand recently that time management can make or break your exam success.

I decided, after many years, that I would retake English GCSE which I didn’t get a great mark in the first time round. I’ve been embarrassed by this for years and finally took the plunge after seeing so many NEC students do it. Like Victoria, who re-took GCSE Maths and told us after she successfully completed the course, ‘At last, I have put to rest the distress that had been with me for so many years of my failure to pass O level maths.’

Going into the exam room I was confident, I knew my subject matter like the back of my hand and there was no reason that I shouldn’t get a good grade this time round. No reason, that is, until I failed to manage my time properly during the exam.

Two hours seems like a long time when when the invigilator says ‘you can start now’, but it flies by. Particularly when you know the subject and have a lot to say. I made the mistake of getting distracted by the first question, it was a really nice piece of writing and I found a lot to comment on, but before I knew it most of my time had elapsed. I’m confident that I did really well on that question, but the remaining three were left with very little of my time.

My advice is to really take notice of the time that the question paper says to allow for each question, even note down the time that you should have finished next to the question. Don’t fall into the same trap: if you have until 11am to finish Question One, keep an eye on the clock and be realistic about what you can achieve in that time. You may have a lot to say, but will it gain you extra marks?

There are several practice papers available, use them and make sure you stick to the time limits, giving yourself an extra five minutes is not helpful in the long-run. Practicing for exam day will give you a good sense of what to expect and what is possible in the time allowed.

I managed my time much better in the second paper, finishing on time and giving each question a fair chance. I could have written much more for each of the questions, but I concentrated on the main points and did not let myself get distracted. I finished with just enough time to read through my answers and correct a rogue spelling mistake.

Whether better time management in the second paper will be enough for me to get a decent mark overall remains to be seen, but I did learn two valuable lessons which I hope will help you.  Firstly, you can be an expert on a subject and still fail the exam, practice makes perfect and the exam paper even suggests how long you should spend on a question. The second lesson I learned was listen to your tutor. After all, they are experts who are on your side and really want to see you succeed.

If you want to study for a GCSE with NEC, remember you can enrol before the end of February for a 10% discount off your course fees for any GCSE subject. Visit our Special Offers page for full details.

You can also find out how we can help you take your exams, including guaranteeing an exam place at one of our partner centres and entering you for non-exam assessment (NEA), by reading our Exam Information page.
 

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