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Thursday, 16 June 2016

Inspired to study: A month of celebrating adult learning

Festival of Learning #lovetolearn banner

This week’s Blog is written by NEC team member Carly, who reflects on recent events during the annual Festival of Learning which have, for her, served as an affirmation of the importance of lifelong learning.

Working at the National Extension College, it’s hard not to be inspired everyday by our students. My favourite thing about NEC is meeting people from all walks of life, from a single working mother studying for a career as a midwife, to an 80-year-old learning a new language for the first time.

Whether you’re a student, a tutor, support staff or the friend or relative of someone working through a course, you may have seen a lot of celebration in the last few weeks for adult learning.

The month of May has seen the start of the Festival of Learning (formerly the Adult Learners Week). The festival is co-ordinated by the Learning and Work Institute (formerly NIACE) and brings people from across the country together to promote and celebrate adult learning and the transformative effects it can, and regularly does, have on people’s lives. The festival continues throughout June.

Have-a-go events and taster sessions have been held across the country and people have been joining in with a wide array of activities from learning to cycle to trying digital video production. Awards ceremonies have been held in celebration of the achievements of students, tutors, organisations and projects everywhere.

For all of you, like me, involved in adult education in some way our social media feeds have been dominated by amazing stories, and we have watched our Twitter streams with great interest in what other people would #lovetolearn (incidentally, for me it’s to play the ukulele!).

I have been lucky to attend a couple of great events which highlight the importance of continuing to learn as an adult and the changes it can make to your life and the lives of those around you.

16th-22nd of May was Learning At Work Week, a chance for employers to involve staff in workplace learning initiatives. Organised by the Campaign for Learning, awards are made to creative initiatives such as winners of the ‘Large organisation category promoting a learning culture’ award in 2015, Barclaycard.

Representatives of Barclaycard attended the reception event for Learning At Work Week and gave an overview of their winning initiative. Thousands of employees across the globe attended their digital learning fayre, a platform created specifically for the event but which has continued to be used ever since.

The reception evening was attended by training providers, employers, technology companies and subject societies came together for the same aim, encouraging employees to carry on learning while working.

MP Peter Kyle also attended the event, talking passionately about his own experience as a second-chance learner, encouraged to get back into learning by a former employer.

As well as the festivals and events that have been going on, summer is also the season of the graduation ceremony. I was honoured to attend the Open University East of England graduation ceremony last week held at Ely Cathedral.

Inside Ely Cathedral before the start of the Open University's East of England graduation ceremony
Above: The stage is set: inside Ely Cathedral before the start of the ceremony

The founder of both NEC and the Open University, Michael Young, saw a need for education opportunities for people who, as he said when launching NEC in 1963, ‘cannot turn up regularly for ordinary classes’. Watching the number of people receiving awards at just one of the Open University’s ceremonies this year really illustrates that this is just as true now as it was back then, perhaps even more so.

Like NEC students, every one of the thousands of graduates this year has their own story to tell. We saw serving members of the armed forces, people with caring responsibilities, full time employees, mothers, fathers, retired people, people with a physical disability all coming together to celebrate their momentous achievements.

The ceremony was almost overwhelming with emotion watching people from all backgrounds, ages and cultures come to an end of this part of their learning journey. Whether it was a Doctor of Philosophy being awarded or a Certificate in Early Education, all of the recipients had hard work and dedication in common.

The roof-raising cheers and applause from families and friends was testament to that hard work, and probably to having more time to spend with their loved one now that their course is complete!

I never completed my own degree and have always dreamed of finishing it one day. Like many of us I keep putting it off, using the excuse of not having enough time. Seeing the number of people collecting their awards and hearing some of their stories I feel inspired to get back to it, I aspire to be one of the people receiving my award on stage in front of my family and friends. If you share my dream I encourage you to do the same, I’ll meet you there!

One thing’s for certain, adult learners everywhere deserve our respect and admiration. You can read about some of NEC’s students on our website. If you feel inspired to learn something new, take a look at the courses on offer or call our helpful course advice team free on 0800 389 2839.

Carly Mason
Sales and Marketing Manager at NEC
 

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Thursday, 19 May 2016

Seven ways to kick-start your studies

Study materials, such as notebooks, on a desk

In the autumn, a million young people in the UK will be immersing themselves for the first time in the hurly-burly of undergraduate life on a university campus. At the same time, online and distance learning students will start a new term studying in the peace and quiet of their own home. Two very different experiences of studying. But new undergraduates and distance learning students have something important in common. As well as getting to grips with their chosen subject, they have to learn how to take responsibility for how and when they study.

NEC is working in partnership with UCAS, the university admissions service, on a series of study skills guides to help students successfully make the transition from school or college to higher education. The guides will also give sixth-formers an insight into what will be expected of them if they want to study for a degree. The first four guides, covering how to present an argument, time management, proofing and editing, and academic essay writing, have just gone live on the UCAS website.

NEC and UCAS believe that everyone needs to invest time in learning the skills needed for independent study if they are to become confident students and get the most out of their course. Successful independent learners don’t trust to luck but learn how to study. Here are our top seven ways to develop the habits of an independent learner.

1. Get to know how you study best

Which do you prefer: detailed instructions, or trying things out for yourself? Are you someone who needs solitude while you are studying, or do you like to work with other people around? How well do you cope with your surroundings being untidy? Understanding the best way for you to study will help you plan when and where to study so you can make the most of your time.

2. Understand what motivation is all about

Daniel Goleman, author of a number of best-selling books on emotional intelligence, identifies four elements that make up motivation. They are the personal drive to achieve; being committed to personal or organisational goals; initiative or ‘readiness to act on opportunities’; and optimism to keep going in the face of setbacks. Understanding how self-motivation works will get you started -and keep you going when things get tough.

3. Keep tabs on your time

How wide a gap is there between how you think you spend your time and how you actually spend it? If you don’t already know, try logging your time in half hours blocks for a week. The chances are you’ll be surprised by how many hours you spend doing things you don’t really consider very important. Taking a cool, hard look at how you spend your time will make it easier to decide on what you can cut out to make more time for studying.

4. Identify key verbs and key ideas

Cut to the chase when you have an essay to write by identifying the key verbs and key ideas in the title before you do anything else. Do it by choosing two highlighting pens in different colours. Use one for the verbs and one for the key ideas. Taken together, key verbs and key ideas will help you focus your approach to planning, reading and note-taking.

5. Brainstorm your ideas

Get started by organising your thoughts. Brainstorming ideas by making notes on your tablet, phone or a scrap of paper makes it easy to sort out strong ideas from weak ones and put the strong ones in a logical order. You can brainstorm whenever you have a spare five minutes - waiting in a queue, on a train or when you first wake up or just before you go to sleep.

6. Be a disciplined note-taker

It’s discouraging when you’re trying to make sense of new ideas, facts and concepts to be faced with piles of disorganised notes. Establish good note-taking habits as soon as you start your course and you’ll feel the benefit all the way through. Good habits include: only taking notes on material you might use, writing down points in your own words rather than copying them and jotting down questions for yourself as you read so you can follow them up later.

7. Draft and redraft

Stop worrying about a perfect final version of your work by writing a first draft, then a second, a third and even subsequent drafts. Forget about spelling, grammar, punctuation and paragraphing for now. Instead, concentrate on presenting your material clearly. Then, before you hand your work in and when you’re producing the final draft, spend time on the details.

Want to know more?

To find out how NEC can help you to fit more learning into your life, browse our wide range of flexible distance learning courses – from GCSEs and A levels to professional qualifications in management and childcare. You can also get in touch and speak directly to our friendly team. We can also be found on social networks including Facebook and Twitter!
 

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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Testing times

What a SATs paper looks like

In primary and secondary schools across England, pupils are being put through their paces. Last week, key stage 1 children (six and seven-year olds) embarked on a series of four national curriculum tests covering arithmetic, reasoning and SPaG (spelling, punctuation and grammar). This week, it’s the turn of the country’s year 6s (10 and 11-year olds). After seven years of compulsory education, their mastery of reading, writing and maths is under scrutiny. Some year 6 pupils will sit a science sample test too.

GCSE, IGCSE, AS and A level exams also start this month and continue well into next. Imagine doing your driving test and then doing it again and again, several times a week for more than a month. For a million of Britain’s teenagers, that’s what the next few weeks are going to be like.

With schools’ reputation and university places at stake, what is the sensible course of action for parents who want to support their sons and daughters through testing and exams? A straightforward answer is that it depends on the age of the child.

The National Literacy Trust carried out a review of research into the impact of parental involvement with their children’s education. It found unequivocal evidence that the impact on educational attainment is positive, especially in reading. In other words, children whose parents help them learn at home do better at school. A study carried out in 2011 by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in 14 countries concluded that active parental involvement with school work in the early years of a child’s education is ‘a significant trigger for developing children’s reading skills’. The benefits are long-lasting: children whose parents had actively supported them when they were in primary school were six months ahead in reading even at the age of 15.

Pink Floyd’s famous dictum to ‘leave those kids alone’ seems to be good advice for mum and dad as well as teachers. Research conducted this year by The National Citizenship Service found that young people consider parents a distraction or even a frustration when they need to get down to some serious revision. Leaving teenagers in peace, ignoring the time they spend on their phone and letting them watch hours of TV may seem counterintuitive to an older generation - but it may well be the most helpful thing for parents to do.

NEC student Angela Parfitt is supporting her children’s education by leading by example. Although she gave up A level French when she was 17, she was inspired to make up for lost time when her son opted to study French at A level, knowing his mum would be able to help him. Doing role plays with him during his mock exams, she thought: 'I could do this!'

Angela has kept up her conversational French throughout her career in conversation classes at work, first at Hewlett Packard in the US and now at the law firm in Bristol where she works in human resources. She postponed signing up for French A level herself until October last year as she didn't want to sit it the same year as her son and risk being given a higher grade than him. She studies whenever she can fit it in, including on Fridays, a day when she isn’t at work, and sitting outside her daughter's ballet class each Tuesday evening.

The very best of luck to Angela, all NEC students and the estimated 50,000 people in the UK who are sitting GCSEs , IGCSEs and A levels as private candidates this year!

To find out more about NEC, our learners and the wide range of flexible distance learning courses we offer, get in touch and speak to our team or browse the course pages at our website.
 

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Friday, 06 May 2016

An American in Tanzania strides forward in her pre-school career

Rural Tanzania

Far away from the UK, NEC has helped one woman qualify for a second career and start planning a business that will have an impact on a whole community.

American citizen Keziah Mwanyika knows just where she wants her career working with children to take her. She has her sights set on running her own pre-school and nursery in the small town in Tanzania where her husband’s parents come from, on the border with Zambia. She’s been living in Africa with her husband, a film-maker, since and works five days a week as a pre-school teacher. Home for Keziah, her husband and their two small daughters is a tiny apartment in the city of Dar es Salaam in eastern Tanzania.

Many of the foreign parents Keziah comes into contact with through the pre-school work for NGOs dealing with education and health. Recognising that her own experience in those areas was limited, she decided to do something about it and in 2013 started studying for a Diploma in Pre-school Practice with NEC, passing two years later.

A good student when she was at school and university in the States, Keziah had dreamt of becoming an artist. She left formal education qualified to work as a nursing assistant, helping care for people at home, and spending as much time in art classes as she could. Only when she arrived in Africa in 2009 did she begin working with children. She took to it immediately and started to keep her ears open for a way of getting qualified.

She chose distance learning because the classroom-based courses on offer in Tanzania last for up to four years – longer than she felt able to commit to. Once she’d investigated other options available online and in America, she chose NEC because she was impressed by the quality of its courses, value for money and established reputation. A personal recommendation from someone who had studied with NEC while they were living abroad clinched her decision.

How did Keziah’s first experience of distance learning live up to expectations? She liked the straightforwardness of the course materials, relying on her mum in the States to ship in books she couldn’t get hold of in Tanzania. ‘The curriculum is directly useful for my work – much more than I expected,’ explains Keziah. ‘Every single thing I studied I have used in my job. I’m really conscious of my practice having developed as a result.’

What she hadn’t planned on was getting pregnant. ‘I swear I felt morning sickness for the first three months every time I picked up my course! I gave birth mid-way through my studies and for the last 18 months read and wrote assignments with a tiny baby at my side,’ says Keziah. ‘Without the flexibility of distance learning and the six-month extension NEC agreed, I couldn’t have coped.’

Keziah is full of praise for the tutor support she received as part of her course. ‘If you have a tutor you click with, it makes all the difference. What I needed was someone who would answer all my questions, no matter how silly they seemed to me. That’s just what happened with both my tutors, particularly the second.’

Summing up her time as an NEC student, Keziah says: ‘Distance learning is ideal for parents of young children because you can study at your own pace and at any time you want. Many a night I spent studying when my two daughters were sleeping. If I can improve my qualifications, as an American living in Africa, and have a baby at the same time, anyone can!’

To find out more about NEC, our students, and the flexible support we offer through our distance learning courses, get in touch and see how we can help you to fit more learning into your life.
 

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Thursday, 21 April 2016

Innovation for NEC A level science students

NEC tutor Jane Blunt testing the electrochemical charge of a variety of colourful chemicals in solution under laboratory conditions

Innovation for NEC A level science students

Back in February we blogged about how you can study a Science A level by distance learning. We talked about the practical work which forms part of the course, and mentioned the new format of A levels, where a practical endorsement can be obtained in addition to your A level grade.

In this blog we explore what NEC is working on to help our learners to achieve the practical endorsement.

We have now formed a partnership with the Open Science Laboratory at the Open University giving us an innovative solution to the challenges of preparing for A level practical endorsement at a distance.

If learners want to gain a formal ‘endorsement’ of their practical skills alongside their grade from a written examination, A level sciences now require a minimum of 12 experimental activities to be undertaken and assessed as part of the course.

Our aim at NEC is to enable learners to prepare and be able to undertake assessments for these practical endorsements if they choose. The endorsements can usually be gained by demonstrating experimental knowledge under laboratory conditions according to Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC). Practical endorsement grades are likely to be required for admission to medical training in most HE institutes and also for degree level study in some disciplines.

The NEC approach to practical experiments

NEC has a long-established and successful system to help learners on a biology course undertake practical experiments using equipment and resources in their own homes. This is not possible for all chemistry and physics experiments as radioactive substances, Geiger counters and other technical equipment is unlikely to be readily available! To gain the practical endorsement however, all practicals must all be taken in a controlled and observed setting.

We are therefore planning the development of a three stranded approach for NEC learners:

  • Online videos are being recorded at the Open Science Laboratory showing how experiments can be performed safely using the latest equipment and excellent laboratory techniques. Results data for later analysis by learners will be supplied as part of the course. See the next section for more on this.
  • Real time access to ‘virtual experiments’ online from the Open Science Laboratory will be able to be conducted individually by NEC learners. These experiments will enable access to high tech equipment (such as electron microscopes) and replicate actual laboratory experience by generating a unique and growing set of results data across a range of variables.

A fruit fly seen through an electron microscope (from the Open Science Laboratory of the Open University, 2016)
Above: See a fruit fly through an electron microscope as you may not have seen it before (reproduced with kind permission from the Open Science Laboratory of the Open University, 2016)

Recording new videos

The first videos of Chemistry and Physics experiments were shot last week. These are:

Chemistry

  • Measuring Ka for a weak acid
  • Electrochemical cells


Physics

  • Charging and discharging a capacitor
  • Radiation using an X ray machine


Below are photos of the video shoot with NEC tutor Jane Blunt, Professor Nick Braithwaite from the Open Science Lab, and the video team in action:

Professor Nick Braithwaite telling us all about the dangers of x-rays and how to measure the resistance of aluminium foil
Above: Professor Nick Braithwaite telling us all about the dangers of x-rays and how to measure the resistance of aluminium foil

NEC tutor Jane Blunt testing the electrochemical charge of a variety of colourful chemicals in solution under laboratory conditions
Above: NEC tutor Jane Blunt testing the electrode potential of a variety of metals in colourful solutions under laboratory conditions

Further video shoots are planned, and in addition the NEC course team are evaluating the best videos from the Royal Society of Chemistry and other external sources for access by NEC learners.

The Open Science Laboratory

NEC is proud to have Professor Nick Braithwaite as a founder member of our newly formed Curriculum Advisory Panel, and working closely with the Open Science Laboratory we plan to continue to innovate in support of individual learners, schools and other institutions to extend online science education at GCSE and A level in the UK and overseas.

See http://www.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/open-science/

More information

For more information on the A level science courses from NEC you can browse our course pages or phone the Course Advice Team on Freephone (UK): 0800 389 2839 or Overseas/mobile: +44 (0)1223 400200.

You can also leave a comment below, or get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter.
 

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Friday, 15 April 2016

Top 10 revision tips for your exams

Two learners studying notes on a laptop between them

It’s the time of the year when students across the country are poring over books, trying to ensure they are prepared for their upcoming exams.

You might be worried about the fact that the exams are just around the corner and you haven’t done enough revision so far.

But don’t panic: it’s never too late to start revising!

These tips from our Student Support Team will ensure your revision starts out on the right foot.

  1. Get a good overview of the course content and the topics which are required for your exams. A good start is looking at your subject syllabus and working your way through the content.
     
  2. Draw up a revision timetable for the weeks before the exams.
     
  3. If you engage with your learning materials in an active way, you will find it easier to remember the content. Use different ways/senses to study:
    => Read the material out loud
    => Learning with flash cards
    => Discuss the course content with family and friends and have them quiz you
    => Use a bit of colour and imagery, drawing colourful learning maps/sheets will help you to memorise facts.
     
  4. Don’t look at your materials or notes just once. The more often you look at them, the more you will remember.
     
  5. Find a quiet and suitable study environment. Make sure to find a place where you can be uninterrupted for a few hours. The best places are your room or a library.
     
  6. Exercise… yes, you read it right, exercise! Physical activity increases your heart rate, which ensures that your brain gets more oxygen. This increases productivity whilst reducing tiredness and stress.
     
  7. Do plenty of past papers and revision guides. It is very helpful to familiarise yourself with exam questions and exam techniques.
     
  8. Make summary notes, but don’t spend a lot of time making your notes look pretty instead of learning.
     
  9. Don’t just read your notes, rewrite them from memory. This will help you memorise the information and highlight where you need to do more work.
     
  10. Reward yourself and think positive! At the end of the day, it’s not all about studying. You need to make sure to give yourself breaks in between the study time. Why not spend some time with your friends after you’ve managed to hit some of your study goals and had a very productive day.
     

Remember, if you have any questions or need any guidance while preparing for your exams, please feel free to get in touch with your tutor or the Student Support Team.

We can arrange for your tutor to mark a past paper for you for £25 for one paper, £45 for two and £60 for three. Your tutor will mark and send you feedback on your exam paper to help you focus your revision efforts.

You might also want to add a tutorial to discuss your results with your tutor. There would be a cost of £40 for this and is the ideal solution if there is a particular area you need to focus on.

If you would like to arrange either of these services, please get in touch with us on 0800 389 2839 and we will be happy to discuss.

In the meanwhile… keep your head up, relax and best of luck from everyone at NEC for your exams!
 

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Friday, 08 April 2016

Why distance learning is a great way to gain a CMI management qualification

 a distance learning course with NEC is flexible enough to fit around your work and other commitments, and will lead to an accredited qualification from the Chartered Management Institute

In a time when there is stiff competition for jobs, a qualification in management can help you to stand out from the crowd. But for many people, it’s just not practical to up and leave a perfectly good–and paid–job to spend money on studying.

That’s where distance learning comes in.

If you can keep on earning while you’re learning, you get the best of both worlds. You continue to make money to pay the mortgage and put food on the table, while improving your knowledge and skill set to help you to get that promotion or change careers.

At NEC we offer management qualifications accredited by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). CMI are the UK’s only chartered management membership organisation. We chose to work with CMI to offer these qualifications because of the progressive range of qualifications that they offer, in addition to the excellent reputation and membership benefits.

The CMI website gives some reasons they think a management qualification is worthwhile based on some recent research. For example:

  • 78% of employers agreed that qualifications provide quality assurance for customers and that the benefits outweighed the time, money and effort invested in obtaining them.
  • More than 80% of managers say that taking a management qualification has resulted in increased professional recognition, with most stating that employers prefer qualified managers when recruiting.


One of the benefits of studying a CMI management course by distance learning with NEC is the tutor support. Your personal tutor will be an experienced subject expert and will not only mark your CMI assignments, but will mark and give you comprehensive feedback on practice assignments too. These are designed to give you the best possible chance of success. They are also there if you need guidance while you work your way through the course.

We asked NEC tutor Kevin this question: Is distance learning the way to go for management qualifications?

This is what he said: ‘For many students the answer is ‘yes’. It is not hard to see the appeal of an online professional qualification, cheaper fees, and the opportunity to juggle studies with work and for some the company will sponsor a managerial qualification. The online CMI course also attracts offender learners who want to develop their skills and knowledge in preparation for future careers. Off-campus is their only option.

‘Studying remotely can help you stay in education, satisfy your need for personal development and broaden your opportunities.

‘For many students CMI courses play a key part in becoming a professional manager, developing new skills and knowledge to help their teams and organisations improve their performance. Employers are actively looking for recognised qualifications on CVs, but only 1 in 5 managers have a recognised management qualification.

‘If you are looking for a challenging course that will help progress your career, look no further than CMI qualifications with NEC.’

If you would like to find out more about enrolling on a CMI management course with NEC, visit our course pages or get in touch with our course advice team who will be happy to answer any questions you may have. You can also leave us a comment below, or talk to us via social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
 

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Thursday, 24 March 2016

Turning the tables: from waitress to midwife

BIology course page images, including a molecular model, a butterfly feeding from flowers, and a curious child looking down through a microscope

Lottie Blunden, a single parent of four, is in her first year at university studying for a Bachelor of Science degree in midwifery. Getting to university meant starting virtually from scratch with science after a 25-year gap, at the same time as holding down waitressing, admin and cleaning jobs to support her family. She started studying AS level biology with NEC in January 2014, taking the exam and passing with a grade B 18 months later.

Midwifery has been Lottie’s dream career for years. When she qualifies, she wants to work in the National Health Service. It’s a sound career choice. According to the Royal College of Midwives, the country needs an additional 2,600 trained midwives to make up a shortage that has persisted for over a decade.

‘Having children really puts you on the back foot career-wise, especially if you want to spend some time at home with them and haven’t had much of a career before you have them,’ explains Lottie. ‘But I always knew I wanted a career where you didn’t stop learning, that was focussed on people and improving health and family life, that wasn’t driven by profit margins and that combined cerebral and practical skills. Midwifery is all that and more.’

Lottie knew when she began studying with NEC that she had a strong study ethic. She had studied for an undergraduate degree, sitting her finals and being awarded a 2:1 just five weeks before the birth of her first child. Three years later, at the age of 24, she trained as a Citizens’ Advice Bureau worker, did an MA in Women’s Studies and had her second child. Moving from a university city in the north of England back to her home town in the Midlands after she graduated had limited her career options, especially with two small children to care for. That’s why she has earned her living in a wide variety of ways – as an administrator for charities and educational organisations, at a Welfare Rights Advice Centre, as an adult education tutor and as a library assistant.

When Lottie first came across NEC, she was impressed that it has students all over the country and a website that shows the college is serious about education. This positive view was confirmed when she phoned up, finding knowledgeable and friendly staff at the end of the line. Her local college offers A level biology and she had considered studying there but working full-time and bringing up four children meant she wasn’t in a position to attend classes at a regular time each week. Not only did NEC offer her essential flexibility, it also offered the best value for money when compared with other distance learning organisations she looked at.

High points of studying with NEC were the freedom to study when it suited her, the support of NEC staff and being part of the Facebook group set up by A level biology students. She also has views on things that would improve the experience of NEC students studying A and AS level biology. At the same time as working through the AS level course, she also managed to complete several functional maths (pre-GCSE and GCSE level maths used in everyday life) qualifications at her local college.

Lottie concludes: ‘At last, I will have a qualification which gives me the chance to develop my career doing something meaningful and rewarding. If you’re determined and prepared to work hard, you can change direction, whatever your age. I would strongly encourage anyone with ambition and who needs additional qualifications to let NEC help them do it. After all, I began my biology AS with no real science knowledge, and managed to get a B.’

To learn more about NEC and our wide range of flexible distance learning courses, browse our website by navigating to the Courses sections listed under the menu at the top of the page, or talk to our friendly team of course advisors by calling free from any UK landline: 0800 389 2839
 

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Thursday, 17 March 2016

Why study business or economics A level?

Woman sitting at a desk in front of a laptop computer, calculator and notebook, planning her finances and business strategy

With a multitude of subjects to choose at A level, how do you decide which is right for you? Do you chose subjects that you’re best at or subjects that you find fascinating? Do you think about what your parents and teachers say or what future career you aspire to? Or do you choose something that allows you to keep your options open?

In our blog this week we explore five of the reasons you might want to choose Business or Economics A levels as the next step on your learning journey. We’ll also take a look at how studying them with NEC works.

So, why business or economics?

  1. They can help you to become a billionaire! We’re not saying study these and you’ll be rich, but a recent study reported in The Independent had these, along with engineering, in the top 3 subjects likely to create a billionaire. Of course studying either of these subjects is no guarantee of success, but you have to start somewhere if you want to make it in business and with an unlimited earning potential, you should consider these as options if you are motivated by the thought of potentially high earnings.
     
  2. Develop an awareness of the world around you. Considering how volatile the economy has been in recent years, you might be interested in developing a good understanding of how the effects of certain actions can be felt globally. Studying economics can help to satisfy your curiosity for the world around you.
     
  3. A range of career choices. The study of business and economics can help you on a variety of career paths. You might consider working in marketing, human resources or management. Studying business or economics can also lead to careers in almost any sector of industry, from banking to fashion, every company needs business minded individuals.
     
  4. University. If you are planning to study either of these or a related subject at Higher Education level, then an A level is essential to give you the background knowledge that you’ll need and the best possible chance of success. Both of these subjects also promote independent learning and essay writing skills which are invaluable for university study.
     
  5. Starting your own business empire. If you dream of becoming the next Lord Alan Sugar with your very own business empire, then the study of business or economics can help you to develop the fundamental skills that you’ll need to succeed. A solid understanding of business and economics can set you on the right path.


So those are our reasons. Are you or have you studied either business or economics? What are your reasons? Leave a comment below or tweet us to share your thoughts.

NEC offers both Business and Economics as part of our range of Gold Star A levels. High-quality learning resources are delivered through our excellent online system learn@nec in a range of media, including PDFs, interactive quizzes, e-books and video. An experienced subject expert tutor will be with you every step of the way to mark your work and give you feedback and encouragement, as well as our team of course co-ordinators here at NEC HQ.

To learn more about NEC and our wide range of flexible distance learning courses, browse our website by navigating to the Courses sections listed under the menu at the top of the page, or talk to our friendly team of course advisors by calling free from any UK landline: 0800 389 2839.
 

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Thursday, 03 March 2016

World Book Day – how it's inspired us

World Book Day 2016 logo

Today is the 19th annual World Book Day. Children across the country are arriving at school today dressed as their favourite characters from books, from Alice in Wonderland to The Cat in the Hat.

From the authors that write them, to the illustrators that bring our favourite characters to life, World Book Day is a celebration of all things book. Unesco have designated it as a worldwide celebration with over 100 countries taking part.

The main aim of World Book Day is to encourage children to explore the wonders of books and the joys of reading. Schools across the country will have received tokens courtesy of National Book Tokens Ltd which they can take into a local bookseller and choose one of ten free books!

Naturally talk has turned to favourite books in the office today, here are some of our favourite reads and what World Book Day has inspired us to add to our reading lists:

‘I might start The Castle by Franz Kafka... or maybe re-read To Kill a Mockingbird and follow it up with Go Set a Watchman. I really should read the updated Getting Things Done by David Allen. I use the principles of the original one all the time. Moby Dick, Ulysses and Don Quixote have been on my reading list for years but somehow the next volume of Game of Thrones is always more appealing!’
— Paul, NEC’s resident IT expert

‘I'm reading Andy Griffith’s The 52-Storey Treehouse. It's quite fun as it has a lot of cartoons in it, villains and mucking about. Following the plot might be difficult because I alternate bedtimes with mum, but it’s not essential really.’
— Dan, Course Adviser at NEC and father to Lois, aged 7

‘I am planning to read Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. It is one of my daughter's favourite books. I first heard about it properly when she read it in the summer before starting her A Levels. She didn't like it at all. Then once she started studying it, she saw the value in the pages! Now she is studying her degree in English and plans to write her thesis on Virginia Woolf next year. We are going to the play together in April, so I have started with the audio book, and will then read the book itself, starting this weekend hopefully. I have to see what has grabbed my daughter's attention. So far I am thoroughly enjoying the audio version. I can see why it would be a difficult text to read. I am fascinated to see how it will transfer to the stage.’
— Stephanie, NEC’s expert in CACHE accredited qualifications

‘I want to recommend this book: The Photographer. I can read it over and over again... it is a non-fiction graphic novel/comic. The Photographer tells the true story of Didier Lefèvre, a French photojournalist, who accompanied a Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) mission during the height of the Soviet war in Afghanistan in 1986. The book interweaves Lefèvre's black-and-white photographs and Guibert's illustrations – combined with captions and word balloons – to create the narrative.’
— Margarita, NEC’s co-ordinator for General Education

‘I am currently reading a book on King John. I won't pretend that it is not a challenge getting to grips with the misunderstood monarch's obsession with administration and his love of moving around England to pass justice on all manner of criminal cases. One day his treasure will turn up, under the mud of the Wash where his infamous baggage train was swamped by the incoming tide... Also on the go at the moment is yet another book on the Wars of the Roses, the original template for Game of Thrones. If there's a book about that period in Medieval history, you can be pretty sure that it is in my bookcase. My husband felt compelled to ask if another of my bedside books – The Later Middle Ages – was about us as a couple or really about the social structure of the 14th and 15th centuries. Also on my bedside table is Winter is Coming, a book about all the various medieval references that have gone into Game of Thrones; a book about the hidden treasures of parish churches; a massive book on stained glass through history; numerous books about the great cathedrals of England and some pretty hefty tomes on Henry II, King Stephen, and Edward III. What else do I want to learn about? Mary Queen of Scots is coming up the list, and the lives of the last Romanovs. And for a little light relief... a novel about my heroine Eleanor of Aquitaine.’
— Alison, expert in the Wars of the Roses period and NEC’s Education Manager

What’s on your list to read this year? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #WorldBookDay!

If all this talk of books has has inspired you to learn more about literature, why not take a look at NEC’s IGCSE English Literature course and A level English Literature course?
 

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