Thursday, 25 July 2013

In praise of review sites

Michael Young
Michael Young 1915 - 2002
Founder of the Consumers' Association and the National Extension College

Informed decisions

How do we go about making choices? How do we pick out a car, a school for our children, or a method of learning as adults?

The key to being able to make good decisions is information and knowledge. The ability to seek information, judge its validity and act on it is an empowering skill, and education can help in this. A well-informed, educated decision is much more likely to turn out to be a correct and better decision, whether that decision centres on product purchases or political strategies.

When you do your research you will check what the manufacturers or providers tell you, but if it is a big or important decision you really need independent advice and the experience of other customers. That is where the idea of consumer reviews comes in.

Power to choose

The initial drive to protect and inform consumers was behind the setting up of the Consumers’ Association in 1957, by none other than Michael Young (Lord Young of Dartington) - the founder of NEC. It was a success from the beginning, attracting 10,000 enrolled members who subscribed to the magazine Which? during its very first month of publication.

Which? provided well-researched, independent reviews of consumer products and services. In fact, a Which? review exposing the shockingly poor quality of some providers of correspondence education in the late 1950s was what led Michael Young to found NEC, to demonstrate that distance learning could be high quality and definitely not the second best provision.

Access to consumer information has been transformed by technology, especially the internet. As consumers we can write our own reviews online and have immediate access to the views of other consumers. Michael Young would have been delighted at the way the internet has put power in the hands of the consumer. He predicted that the rise of the home computer would make this possible.

The importance of communication

At NEC we like to read consumer reviews about us on websites such as The Student Room, because we are always interested in receiving feedback from our students. We are encouraged when that feedback is positive, but negative feedback is just as important to us. We use that feedback to help us analyse and improve our services.

We feel it is vital that our students feel able to talk about their experiences with NEC, so we encourage you to give us feedback. If there was something you really found useful, we would love to know what it was so we can build on it in future. If there was a problem, we equally need to know what it was so that we can take steps to prevent it from happening again.

We believe that transparency of communication and healthy dialogue are key to improving our services and helping us deliver flexible learning opportunities to everyone who needs them. So keep those reviews coming in, and help us to help you get the most out of distance learning.

Getting in touch

Please take time to write reviews, and you can leave us comments through Facebook and Twitter. You can also contact us through our website, where you can find out more about who we are and what we do, along with all the flexible learning opportunities we offer.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Learn to start a business by distance learning

Did last night’s final of The Apprentice inspire you to think about starting your own business? A great place to learn how to start could be with a distance learning course.

Last night saw millions of people tune in to see Dr Leah Totton hired as Lord Alan Sugar’s new business partner in the The Apprentice final. Thousands applied, and over the last 12 weeks we saw 16 hopefuls battle it out in a variety of tasks to try and prove that that they are of a high enough calibre for Lord Sugar to choose them.

During the semi-final, the feared interview week, it was clear that you can have the best idea in the world, or have some fantastic skills, but if your business plan is not up to scratch you are setting yourself up to fail.

Self-employment is on the rise. Half a million people were self-employed by 2012, an increase of 10% from the previous year. There are many reasons why you might choose this path: perhaps like the hopefuls you have a great idea. Perhaps the lack of jobs has been what’s motivated you, or you want to turn what you love into a way to make your living.

New businesses are on the up, but that doesn’t mean they all stand the test of time. Many ultimately fail because despite having good ideas the execution proves poor. If you’re thinking about starting your own business but need some guidance, our Business Start-Up course could help.

The prospect of setting up a business is incredibly exciting but fraught with potential pitfalls. Our course is designed to guide you through the process, covering everything you need to know to ensure your business idea is viable and you’re prepared to launch your venture, while avoiding potential traps.

Distance learning naturally complements self-employment, as its flexibility allows you to fit your learning into and around your work commitments, and all NEC courses come with tutor support. You’ll study 12 units which comprehensively cover what you’ll need to know, from identifying viable ideas to drawing up a business plan, marketing strategies, finance, and the legal side of running your own business.

To find out more about this course, or to view our full range of tutor-supported distance learning courses and services, visit our website for further details.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Helping home educated young learner’s succeed in distance learning

NEC is pleased to launch a new young learner’s service designed to help those who choose to educate their children at home supported by distance learning.

Young Learner's Service, working together for your child's success

What is Home Education?

Home Education is a choice made by families to educate their children at home rather than in formal school settings. There are many reasons families may choose to home educate, perhaps the family travels a lot or they have religious or philosophical reasons, maybe the child is unhappy at school or has particular needs that the school is unable to cater for. Although there are no official figures, it is thought that there are currently around 60,000 children being home educated in the UK (

Why has the young learner’s service been developed?

We found an increasing number of home educating young learner’s enrolling on A level, GCSE and IGCSE courses with NEC. Distance learning is ideal for home education and helps young learners to achieve the same qualifications they would at school, but in the subjects they want and in a flexible manner.

We understand that although distance learning is ideal for many people some times more structure is needed, in particular with younger learners. With this in mind we began to research what would benefit these learners and their families and embarked on a pilot with 20 young learners being educated at home.

It became clear early on that the relationship between the student, parent and NEC  is key to providing the best chance of success. Some excellent suggestions and feedback from parents and learner’s have also helped us to shape the service. Although all of the learner’s participating in the pilot are still working through the course, we can see that they are generally submitting much more work and progressing really well, we are eagerly awaiting their exam results!

What does the young learner’s service include?

Anyone who opts to use the young learner’s service will still benefit from all of the features of an NEC course, such as a personal tutor, high quality course materials and much more. In addition
the service provides an enhanced level of support for the learner and for the parent, helping them to take an active role in the learning process. Features include one-to-one telephone tutorials, exam paper marking, parents copied into all communications, tutor initiated contact, a dedicated course co-ordinator and more. It really does represent excellent value for one-to-one tutoring.

We also understand that home education can be costly, and often there is very little financial support available. To help, we offer special prices for home educators which are available all year round. From now until the 31st August 2013 we are also offering an additional 5% for every enrolment with young learner’s service, meaning you could save up to 25% on your course fees.

Where can I find out more?

Full details of the young learner’s service can be found on our website. You can also call our course advice team on 0800 389 2839 with any questions you may - we look forward to hearing from you!  

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Distance learning: learning that fits in with your life

Medical student Aisha Wada never had the opportunity to learn much French at school, and so decided to study an IGCSE in the subject through distance learning.
Aisha saw the potential benefits that learning French could have for her work in the medical profession and decided that, despite undergoing the rigours of training to become a doctor, she would be able to find the time to complete the course.
Having attained an A* grade in her summer 2012 exams, it’s a decision that clearly paid off.
It was the ‘flexibility offered by distance learning’ that attracted Aisha to home study. After exploring her options, she decided NEC was the best provider.
‘I sort of shopped around online,’ she says, ‘and NEC was the only one that stood out to me for two reasons – the pass rate was unbelievable! That, and the sample course material gave me a good insight into what it would be like.
‘So in the end it was only a question of deciding when to start.’
Aisha, who enjoys reading, cooking and swimming in her spare time, is now considering studying the language at a more advanced level.
‘I am seriously considering taking A-level French,’ she confirms. ‘As a soon-to-be doctor, I would like to be able to work with charity bodies like Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) and work in other African countries outside my country, a lot of which are francophone.’
The 22-year-old found studying with NEC to be absolutely perfect for her, and was delighted with the service she received from both her tutor and the college.
‘My tutor was amazing,’ Aisha praises. ‘She marked assignments very promptly and provided detailed, constructive feedback. The course materials were also invaluable and tailored to the format of the exam. I mean, despite my tight schedule I got an A*!
‘The service from NEC was impeccable. The tutor so supportive, pointing out strengths and weaknesses in a very encouraging manner. The activities in each chapter and assignments were very effective in consolidating my learning. And student support were always very quick to respond to any queries I had.’
So would Aisha consider studying with NEC again?
‘Certainly,’ she confirms. ‘If I decide to go on and do A-level French, I will look no further than NEC.’
And finally, the UAE resident offered some valuable advice to anyone else considering enrolling with the college.
‘Be very disciplined in your time planning,’ she advises. ‘Don’t take on too much at once and try not to leave huge gaps in studying.
‘At a point in time I took about two months off studying and catching up was not easy. The key to success is to study in bits consistently.’
If Aisha’s story has inspired you to consider how you might fit learning into your own life, find out more about distance learning here.
To learn about IGCSE or A-level French, or to view the full range of distance learning courses offered by NEC, visit our website.