As you no doubt know, the internet has made learning accessible for everyone. It has really put the distance in distance learning. In fact, it’s made looong distance learning possible; as in students from one country can enrol in online courses from a university from another. What’s more, students aren’t bound by address. So, if you want to take a gap year (or two) and your parents insist that you study – you can do both. All you need to do is find a school that has international examination centres and these days, those aren’t too hard to find.
Well, that’s not strictly true; there are some other things you need to do, as you’ll soon see.
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Pick a course … any course?
Of course not.
Be sensible. It’s probably not feasible to do your third year in dentistry while backpacking through Croatia or Peru. But you can probably do some intro dentistry courses. And you can definitely do literature and language courses. If you are studying language online and you have your heart set on travelling, it’s probably a good idea to go where you can put your burgeoning skills to good use. If you’re studying Russian, travelling in sub-Saharan Africa doesn’t make much sense.
A good rule of thumb is that if the course is very heavy – you’ll have to carry 20 text books around with you – or has a lot of practical requirements, don’t take it round the world.
Pick a destination … any destination?
You can’t go anywhere too rugged; at least not for any length of time. You’ll probably need to be close to an internet connection so you can email assignments, chat to your tutor and research information. Granted, there are very few places where you can get online, just ensure you aren’t in one of them come deadline day.
You also want to be someplace where the transport is reliable and electricity is more or less a given. Once again, you really don’t want to be caught short on a very red letter day. And it’s doubtful your professor will consider, “I was stuck behind a donkey cart in Yunnan, China,” as a good excuse.
Pick a time … any time?
Yes, kind of. Timing is very important when it comes to distance learning, any learning, actually. You have deadlines for registrations, assignments and dates for exams. These are generally non-negotiable. You need to ensure that you have everything in order before you leave and that you have a carefully planned itinerary that will allow you to stick to your study goals.
Ok, so the itinerary doesn’t have to be that well planned; there’s plenty of room for flexibility and spur of the moment decisions, but you need to ensure that you’re where you need to be when you need to be there.
Another note on timing:
It’s tricky to be disciplined at the best of times, now imagine trying to study while the Grand Canyon or Victoria Falls beckon. You need to set aside hours or days devoted purely to study – and stick to them.
It’s often easiest to travel with a study buddy; that way when you have to stay in your hostel hunched over your laptop or tablet PC, study material scattered all around, you’ll have company. It’s that much more difficult to be a diligent student when your mates are about to go on a canopy tour over the Amazon.