Distance learning providers: share your experiences

StuartWStuartW Online Community ManagerLondonRegistered Posts: 494
Hi there,

A common issue prospective AAT students face is working out whether distance learning is the right option for them. Making this decision is made even harder when they then need to work out which training provider offers the package that works best for them.

This is where peer reviews are vital. AAT staff rarely have the experience of distance learning that you, as students, do. So we'd like you to share your opinions of the training providers you've used.

We'd like to know:
  • The name and location of the training provider
  • Your thoughts on their service: the good and the less good; the support available; the resources on offer... anything you would have wanted to know when making this difficult decision.
We can then direct people to this thread if they need guidance on this topic. Thanks in advance for sharing!

Over to you...

Stuart

Comments

  • amyjayne27amyjayne27 Trusted Regular Registered Posts: 314
    I am a distance learner and I am with Premier Training. I have found that although a few set backs along the way, distance learning really works for me. I work full time and have other commitments so I can go my own pace and not have to worry about deadlines etc. The only negative to this is having the get up and go to do it! Sometimes I think if I was in a classroom environment I would've done the course a lot quicker, but distance learning overall works for me.

    Premier Training are really really helpful and are highly recommended by me. My tutor Jeff is so nice and nothing is too much trouble. Where the assessments are online now the turnaround for feedback is fairly quick.

    Everyone is different but if a classroom environment doesn't suit you, and you think you would be better suited to distance learning then go for it; I don't regret it at all.
  • nimacnimac New Member Registered Posts: 5
    I live in Northern Ireland and we are very poorly served by Distance Learning - there is only one centre that offers exams in the whole country and they charge £150 per exam, when paying for the distance learning course, having to pay £150 for every exam doubles the costs of going down the distance learning route.

    Also, i have phoned up AAT in the past to query this, and nobody in there seems to have influence on these costs or indeed any compuction to do anything about it.
  • LeninaCrowneLeninaCrowne Just Joined Registered Posts: 1
    With regards to selecting distance learning as an option I feel that the level of support you feel you might require is a big factor. It's impossible to tell before you start your course but if you have experience of studying on your own from school or any further education subject you should be able to gauge how quickly you can work things out on your own. That's not to say there isn't good support available, but if you require lots of it a teaching environment might be better suited. I echo amyjayne27 above, flexibility and going at your own pace is the biggest positive. Motivation is the key issue but you'll know yourself whether this will be a factor.

    With regards to my provider (Kaplan Financial) I'll try to stay positive but I feel deeply unhappy with many aspects of their service. At first, materials almost had errors on every page (these have since improved). The exam environment in my local centre is noisy and distracting. Communication is shambolic - I have written both by email and letter to my local centre recently without the courtesy of a reply. Booking exams is made much more complicated than it has to be - they wouldn't even take my card details over the phone. However, they are reasonably priced and maybe that explains much of the above.
  • ajacklinajacklin Just Joined Registered Posts: 1
    I am also studying with Kaplan distance learning, I agree with the other comments about being able to go at your own pace and booking assessments as and when they suit. Sometimes I lack motivation but getting to the end of a book and wanting to get on to the next one keeps me going.
    However I think if I do the next course I'll just buy the books through Kaplan Publishing rather than paying for a "course" as it seems to have very few benefits. At first I didn't know where to start and the box of books just looked overwhelming. I also struggled to find contact details and didn't get much help when going to sit my first assessment. I don't really like being negative about Kaplan but they're far from cheap and I've paid out for it so I'm just being honest.
  • readerreader Experienced Mentor MAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 1,035
    I'm currently with Kaplan Financial Distance Learning. I think they are based in Leeds but my exam centre is conveniently situated outside a London underground station.

    The service, mainly through my own fault, was non-existent. Although I paid the expensive fees I rarely called Kaplan or e-mailed them because their textbooks explained the theory extremely well.

    In hindsight, I wish I had just bought the books and done the exams as an external candidate rather than signing up to be a distance learning student of theirs because this would have been much cheaper and I would not have suffered academically in any way.

    I basically got seduced by Kaplan's promotional material that claims that Kaplan distance learning students will receive "dedicated study support, encouragement...." and that Kaplan offers "a team of expert tutors who are committed to supporting your success". This, in my humble experience, is not the case. They never contacted me once to find out how I was getting on despite me being on Level 4 for nearly 2 years. Perhaps I even have a case for false advertising? Not sure.

    If you are someone who is not proactive, i.e. you're not going to study on a regular basis and contact them on a regular basis, do not sign up with them as a distance learning student because, in short, you will end up paying for a service that you don't use.

    I can understand why Kaplan charges high distance learning fees. This is because they have spent money building a couple of websites that I rarely logged into: Engage and a facebook-type website where the tutors refuse to discuss anything academic/technical and ask that you e-mail them instead. The facebook-type website seems to be suffering from low participation and student traffic as a direct consequence.

    Although, to be fair, if I had bothered to contact Kaplan, I'm sure they would have helped me. But for Kaplan to describe themselves as "dedicated", "supportive", "you'll be in safe hands..." and claim to be the determining factor in student success is going way too far in my humble opinion.

    In summary, if I had died during my studies Kaplan definitely would not have noticed.

    I think distance learning providers should assign tutors to their students who should be responisble for contacting their students ideally once a month (or at least once every two months) in order to check that the student is still alive, find out how they are getting with their studies and if there is any help that they can provide to the student.

    Also, a distance learning provider shouldn't have so many different websites and spread their information across so many platforms; it makes it difficult to find information. All the different tools and information should be consolidated on one website.

    Finally, Kaplan should make it easier to book exams with them. Why can't this be done through an electronic form on a website?
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