I did my first degree studying internally and it made the transition from school so much easier. You have lectures to attend each week and the tutorials resembled the classroom environment. It was great because I could ask questions, meet other students and it was generally a great way to stay motivated. I had somewhere where I was required to be each week which helped me to stay on top of my studies.
This all changed when I started to study externally.
Why External Study Is Different
External study is very different. There are no lectures or tutorials to attend. If you’re lucky you might get to watch videos or listen to audio of university lectures but in my experience that was rare. I had to be really self-disciplined in my studies. While changing from school to university requires more self-discipline as there are no more teachers to remind you to do your homework the different between internal and external study increases that need again.
I had power points of the lectures but not having a schedule I had to keep makes it too easy to skip a week. I had to rely on the material to gain an understanding of what I had to learn. That is not always easy especially if it is a subject where I was completely unfamiliar with the material. There is also the issue of not having a face to face relationship with a lecturer or with classmates too. It makes it hard to know that you are on the right track and learning what you are supposed to learn as there is often a lot of material to get through.
It is not all bad as it easier to fit into your schedule but you need to be more self-disciplined but it does make it harder to stay motivated. You are relying on yourself and the study material and if you have a few setbacks it makes it easy to want to give up. Or it can be that the course wasn’t what you expected.
Most of the students I tutor are external students and what they really need is someone to keep them encouraged and just let them know that they are on the right track. You don’t always need to do that though. If you live near your university arrange a time to meet your lecturer. Having a face to face relationship helps. If you can’t do that see if you can contact other students through discussion forums to have regular meetups. This can help you stay motivated but work through any issues that you may have.
While challenging, there are ways to make your studying work for you. External study is different but it makes it accessible for people who may not otherwise get the chance to study in their chosen field.