Balancing work with further education

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

On the back of the recession where unemployment reached over 15% at its worst point, employees are more concerned about the security of their positions. One of the consequences is people are looking to better themselves through education which can lead to job security or better job opportunities, should the worst happen.

Further education can be personally and professionally very demanding. It is imperative that perspective students understand their own needs, interests and what time they can give to a part time college course in order to maximise the chance of course completion and doing well in exams. To choose the wrong course is to throw away money and waste time.

Colleges have varying options to accommodate the demands of perspective students. Distance learning, Online Courses or Attending Classes are the most viable solutions to completing a course while maintaining a work / life balance. Each option offers advantages and disadvantages:

Distance Learning has the advantage of not having regular classes. Courses run by institutions such as Open University (UK based) or Oscail (Irish based) run weekend classes once a month while sending out the necessary relevant learning material and asking the student to submit assignments by pre-set timelines. Unfortunately if student hasn’t the ability to self motivate, or has constant distractions, it is very difficult to successfully complete a course this way.

Online Courses do not have any classes at all therefore offering no demand on time for attendance. Online courses offer flexibility on when assignments are done to fit in with a busy schedule. The disadvantages are similar to Distance Learning with the added difficulty of not having the tutors to meet, making it onerous to get feedback on queries or guidance on subject matter.

Attending part-time college offers all the advantages of full time college students. There is regular access to lecturers through phone, meetings and e-mail. The opportunity to interact with other students gives the opportunity to learn from others and easy access to libraries enhances the ability to read course material without the cost of downloading or needing to buy literature. In saying that, attending college is very demanding on time. College can consume anything from one to three evenings a week for the duration of the course. Colleges do offer the chance to take a course over a longer period in an attempt to lessen the time pressure on students. Weekend courses are also an option but again do consume a lot of time for attendance.

On deciding which form of further education to follow, getting the work / college / life balance right is critical. In order to achieve the end goal, of a qualification and retaining a job, time should be taken to prepare for a new course. Some tips to assist in the succeeding of all aspects of college are:

Organisation: Write down the agenda of what needs to be done weeks and months in advance. The start of a course can creep up quickly so creating a diary around attendance, studying and exams will help create a constructive pattern to help in progressing. Don’t forget to make time for food…….”A healthy body equals a healthy mind”

Time Management: Institutions give a timetable (for classes, exams, assignment submissions etc.) in advance of the college year. Ensure to know the timetable to avoid the stress of “last minute cramming”.

Prioritise: Once the course has started it is important to understand subjects that cause more “work” than others. Ensure to allocate appropriate resources to each subject allowing for the maximum chance of passing the course.

Hard Work: Working a nine-to-five job is tough, add the pressure of college, and time will come where sleep feels like the only option available. Focus, take each day and each study session as it comes. When in class or studying, commit to the task at hand. Take as many notes as possible as writing helps solidify what has been taught. Further education coupled with work is tough. Remain focused on the goal, it is worth it.

Make friends: Getting to know others studying the same course will help, it is a great way to see alternative ways of thinking about subjects. Other students are in the same boat so will be willing to help each other and empathise with the situation and challenges at hand. On the times you can’t make class, friends will take notes for you so nothing is missed.

Persistence: Attend college. The longer the year goes on the harder it can be to attend. Winter nights, the rain, snow and darkness make everything tough. Persistence in getting to class and doing assignments will stand you in good stead come exam time.

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