Has anyone done an A level by distance learning?

(18 Posts)
Oblyx Sun 09-Mar-14 11:19:29

I'm reposting this because I didn't get any replies in chat. Oops, should have looked for the education topic first I guess!

I want to do A level Biology, but all the local colleges only offer it during the daytime (when I'm at work).

So far I've looked at a few online distance learning providers (NEC, UK open college, ICS).

Has anyone used any of these? Are they any good? How hard is it to motivate yourself to learn at home?

I'm very grateful for any comments/advice, as I feel really confused by it all!

SlowlorisIncognito Sun 09-Mar-14 16:18:21

I haven't done one myself, but my ex-boyfriend did three A-levels via distance learning while we were together. This was quite a while ago, so they were the syllabuses before this one, if that makes sense? I don't know which provider he used either.

From his experience, I don't think he did as well as he would have done if he had been taught in a school/college. Although there were tutors availble, I believe he was expected to understand most concepts by himself and mostly work under his own steam. If you are worried about motivation this could be a struggle. He also got less help/feedback about exam technique etc than he might have got in a school. For biology this might be less important than other subjects (as the answers are mostly factual, but it could still be relevant). With essay based subjects I think knowing the structure/style the examiners are expecting can help you pick up marks.

With biology, I think the main issue could be not being able to do any practical work? I don't think this is essential to pass the A-level anymore, but practical work can help reinforce concepts.

Also, do you have to pay to take exams as an external candidate? Organising this can be difficult/expensive.

Why do you want/need Biology A-level?

Oblyx Sun 09-Mar-14 18:30:59

Thanks for replying, that's very useful information!

Apparently the practicals can be carried out around the house, and you just need to buy some small pieces of equipment. Still, I guess there is no-one to show you how to do it, like there would be at college.

The reason I'm interested in it is because I'd like to get onto a uni course, but I need a science A level, which I don't have (I do have other A levels). The only access courses near me are full time, and I work full-time so wouldn't be able to do one of those. The A level seems like a more straightforward option that I could do in my spare time. Just trying to get an idea of how difficult it would be!

Witchesbrewandbiscuits Sun 09-Mar-14 18:52:16

I havent done a levels but have done distance learning and its fine. you just have to be prepared to research info instead of being taught it. ime it sticks in your brain better though.

have you thought about a science foundation course through the ou? its equivalent to a level and the ou are amazing.

BreconBeBuggered Sun 09-Mar-14 19:19:27

DS1 did one of his A levels via distance learning, as there wasn't anywhere local offering the subject. The trickiest bit was getting the material released and paid for, plus it wasn't always in a readily accessible format. There was theoretically an online tutor he could call on for assistance, but being a teenage boy, he didn't bother.

Worked fine for him, and you'd probably have a more mature approach to sorting out hiccups than 'Meh, it'll be okay'.

Oblyx Sun 09-Mar-14 21:00:03

Glad to hear some positive experiences of distance learning!

Witches I did want to do an OU course but the admissions person at the uni seemed to think they prefer either A levels or access.

Brecon Hopefully I've got a more mature approach than a teenage boy! Really impressed that your DS managed it by distance learning though - at that age I would never have had the motivation.

happygardening Mon 10-Mar-14 07:07:47

I believe the OU science foundation course is accepted by most universities as an alternative to science A levels especially for mature students. It's used by some who home educate as an alternative too A levels I once met this group of home educators with these off the scale bright children they were all going on to RG universities and took O U foundation courses/modules instead if A levels.

HappyAsASandboy Mon 10-Mar-14 07:21:18

I did an A level this way (before the AS/A2 split, don't know if that makes a difference). I used distance learning because I wanted to do it in a year and colleges only offered a two year course.

I found it quite straightforward, though it probably helped that I found the subject relatively easy. It might be harder if you struggle with the concepts and need a person to explain them.

I sat the exams in a hotel in London, which was my closest exam centre for self-entered candidates. That was quite different to sitting them at school/college because I wa knackered after a few hours travel before I started! You may be closer to an exam centre though.

From my experience, I would go for it. It won't be a walk in the park, but it could well be a lot easier than trying to attend college in the day/travelling to an evening course.

Good luck!

AtiaoftheJulii Mon 10-Mar-14 12:49:30

I know several home educators have used Pembrokeshire College for distance science A levels and you can do the practical assessments there as well (there are practicals that are examined, not just helpful activities to aid understanding).

NurseyWursey Mon 10-Mar-14 12:52:55


I did a distance learning Access To Higher Education in Health, it was brilliant and easy to manage. I've always been academic though.

What university course do you want to do?

Oblyx Mon 10-Mar-14 15:49:15

Thanks for the encouraging replies - I'm feeling a bit more confident about it now!

jaffacakesallround Tue 11-Mar-14 08:55:02

I have taught to GCSE with the NEC and would say they are reputable. I went to some meetings/ training days in Cambridge at the time and found they were very caring about their students.
As a teacher I eventually stopped working for them after 3 years because the fees were very low but that was down to the amount of feedback we had to give each student, and all the paperwork.

I wanted to do A level biology a few years ago and had the same problem, the local college wouldn't let me do it during day time as that was only for younger students doing several A levels (I have a degree already) and they didn't run it at night.

I have done several OU Level 1 modules related to biology instead now, but I still think I wouldn't mind doing A level for the more rounded experience, I don't actually need it but it would be useful for my work, all this info is very interesting.

Witchesbrewandbiscuits Tue 11-Mar-14 16:33:53

oh really? uni's I have been in touch with welcome ou education.

SlowlorisIncognito Wed 12-Mar-14 17:12:20

Glad you are feeling more positive about it now. Good luck with doing it.

HSMMaCM Wed 12-Mar-14 20:57:02

I've used Nec for igcse and DH has used them for nvq3 and they have been fine. I loved doing my degree with Ou. I would have preferred doing igcse science at a Uni at evening course though, but couldn't find one.

Happiestsinglemumever Fri 01-Aug-14 11:26:33

Live abroad, my DS (16 yo) did his IGCSEs at home online, loved it and now doing A levels. Best online course:
Also comes with hard copy if prefer to study from real book.
Well written courses and good tutors (not so underpaid you don't want to bother them).

I'm a big fan of OU too - both my parents did degrees with OU while my sister and I were at school. It made them even better parents than they were before. Good luck!

anniebridges1998 Tue 26-May-15 23:43:26

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