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Online Student Experiences - Faniel's Distance Learning Journey!

By Faniel Maanda

My name is Faniel Maanda, a male aged 31 from a beautiful country called Namibia. I’m employed as a Town Planner at the City of Windhoek with the main responsibilities (among others) of guiding City growth and urbanization management. Because of my education background and thanks to the blend of full-time and distance education I’m trained in three different areas, that is – Urban and Regional Planning, Geographical Information Systems and Land Management.

I chose to complete some of my qualifications through distance education because of the opportunity to work or do what I do best while studying. The said opportunity includes quality time with your family. The beauty of distance education is that knowledge acquired from your studies is put to use immediately.

My studies - enjoying education

As of this writing, I hold the seven formal university qualifications from three different countries on two different continents: Africa and Europe. During my studies, I gathered a broad variety of experiences with different learning modes: traditional campus education, compact learning as well as distance education. Besides the academic qualifications, what I learnt is that focus and determination is needed in order to succeed in all the three areas! Although full-time studies are difficult, I found compact learning (block release) and distance education the most difficult. The particular challenge with distance education is that you have to strike a balance between your social and economic commitments on one hand and your academic goals on the other.

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Decision making - easy with the right tools

In the final stages of my undergraduate studies, I was offered full-time employment. This left me with two options, (a) to work and enjoy life or (b) to work, enjoy life responsibly and continue with my studies. I chose the latter. This is the point where my compact learning (block release) and distance education journey started - and I’m still walking the walk until this very day! The good thing about all this is that my family was supportive and respected my decisions.

One advantage of full time and compact learning (block release) is that you get an opportunity to listen to some of the world’s leading academics – in real life. However, technology has moved so fast that it is now possible to listen to audio lectures and receive lecture notes, and even watch the lecture on videos. But please be very careful when choosing a higher learning institution! And of course even today, there are some courses that cannot be done through distance education. If you aspire the studies of such a course I would say, whenever you get an opportunity to go for full-time studies, please do not drag your feet and go for it – procrastination has killed many good ideas.

My experience - lifelong learning continues

As mentioned earlier, distance education and compact learning were the most challenging for me. Striking a balance between work, home and study are not an easy task. Like many other distance education students, I paid and continue to pay for my studies, which means I’m the master of my destiny and can decide to quit or continue with my studies without punishment. As much as the above statement is true, no one enjoys throwing money into a bottomless pit – this is to say, whether you are sponsored or self-sponsored use money as one of the key drivers to your academic success. In countries where you have free education at all levels, the fact that you are able to study with an institution for free means someone else is paying (e.g. government through the tax payers).

I’m not writing this story as a star to be adored but as a graduate who would like to share his experience for the benefit of many. In my situation, having a flexible timetable worked. I learnt to separate work from family life and the two (work and family life) from my studies. You need to have dedicated time for each, because conflict at home or at work will significantly slow your academic progress. To be honest, is impossible to keep a neat line between the competing issues, in my situation there were overlaps, I therefore, tried my level best to keep the overlaps within manageable limits.

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Face challenges - and grow beyond

There are times when you feel like giving up because of pressure from various angles in your life. In my situation, the burning desire to succeed and do something good for myself, my family and my community kept me going. In order to continuously measure my level of understanding, I use to bounce my ideas at some family members, colleagues at work and friends (those who are academically inclined). In doing so I spotted grey areas in my understanding. For me once I spotted these grey areas in my knowledge I restudied the subject to truly enhance my knowledge. That is why, apart from ad-hoc study groups, I also kept a good working relationship with other students.

Increase your knowledge through distance education

Amid all the challenges, through thick and thin - I managed to stand my ground and stick to my personal goals and completed my studies. With hindsight, I can say proudly that the decision to invest in my personal development through studies remains one of the best decisions that I ever made. The qualifications obtained through my studies, cemented my knowledge of the subject such that I can now contribute to the development of my community in a more positive way. My analytical skills improved for the better. With these remarks, I would like to encourage those of you who share my burning desire for education to also consider distance education as an alternative.

Please use tools such as this website to shop around for good courses. It helped me a great deal, I’m sure it will help you too.

All the best with your studies.

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