Nobody said that it is going to be easy. Anyone who grows up in a traditional education system would have the idea of pedagogy that naturally conjures up the picture of a classroom of students and a teacher. Nobody said that to acquire a degree through self-studying, without guidance, is going to be smooth sailing. However, no one has said that it is an impossible task either.
I believe that most of us in the UOL long distance program shoulder the same responsibilities: work, family and studies. As if to juggle these is not challenging enough, some of us have also taken the degree course without any additional help: we study without attending any local teaching institutions. A daunting task it is, but, we must not forget the one big perk that is attached to it – flexibility.
Flexibility calls to mind the advantage of choices. Amongst the myriad of authors in literature, I don’t deny that there are certain writers who don’t appeal to me at all. Surely, there are a handful of writers, whose styles of writing I have grown accustomed to over the years. But, there are bound to be a number of others, whom I admire and would love the opportunity to study them in depth. I am also developing a way to better articulate my reasons for favouring one writer over another which is a skill I would not have acquired if I didn’t take up the BA English course.
As I don’t attend a local teaching institution that plans the syllabus and the authors to study, I have to do the entire planning on my own. It will, therefore, be taking a shot in the dark if not for the help that I always get from the UOL Study Guides
Every year, the first page I turn to in the study guide is always the list of recommended authors. From this page, I find myself ticking off the authors I am familiar with. For the rest of the unfamiliar authors, especially those marked with an asterisk, which usually means highly recommended by the university, I do a quick check on them on the internet.
My next step is to take a look at the topics to consider, and connect them to the authors I am already familiar with, or to the unfamiliar authors in whom I have developed an interest after reading about them online. I know of students who look at the topics, then the authors, and that works well for them, too. To each his own, as long as we are comfortable with the approach – another key to flexibility.
Of course, it comes as a big relief when the study guide dedicates one whole chapter on at least one of the authors and the topics that I have selected. It will be of immense help and great joy to peruse them line by line, a chapter of guided study. This is where the “activity” section found in every study guide comes in handy, especially when we need to draft an essay.
What happens when none of the authors and topics covered is what I have chosen? Should I, then, chuck the entire study guide aside, assuming that it will be of no help at all?
Hanif Kureishi, a British author of Pakistani and English descent, isn’t one whom I have chosen for my Postcolonial study. All the same, after reading a study of him in the study guide, I developed a better understanding of, and more importantly, an interest in the topic of the marginalised migrants in the UK. From this reading, I began to see how I could build a similar study of the British Indian authors whom I have selected for this module.
The other equally important thing the study guide touches on is the 22-week suggested study syllabus. Yes, the syllabus given might be covering authors or topics that are not of my choice again. Still and all, to me, having a skeleton to work on is more than convenient. I use it to construct a similar syllabus to keep my study plan in check, and to keep me on my toes.
There is no doubt that attending classes at a local teaching institution has its benefits, especially when we could receive guidance from professional and dedicated teachers. Having someone who is competent and, more importantly, passionate about the role of imparting knowledge not only spurs us on to work harder, but also inspires us to think creatively; an element I find of utmost importance, not least for the BA English students. However, such an opportunity is hard to come by. I believe most of the students of the BA English long distance program are left to our own devices. Hence, we grab any help we could garner and tweak it to our advantage, no matter how small it is.
It is true that acquiring a degree through self-education is no walkover. But, we must remember that it is not a challenge we could not overcome. I can say this with confidence because, other than the first three to four months of attending classes in a UOL affiliated teaching institution, I have been studying independently since the first year. Come summer 2017, I will be sitting for my final paper, and year by year, my results have improved.
Earning a degree through self-studying is not far-fetched at all. The summit of this journey, what we are achieving, is more than a degree. I strongly believe that each of us who has taken on this challenge will grow to be a more driven and determined individual than before.
Tiffany is studying the BA English by distance learning in Singapore.