Blog: April 2016

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Innovation for NEC A level science students

NEC tutor Jane Blunt testing the electrochemical charge of a variety of colourful chemicals in solution under laboratory conditions

Innovation for NEC A level science students

Back in February we blogged about how you can study a Science A level by distance learning. We talked about the practical work which forms part of the course, and mentioned the new format of A levels, where a practical endorsement can be obtained in addition to your A level grade.

In this blog we explore what NEC is working on to help our learners to achieve the practical endorsement.

We have now formed a partnership with the Open Science Laboratory at the Open University giving us an innovative solution to the challenges of preparing for A level practical endorsement at a distance.

If learners want to gain a formal ‘endorsement’ of their practical skills alongside their grade from a written examination, A level sciences now require a minimum of 12 experimental activities to be undertaken and assessed as part of the course.

Our aim at NEC is to enable learners to prepare and be able to undertake assessments for these practical endorsements if they choose. The endorsements can usually be gained by demonstrating experimental knowledge under laboratory conditions according to Common Practical Assessment Criteria (CPAC). Practical endorsement grades are likely to be required for admission to medical training in most HE institutes and also for degree level study in some disciplines.

The NEC approach to practical experiments

NEC has a long-established and successful system to help learners on a biology course undertake practical experiments using equipment and resources in their own homes. This is not possible for all chemistry and physics experiments as radioactive substances, Geiger counters and other technical equipment is unlikely to be readily available! To gain the practical endorsement however, all practicals must all be taken in a controlled and observed setting.

We are therefore planning the development of a three stranded approach for NEC learners:

  • Online videos are being recorded at the Open Science Laboratory showing how experiments can be performed safely using the latest equipment and excellent laboratory techniques. Results data for later analysis by learners will be supplied as part of the course. See the next section for more on this.
  • Real time access to ‘virtual experiments’ online from the Open Science Laboratory will be able to be conducted individually by NEC learners. These experiments will enable access to high tech equipment (such as electron microscopes) and replicate actual laboratory experience by generating a unique and growing set of results data across a range of variables.

A fruit fly seen through an electron microscope (from the Open Science Laboratory of the Open University, 2016)
Above: See a fruit fly through an electron microscope as you may not have seen it before (reproduced with kind permission from the Open Science Laboratory of the Open University, 2016)

Recording new videos

The first videos of Chemistry and Physics experiments were shot last week. These are:


  • Measuring Ka for a weak acid
  • Electrochemical cells


  • Charging and discharging a capacitor
  • Radiation using an X ray machine

Below are photos of the video shoot with NEC tutor Jane Blunt, Professor Nick Braithwaite from the Open Science Lab, and the video team in action:

Professor Nick Braithwaite telling us all about the dangers of x-rays and how to measure the resistance of aluminium foil
Above: Professor Nick Braithwaite telling us all about the dangers of x-rays and how to measure the resistance of aluminium foil

NEC tutor Jane Blunt testing the electrochemical charge of a variety of colourful chemicals in solution under laboratory conditions
Above: NEC tutor Jane Blunt testing the electrode potential of a variety of metals in colourful solutions under laboratory conditions

Further video shoots are planned, and in addition the NEC course team are evaluating the best videos from the Royal Society of Chemistry and other external sources for access by NEC learners.

The Open Science Laboratory

NEC is proud to have Professor Nick Braithwaite as a founder member of our newly formed Curriculum Advisory Panel, and working closely with the Open Science Laboratory we plan to continue to innovate in support of individual learners, schools and other institutions to extend online science education at GCSE and A level in the UK and overseas.


More information

For more information on the A level science courses from NEC you can browse our course pages or phone the Course Advice Team on Freephone (UK): 0800 389 2839 or Overseas/mobile: +44 (0)1223 400200.

You can also leave a comment below, or get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Current comments: 3
Friday, 15 April 2016

Top 10 revision tips for your exams

Two learners studying notes on a laptop between them

It’s the time of the year when students across the country are poring over books, trying to ensure they are prepared for their upcoming exams.

You might be worried about the fact that the exams are just around the corner and you haven’t done enough revision so far.

But don’t panic: it’s never too late to start revising!

These tips from our Student Support Team will ensure your revision starts out on the right foot.

  1. Get a good overview of the course content and the topics which are required for your exams. A good start is looking at your subject syllabus and working your way through the content.
  2. Draw up a revision timetable for the weeks before the exams.
  3. If you engage with your learning materials in an active way, you will find it easier to remember the content. Use different ways/senses to study:
    => Read the material out loud
    => Learning with flash cards
    => Discuss the course content with family and friends and have them quiz you
    => Use a bit of colour and imagery, drawing colourful learning maps/sheets will help you to memorise facts.
  4. Don’t look at your materials or notes just once. The more often you look at them, the more you will remember.
  5. Find a quiet and suitable study environment. Make sure to find a place where you can be uninterrupted for a few hours. The best places are your room or a library.
  6. Exercise… yes, you read it right, exercise! Physical activity increases your heart rate, which ensures that your brain gets more oxygen. This increases productivity whilst reducing tiredness and stress.
  7. Do plenty of past papers and revision guides. It is very helpful to familiarise yourself with exam questions and exam techniques.
  8. Make summary notes, but don’t spend a lot of time making your notes look pretty instead of learning.
  9. Don’t just read your notes, rewrite them from memory. This will help you memorise the information and highlight where you need to do more work.
  10. Reward yourself and think positive! At the end of the day, it’s not all about studying. You need to make sure to give yourself breaks in between the study time. Why not spend some time with your friends after you’ve managed to hit some of your study goals and had a very productive day.

Remember, if you have any questions or need any guidance while preparing for your exams, please feel free to get in touch with your tutor or the Student Support Team.

We can arrange for your tutor to mark a past paper for you for £25 for one paper, £45 for two and £60 for three. Your tutor will mark and send you feedback on your exam paper to help you focus your revision efforts.

You might also want to add a tutorial to discuss your results with your tutor. There would be a cost of £40 for this and is the ideal solution if there is a particular area you need to focus on.

If you would like to arrange either of these services, please get in touch with us on 0800 389 2839 and we will be happy to discuss.

In the meanwhile… keep your head up, relax and best of luck from everyone at NEC for your exams!

Current comments: 0
Friday, 08 April 2016

Why distance learning is a great way to gain a CMI management qualification

 a distance learning course with NEC is flexible enough to fit around your work and other commitments, and will lead to an accredited qualification from the Chartered Management Institute

In a time when there is stiff competition for jobs, a qualification in management can help you to stand out from the crowd. But for many people, it’s just not practical to up and leave a perfectly good–and paid–job to spend money on studying.

That’s where distance learning comes in.

If you can keep on earning while you’re learning, you get the best of both worlds. You continue to make money to pay the mortgage and put food on the table, while improving your knowledge and skill set to help you to get that promotion or change careers.

At NEC we offer management qualifications accredited by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). CMI are the UK’s only chartered management membership organisation. We chose to work with CMI to offer these qualifications because of the progressive range of qualifications that they offer, in addition to the excellent reputation and membership benefits.

The CMI website gives some reasons they think a management qualification is worthwhile based on some recent research. For example:

  • 78% of employers agreed that qualifications provide quality assurance for customers and that the benefits outweighed the time, money and effort invested in obtaining them.
  • More than 80% of managers say that taking a management qualification has resulted in increased professional recognition, with most stating that employers prefer qualified managers when recruiting.

One of the benefits of studying a CMI management course by distance learning with NEC is the tutor support. Your personal tutor will be an experienced subject expert and will not only mark your CMI assignments, but will mark and give you comprehensive feedback on practice assignments too. These are designed to give you the best possible chance of success. They are also there if you need guidance while you work your way through the course.

We asked NEC tutor Kevin this question: Is distance learning the way to go for management qualifications?

This is what he said: ‘For many students the answer is ‘yes’. It is not hard to see the appeal of an online professional qualification, cheaper fees, and the opportunity to juggle studies with work and for some the company will sponsor a managerial qualification. The online CMI course also attracts offender learners who want to develop their skills and knowledge in preparation for future careers. Off-campus is their only option.

‘Studying remotely can help you stay in education, satisfy your need for personal development and broaden your opportunities.

‘For many students CMI courses play a key part in becoming a professional manager, developing new skills and knowledge to help their teams and organisations improve their performance. Employers are actively looking for recognised qualifications on CVs, but only 1 in 5 managers have a recognised management qualification.

‘If you are looking for a challenging course that will help progress your career, look no further than CMI qualifications with NEC.’

If you would like to find out more about enrolling on a CMI management course with NEC, visit our course pages or get in touch with our course advice team who will be happy to answer any questions you may have. You can also leave us a comment below, or talk to us via social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Current comments: 0