Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Who are the science and technology stars of tomorrow?

Woman working in a hospital laboratory

For years employers have warned that the UK faces a skills shortage in many STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) roles. For example, EngineeringUK recently announced that the UK needs 1.8 million new engineers and technicians by 2025.

At the NEC, STEM subjects are amongst our most popular GCSE and A level courses. We recently conducted a survey to understand more about our 2017 cohort of A level STEM students. We wanted to know more about what motivated them to study and their future ambitions.

Our headline results

Subject choice

  • 41% Biology
  • 24% Chemistry
  • 19% Physics
  • 16% Mathematics

Gender divide

  • 52% female
  • 48% male

With women still under-represented in STEM careers, it’s interesting and encouraging to see that our STEM distance learners have an almost equal gender divide – with slightly more female students than male. However, the balance shifts when it comes to individual subject areas:

  • Biology – 68.4% female
  • Chemistry – 53.5% female
  • Mathematics – 34.9% female
  • Physics – 30% female

National campaigns such as WISE (Women in Science, Tech and Engineering) and Geek Girls are seeking to open up opportunities for women to enter STEM careers. It seems the NEC STEM student demographic has a more equal gender balance than the wider UK picture, where currently:

  • Women make up 42% of UK science professionals
  • 11% of the engineering workforce in the UK is female
  • 20% of A level physics students are girls
  • Women make up 17% of UK ICT professionals
  • Women make up 23% of UK STEM professionals


One of the great advantages of distance learning is that it’s accessible and achievable for students of all ages. Our survey revealed that our STEM students range from 15 to 79 years old. However, the vast majority are either in their 20s (52.9%) or aged 15-19 (23.6%) – suggesting plenty of future STEM careers could be in the pipeline.

STEM aspirations

We asked our STEM students about their future fields of interest. The most popular responses were Medicine and related careers (43.8%) and Engineering (12.3%). Overall the scope of fields of interest were diverse and included: Law, Science, Meteorology, Architecture and Computer Science.

“The goal is to blitz these A levels so I can apply to Biomedical Engineering degrees with various universities.” — NEC A level Biology, Mathematics and Physics student

*Data sources: and

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Friday, 23 March 2018

Get ready for exam success

Desks and chairs in an exam hall

With the Easter break fast approaching, summer exams for GCSEs and A levels are just around the corner. It’s the perfect time to plan your revision schedule and we’ve put together some top tips to help you get started.

1. Make space

Fitting study around a busy schedule can be a challenge. Make the best use of your time by creating an organised study space. With quick access to everything you need – you’ll work much more efficiently.

2. Plan your approach

Create a revision timetable by working out how many topics you need to cover and allocating revision sessions to each one.

Revisit the learning outcomes of your course to focus your mind on the key issues. Consider which areas you feel more or less confident in and prioritise your revision time accordingly.

3. Banish distraction

So, you have a plan... now comes the hard bit. Getting started can be difficult and distractions are rather tempting. It’s a struggle, but try to avoid Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social channels whilst studying. Keep your phone in a different room, where you can check it during a break.

Try to motivate yourself by focusing on why you’re doing it, breaking a task into smaller chunks, setting targets and rewarding yourself.

4. Use every trick in the book

Revision is all about committing information to memory, so you can apply it to different scenarios in the exam. Here are some common ways of learning and retaining information:

  • Keep it simple: use bullet points, lists, headings and mnemonics
  • Mix it up: use diagrams, quizzes, documentaries, pictures, audio, flashcards, posters and apps
  • Do it your way: write notes in your own words to make them easier to remember
  • On repeat: re-read, chant and recite your notes

5. Think critically

Don’t just write reams of revision notes – test yourself as you work. Do you understand what you’re learning? Are there any areas that need more research or unresolved questions? Think about any patterns or themes in the information you’re working with. Why are they there? What other ideas support them – what do you think?

If you do identify areas that you still don’t fully understand, please contact your tutor or our Student Support Team, for assistance.

6. Understand the task

Every year exam boards publish examiner reports which outline exactly what they are looking for when they mark papers. They also detail what they don’t want to see.

By accessing the exam board reports you can identify key strategies for gaining higher marks. Learn and practice these strategies and provide examiners with exactly the type of answer they are looking for.

7. Question time

Once you’ve learnt the facts, start to apply them by completing past papers – at least two weeks before the exam. Familiarising yourself with how questions are worded and structured will help you to identify exactly what is being asked on exam day.

8. Build models

Using revision notes and past papers create a series of model answers and practice these in different ways:

  • Planning answers in brief
  • Writing full answers in timed exam conditions
  • Drawing mind maps to capture every point
  • Discussing answers with your tutor or via our forum

9. Review and improve

Once you finish a past paper, reflect on your responses by going through the marking scheme. Think about areas for improvement and use the scheme’s model answers to identify any gaps in your knowledge.

The more past papers and questions you tackle – the more confident you’ll feel on exam day.

10. And finally, take a break

A tired brain isn’t effective, so take regular breaks and don’t sit at your desk for hours on end. Get out, take some exercise, eat and sleep well.

We’re here to help

If you have any questions or need guidance to help with your revision, please do contact your tutor or our Student Support Team.

Additional services

From past paper marking to additional tutorials on key areas, our tutors offer additional services to help you prepare for exams. To find out more about these services, please get in touch on: 0800 389 2839.

Further reading

We have worked closely with UCAS to prepare a series of free study skills guides, which provide further information and guidance.

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Tuesday, 20 March 2018

'Teachers shouldn't confiscate pupils' phones: they're vital for learning.'

A hand holding a smartphone

This week’s blogger is former NEC GCSE English student Naila Din. Now a freelance arts advisor and business coach, Naila turned to teaching as a second career after studying graphic design at university and working as a graphic designer in the world of web design before embarking on a career in education. Her enthusiasm for education and the integration of technology into the classroom prompted her to further develop her knowledge in this field with a Masters in Digital Media, with a particular focus on the future of education. This blog post is the second of two about the impact of technology in the classroom and looks at what technology means for teachers. The first post can be found here:

Impact of technology on teachers

It's the 21st century, a time when research, such as Buckminister Fuller’s ‘Knowledge Doubling Curve,’ has led to estimates that people’s knowledge is doubling every 12 months from generation to generation (Carolyn Gregoire writes in her article for the Huffington Post ‘Is Human Intelligence Rising With Each Generation?'); yet we still hear news such as ‘Iran has decided to ban teaching English to its students from FEAR of losing its culture, or Apple controlling its consumers by slowing down older iPhones.’

There has been some debate around teachers confiscating pupil’s phones, banning them from the classroom and asking whether they’re vital for learning. A professional lawyer told me recently that his word of the year is focus, this got me thinking. It got me thinking about the generations to come who have fewer opportunities to truly master the skills of people who are highly successful today, because of technology like mobile phones and computer games.

We are at the beginning of a revolution where future generations will be increasingly immersed in technology. Technology is growing in ways and speeds even the inventors can’t comprehend, let alone prepare students for. Technology which is likely to become obsolete by the time students are ready to embark into the world of work. This blog is not about whether mobiles phones should or should not be confiscated, but it is about an opportunity to look at things in a different way – to ‘Think Differently’ as one major computer company put it.

With these realities, each generation is learning about technology from its children. Are we not? Instead of confiscating, banning or trying to restrict mobile technology in the classroom, could it be better to address fears head on, by looking at the behaviour and teaching our students about the skills needed to get ahead? In my opinion, this can only be done by working with students to create opportunities for mobile technology to be utilised on projects and by making learning more like the real world, something that Vicki Davis offers her students and shares with other teachers at

If we asked students do they wish to be ‘successful’ I am sure 90% would have a vague idea of what success would look like, with others having no idea at all. Times are increasingly changing. People are moving from opportunity to opportunity to expand their lifestyles. In my opinion it is an ideal time for educators to teach the skills that lead to success, regardless of what that success might be for the future of our students.

Success comes from learning how to create a deep, laser focus’ says Richard St. John ‘and mobile phones are designed to be distractive and disruptive.’ Richard spent over a decade teaching students what leads to success. ‘Focus’ is one of the eight traits he talks about that are common in successful people, regardless of their environmental and social background.

Teaching and developing skills that empower students to become independent-learners and take ownership of their passions, desires and imaginations would allow for an education system which grows and morphs as technology continues to change the world of work and the future of education. Students would themselves equipped with skills that will serve them throughout their life. Skills that are purposeful and meaningful.

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Tuesday, 06 March 2018

A lesson in innovation: Ángela Ruiz Robles

"Ángela Ruiz Robles with her Mechanical Encylopedia"
by ITU Pictures / License: CC BY 2.0

As a distance learning provider, the NEC was founded on the aspiration to widen access to education. Doing things differently is part of our DNA and innovative thinking has been required from day one.

From looking at how new technology can enhance distance learning to exploring different pedagogical methods – innovation continues to drive us forward. Once in a while it we like to reflect on how others innovate in education – to see if there are lessons to be learnt.

Last week, an article in the Guardian highlighted how a street in Madrid has been named after Spanish teacher and inventor, Ángela Ruiz Robles. The street-naming celebrates her contribution to education and innovation in Spain. It is part of a wider initiative in Madrid to bring previously overlooked work by pioneering female artists, writers, scientists and thinkers to light.

Ruiz Robles is remembered for her 1949 invention: the mechanical encyclopedia which can be retrospectively viewed as a visionary forerunner to the ebook.

The mechanical encyclopedia was described as a “mechanical, electric and air-pressure driven method for reading books”. It included audio, a magnifying glass and a light – plus different subject reels that could be swapped out.

Born in 1895, Ruiz Robles was a teacher, writer and lecturer. Whilst her mechanical encyclopedia won prizes and acclaim, it never gained the funding to launch as a product. A working prototype is now an important exhibit at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Spain.

Lesson 1: Innovation comes from passion

Ruiz Robles became an inventor for one simple reason: to help her students learn. She wanted to ‘make teaching easier: to get maximum knowledge with minimum effort’. As a teacher and writer, she wanted to find new ways to engage her students – as well as to lighten their satchels.

Lesson 2: Timing is key

In later life, Ángela returned to her invention project. Although technology had advanced by the 1970s – the timing still wasn’t right and the project reached prototype stage only. Who knows what educational innovations Ángela might have created, had she been working in today’s digital world?

Lesson 3: The long road to recognition

Recognition for Ángela’s mechanical encyclopedia only grew in the decades after her death in 1975. Innovative thinkers often don’t see the impact of their work. For Ángela and a host of other innovative women, Madrid’s street-naming project marks the end of a long road to recognition. It is great to see their vital contributions finally taking centre stage.

More about Madrid’s street-naming project

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Thursday, 01 March 2018

What can we learn from Finland?

The flag of Finland, a blue cross on a white field

A Finnish Education

No inspections, no tests, no uniforms and no fees. A valued teaching profession, shorter school days and starting school at seven. Do all these elements add-up to a world-leading education system? In Finland, it appears they do.

Finland has consistently ranked highly in the PISA tables. Held every three years, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey evaluates education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students.

How do the UK’s PISA rankings compare? Well, the results speak for themselves:

  UK ranking Finland ranking






PISA Rankings 2015 (Source)
Distance learning… the Finnish way

At the NEC we deliver a wide range of GCSE and A Level distance learning courses. To deliver national qualifications effectively, compliance with the wider UK education system is a necessity. However, working outside the school system does give us a certain freedom to innovate to create the best learning experience for our students.

By looking at the educational systems of other countries, we draw on ideas and best practice to inform the ‘NEC approach’. Finland offers plenty of food for thought…


We support a diverse range of students. Our courses must have the flexibility to suit a wide range of audiences – from those gaining qualifications for career progression, to pupils being home-schooled or individuals re-training in the armed forces.

Flexibility is key to the Finnish approach. Children don’t enter compulsory schooling until the age of seven. Once in school, the Finnish learning day is much shorter (four hours). Homework is also minimal, because Finnish parents trust that teachers cover enough during the school day – making home a space for children to enjoy other interests and family time.

A focused, time-efficient approach is a necessity for distance learners, who often juggle studying with work and family commitments. For those choosing to home-school, having the flexibility to balance learning with family time – as in Finland – is often seen as a real positive.


As a distance learning provider, innovation is part of our DNA. It helps us to ensure that NEC students have the same opportunity to succeed, as those learning in a face-to-face environment.

In Finland, experimentation and change in education is actively encouraged. The Finnish listen to and act upon new research. In fact, Finnish teachers often establish mini-labs to test different styles of teaching. They then keep what works and discard the ideas that don’t.

For distance learning, this pro-active, experimental approach could bring exciting progress – as technology opens up new ways for us to communicate and educate at a distance.


At the NEC, we are committed to going ‘above and beyond’ to support the learning experience of our students. We structure our resources so that from course administration through to academic delivery – quality support is available. We also have robust quality assurance processes to monitor and evolve how our students experience support.

Placing priority on pupil support is a key aspect of Finland’s approach. With smaller schools than in the UK, Finnish teachers have the time and attitude to focus on going the extra mile to support students when they need it.


At the NEC, we champion the right to access learning regardless of age, background, culture or circumstance. It is interesting to note that equality is also fundamental to Finland’s education system.

With no standardised testing or streaming by ability, the Finnish focus on learning – not competition, rankings or league tables. All Finnish schools work toward the same national goals, with equal access to one talent pool of teachers. The impact of equality in education is highlighted by the fact that, in Finland, the difference between the weakest and strongest students is the smallest in the world (source: OECD).

As a distance learning provider, it is inspiring to see how equality of access and experience can lead to outstanding results.

Find out more:

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Thursday, 22 February 2018

Learning barriers facing prisoners

 'Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.' - Nelson Mandela

Today's NEC Blog is written by Wendy Monaghan, who has considerable experience of working with distance learners in many different contexts and is currently at the University of East London. Her MA Leadership in Education dissertation was entitled: ‘Distance Learning Trends in Prisons in England and Wales.’

During his 27 years imprisonment Nelson Mandela studied for a degree via a correspondence course. South Africa’s first black president believed education to be the most powerful weapon available to change the world. Many would agree. But what are the special problems facing those detained in Her Majesty’s prisons who wish to follow Mandela’s example?

Access to education choice: Individuals in prison don’t always know what is available to them and educational opportunities vary from prison to prison, often focused on literacy and numeracy. The options are far more limited than those available within a college or university. Constraints are imposed by the availability of suitably trained teaching staff, the availability of resources, limited and restricted access to those resources, and the prisoner’s length of sentence – will he or she be able to complete all the necessary modules before being moved to another institution or released?

Access to materials: Whilst some distance learning organisations (like the NEC and the OU), provide paper-based materials for prison learners, many don’t offer an alternative, catering for the wider mass online market. This makes studying challenging as there is no access to the internet and less guidance from many providers on what and how to study especially if aiming for exams.

Access to resources: Alongside the paucity of materials is the very limited access to resources to support studying. The most notable is the restricted access to computers, not only for internet research, but for writing up assignments. Library visits may be for just 20 minutes. And whilst the library may stock some reference works and study guides, its main offer will be fiction.

Access to tutors: Whilst learners will have access to a tutor, it is often limited to short phone calls, letters and marked assignments. Phone calls will be brief and only at an allotted time. If the timing does not suit either tutor or learner, then it could be some time before contact can be made. With no access to email in prison, letters and posted marked assignments are the only written feedback and support. These are slow feedback mechanisms and if the written feedback creates further questions, the student must then try to contact the tutor again.

Quiet study: Prisons are noisy environments! There is a constant humdrum of shouting and doors banging, against a backcloth of people moving around all the time. Access to quiet areas to think let alone study are few.

“Most of us, in prison, tend to find really early mornings easier to study. It's the quietest part of the day in prison. It also feels better when you get up early for a purpose. The other really big thing for me was to talk about it. Whatever you are studying, there is something really valuable about trying to have conversations with people on the yard, or between sets at the gym. It helps for you to think about how to explain really complex topics in a really basic way. The better you get at explaining it in lay terms, the more it sinks in.”Gareth, Prisoners’ Education Trust course brochure 2018 (page 26)

Prisoner mobility: Sometimes a learner can be moved at short notice (often hours). Course materials can be left behind and at each prison a new assessment will be undertaken. Sometimes the new prison will not support the type of course that was supported previously, the prison may have a different educational focus or may not have the capacity to support the learner.

Exams: Should a learner complete their studies, they may need to take an exam to gain a qualification. A learner in prison has battled with all other challenges including maintaining their own motivation to get to the exams stage. There is the possibility that they will then be let down by administrative issues experienced within the prison or as a result of syllabus changes. Being a registered exam centre varies from prison to prison and a learner could undertake study and then be unable to take an exam at the end of it all.

“It can be difficult to motivate yourself, but what kept me going was that it would be a waste not to do it. I checked on my initial reasons for wanting to do the course, and I focused on those.”Sadiq, Prisoners’ Education Trust course brochure 2018 (page 42)

These are just some of the challenges that learners in prison face when they decide to enrol on a course – whether this be a short course, vocational, GCSE, A Level or degree.  The good news is that there is lots of work being done through charities such as the Prisoners’ Education Trust to support learning in prison. The Prisoner’s Education Trust is the lead for prison learning and has just published its 2018 prospectus.

The National Extension College supports prison learners to achieve qualifications by making essential adjustments such as providing hard copies of learning materials and sending out additional copies should a learner be moved to a new prison at short notice.

All this support provides opportunities in prison that would otherwise not be an option and supports learners in developing themselves both personally as well as educationally and professionally.

Those who undertake any form of learning whilst in prison deserve congratulation for their perseverance and commitment to overcoming the many barriers.

Those barriers are formidable, but many prisoners over many years have been grateful for the unstinting support available from the National Extension College, without which very many would be denied access to learning.

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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Ignite your love of learning this Valentine’s day

An open book with two pages curled together forming the shape of a heart

It’s Valentine’s day, so we thought we’d talk about our biggest love at NEC: learning! There are so many reasons to love learning, these are our top 5.

1: There are so many ways to learn!

If the thought of a classroom sends you running for the hills, you can learn online, like an NEC course. You can watch videos, do quizzes and even have a personal tutor. The speed that modern technology is advancing is making the learning landscape an exciting place to be.

2: You can learn at any age.

The official school leaving age has risen to 18, but even if you’re not planning on going on to University, your learning journey doesn’t have to end there. NEC welcomes students of all ages.

3: You can study, well, just about anything.

Whatever your passion—English, maths, science, Latin or perhaps the history of art—chances are you’ll be able to find a course on it. NEC, for example, has over 80 courses, including all of the topics we just mentioned and many more!

4: It builds confidence.

Time and time again, we hear that one of the results of learning, is building confidence. If you have been out of study for a while, it can be daunting to start again. Taking a course can help you to build the confidence to take the next steps in your learning journey.

5: It can change your life!

Getting back into learning really can change your life. As well as building confidence, it can open the doors to a new career or to a promotion. In a recent survey of NEC students, more than 50% of respondents said that they went on to further or higher study as a result of taking an NEC course. One respondent told us that as a result of taking a course, he was able to become ordained. Another told us that her course led to her publishing two books.

We hope that the reasons for our passion for education help you to ignite your own love of learning. If you want to take a step on your learning journey, take a look at our range of courses and see if there’s one for you!

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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Tips for beating the January Blues

Calendar page with the 15th of the month circled in red pen

It’s early January, and as the sparkle of Christmas fades, we begin to edge back into our daily routines. Perhaps you are relishing a return to normality or embracing a new challenge? Or maybe you find the cold, dark days of January a bit of a struggle?

It’s not unusual to find January a little tough-going. In fact, it is recognised that January presents a set of natural, psychological and physical factors which can combine to cause both mental and physical symptoms.

Scientists have proved a causal connection between the low level of daylight we receive in January and a complex depressive illness known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Low exposure to sunlight has an impact on hormone levels (melatonin and serotonin) in the part of the brain that controls mood, sleep and appetite.

Symptoms of SAD are wide-ranging and can include depression, lack of energy, concentration problems, anxiety, overeating, and social and relationship problems. However, the impact of SAD varies significantly from person to person. At one end of the scale, around 20% of the UK population experience the ‘Winter Blues’ – feeling tired, grumpy and a bit down. At the other extreme, some people experience more debilitating depression and must seek treatment in order to be able to continue going about their daily lives.

Psychological pressure plays its part too. During Christmas and New Year, we are bombarded by cultural messages about being part of a family, enjoying time with friends, experiencing happiness and creating new life-goals. It’s not surprising that this can sometimes leave us feeling inadequate and low – especially if we don’t feel we quite match up to the ‘perfect’ picture portrayed. Add to this the physical factors associated with this time of year – over-consumption of alcohol, poor diet and lack of exercise – and it comes as no surprise that January can spell disaster for our mood and mental health.

Today, the challenges of January are well-recognised. We even have a (not particularly scientific!) mathematical formula for calculating when ‘Blue Monday’ – the single most depressing day of the year – will occur. Originally initiated by a PR company, Blue Monday is now a widely known annual event. It is calculated based on: the weather, debt level, amount of time since Christmas, time since failing our New Year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take charge. Based on this formula, you can expect Blue Monday 2018 to hit on January 15.

So, as we trudge on through Blue Monday and the rest of January, here are some tips to help you beat the January Blues:

  1. Let the sunshine in
    Open up blinds and curtains, seek a window seat or head outside to gain some extra daylight. Clinically-tested light units are also available, which mimic natural outdoor light. These have been shown to have a positive effect on brain chemicals linked to mood.
  2. Swap Prosecco for H2O
    Staying hydrated is a simple way to feel better. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day will remove toxins and waste, as well as preventing headaches and joint pain. If you’re giving alcohol a break, then taking part in a Dry January fundraiser such as Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon could deliver the boost of positivity and motivation you need.
  3. Take a Norwegian mind-set
    In Norway, winter is positively embraced, rather than endured. This shift in mind-set finds and celebrates the positives associated with the season – from getting cozy by the fire, to drinking hot beverages, skating or building a snowman, they are there if we look hard enough!
  4. Wrap up, head out
    Grab that scarf your Great Aunt Fran knitted you for Christmas and put it to good use. Taking a short, brisk walk in the cold is enough to boost your exercise and improve your mood. Just wrap up well – the great outdoors is waiting.
  5. Take small steps
    Ignore the pressure to embark on grand plans or resolutions – this can create feelings of inadequacy and failure. Instead, try to focus on one small step that points you in a new direction. That might simply be researching a new course or take a small amount of time to re-discover a hobby. Small steps can be achieved. Why not take advantage of our New Year, New You offer? With 15% off all our GCSEs and A Levels it is a really great time to get started on your ambitions.

For further information and support on Winter Blues and SAD and how to seek help if you feel you need it see:

  • Mind – the mental health charity
  • NHS – information about SAD


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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Top tips for starting a distance learning adventure in 2018

A pink note reading "Happy New Year" next to two filled champagne flutes and a silver party ribbon

With the festive season in full swing, plans and resolutions for 2018 are rapidly approaching. If your 2018 ambitions include a return to study via distance learning, why not use the next few weeks to identify a course that offers the support you need?

For distance learners, support offered by their course provider is key to shaping the overall learning experience. Gaining access to the right support from registration through to collecting your results will transform your 2018 learning experience from ‘good’ to ‘great’.

From registration to results, our top tips for comparing course provider support...

1. Registration: Access advice and support from day one

A good course provider will offer lots of support to ensure you choose the right course, before you register. Once you’re enrolled, guidance should be on-hand to help you get started.

NEC's approach

As well as information and downloadable course samples, our course advice team are happy to talk through any questions you have prior to registration. We want to ensure you make an informed choice, that’s right for you. When you enrol on an NEC course you’ll receive a confirmation email, plus immediate contact from your personal tutor.

2. Learn: Expect quality in both teaching and materials

When considering course providers, explore how they ensure the quality and depth of their teaching support and course materials. These elements will shape your entire learning experience.

NEC's approach

NEC tutors are experts in their subject area and the majority have a degree in their field of study, plus a teaching qualification.

NEC course materials are specially written and structured for independent study by our team of expert writers. They are carefully structured to build knowledge and skills in a way that meets assessment and exam requirements.

NEC materials include:

  • Engaging content develops interest in the subject
  • Getting started guidance and videos
  • Course plans, activities and quizzes
  • Guidance on answering exam questions
  • Assignments to submit to a personal tutor
  • Personal learning journal

Visit the courses section of our website to request sample materials.

3. Learn: Use expert knowledge to enhance learning

Some course providers use a pool of tutors to support students and assess work. Others provide a named, personal tutor for every student – offering consistent expert support throughout the course.

NEC's approach

We feel it is important to provide one-to-one tutor support for students, throughout a course. This approach offers consistency, as well as the opportunity to build a teacher-student rapport. As soon as you register on an NEC course you will be assigned a personal tutor who will offer support, guidance and feedback throughout and mark your assignments and coursework.

4. Assess: Ask if your exam place will be guaranteed

Booking an exam at a suitable centre can be tricky, stressful and time-consuming. Finding a course provider that manages the exam process will allow you to focus on studying for exam success.

NEC's approach

We are the only course provider to guarantee an exam place for all our students. We also provide an Exam Booking Service to take care of the entire process on behalf of students. Our experience as an exam centre, alongside long-term partnerships with 15 centres around the UK, allows us to resolve any issues, to deliver a professional, stress-free service on exam day.

5. Results: Review past results - does the course deliver?

Although distance learning is not all about hard results - a lot of people study our courses for leisure purposes or simply to gain more knowledge in a subject they are passionate about. It is good to have an understanding of what the pass rate is for the course you’re interested in before you choose a provider – after investing all that hard work and study, you may want to achieve the best results possible.

NEC's approach

We have a very high pass rate. To give you an example, for the summer 2016 exam session, we received a 100% pass rate for our IGCSEs and GCSEs. We hope these tips help you to plan your next learning adventure.

If you have any further questions please contact us on our free advice line – we’re here to help.

Call: 0800 389 2839
Monday to Friday: 8.00 – 19.00
Saturday & Sunday: 8.00 – 17.00
Or access our Course Guide.

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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Finding a way to pay for your learning

Photo credit: Nick Youngson -

If you’re looking for help toward funding an online or distance learning course, it can be difficult to know where to start. A lot of funding is geared toward face to face learning that takes place in a classroom, but learning in this way is not suitable for everyone.

You might be working full time or have children, perhaps you’re not able to travel to your local college? Whatever your reason for choosing to study a course online, we would like to share our top tips for looking at possible ways to pay for your course.

Spread the cost

If you are able, paying in monthly instalments might be a good way to spread the cost of your course. You can pay a deposit amount and then monthly instalments meaning you don’t have to pay the full amount up-front. NEC instalment plans usually have 0% interest and run over 6 months. Find out more about paying by with instalments.  

Ask your boss

If you’re thinking of doing a course that will help you to improve in your job or, perhaps, to prepare for a promotion with your company, asking your boss for help might be a good option for you. Some employers are willing to help their teams to be the best they can be, after all, it will be of benefit to them in the long-term. If you decide to do this, we suggest presenting your employer with details of the course and how it will help you to improve in your job.

Search for funding

There are different possibilities for funding your course, based on your own circumstances and often your location. You might consider approaching include local community groups or charities specific to your own circumstances such as ‘Help for Heroes’ if you are a former member of the Armed Forces.

Turn2Us have an online search tool which will search, on your behalf, for available grants based on your personal circumstances and location. You might also consider speaking to your Local Authority, particularly if you are educating your children at home.

Specialist organisations

Some organisation provide financial assistance to specific groups of people, for example, The Carers Trust provides grants for those with responsibility as a carer, The Prince’s Trust provide grants to young people aged between 14 and 25.

If you’re a member of the armed forces, you might be able to get funding. If you are looking to do a level 2 qualification (such as a GCSE) you may be able to get help through the Standard Learning Credits scheme. If you are looking for a level 3 or above, the Enhanced Learning Credits Administration Service (ELCAS) may be able to help you. In both cases, we recommend speaking to your Education and Resettlement co-ordinator in the first instance. NEC is approved by the Ministry of Defense (MoD) under the ELCAS scheme. Provider number 1160.

Don’t forget though, all grants and awards are subject to your individual circumstances. You can often find details of any eligibility criteria on the organisations website or by giving them a call.

Look for special arrangements

On some occasions, NEC works with organisations to provide a discount on course fees. One example of this is our partnership with Unionlearn. All union members are able to get a 10% discount on course fees. There are also special rates available when you are looking to enrol on more than one A level or GCSE course. Families that are home educating their children can also take a further 10% off of their course fees. You can read more about all NEC special offers and arrangements.

We hope this has given you an idea of where to start, if you’re looking to pay for your course.

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