For many people working full time, the road to professional development can lay in the direction of distance learning. While it may seem that distance learning is a relatively new concept since the advent of the digital age, in fact it has been part and parcel of non-traditional education in Europe since the 1800’s when first known as correspondence courses.
Distance learning is multifaceted and CPD courses are available in different forms such as flexible learning, online courses, and the more old fashioned correspondence courses where course material is mailed out. These terms differ based on the institutions running the courses. Some courses will be affiliated with organisations or professional body e.g. Microsoft or The Law Society of Ireland and other courses will be more general and non affiliated. There may be some courses attached to universities or colleges.
Distance learning for CPD can range from short term courses to enhance communication skills, learn first aid or coding while other courses can be longer term or relevant to interest areas or fields of specialty. All are relevant to CPD. The advantages of distance learning for CPD are that it allows flexibility and the benefit of working in your own time. It allows for a work and family life balance and provides convenience and privacy which is important on so many levels for those looking to leave current employment for pastures new.
Distance learning is stimulating and enjoyable often re-using study skills again such as reading, listening through lectures in audio, following visual demonstrations and video clips, progression is gained by quizzes, assignments, peer group discussion and research. Communication skills are enhanced through email, forums and discussions.
The requirements for a distance learning CPD course are an internet connection, word processor, multi media player and email. With mobile phones and tablets offering a full internet experience, distance learning can even be carried out on a morning or evening commute.
Choosing your CPD distance learning options depend on whether you need to follow a mandatory piece of CPD through a professional body or whether a more general development course is wanted. It is important to research thoroughly and ensure the course is being run by an established learning centre with qualified personnel. Make sure the curriculum is one that suits your situation and that there is time enough available to complete any mandatory assignments.
Distance learning opportunities for CPD in Ireland are many. Universities and colleges such as NUI Galway offer a broad range of courses specifically for CPD including IT skills, Childcare, Marketing and Technology. The websites of professional bodies provide details of mandatory CPD and suggest conferences, webinars and other events relevant to gaining the necessary CPD points. There are excellent websites that offer accredited courses for CPD ranging from basic business skills to advanced technical topics.
The cost of the course is something to be considered as there may be an opportunity to seek funding through your employer, especially if the course will enhance your workplace skills. If you are self-employed then any CPD courses should be tax deductible. One other thing to consider is your personal work ethic and motivation and what learning style suits you.
Bear in mind that developing workplace skills does not need to be restricted to industry specific training. Many activities can lead to career success and it is worth looking at courses such as first aid to learn practical and useful skills for the workplace. All courses of this type will help in becoming a well-rounded desirable employee. With the number of courses available, prospects for a career with longevity and progression are ensured.
It is always wise to set aside some time to keep up to speed with what is happening in the industry, there are so many resources from professional and industry publications and web sites to online forums and webinars. By joining in with different groups it is possible to stay on top of what courses and training are relevant for career progression.