How to create a support network that works

Tackling a course on your own can be daunting.

The lack of classroom environment and daily face-to-face interaction with your tutor, can leave even the most intrepid distance learner feeling lost from time to time.

But you can minimise the challenges by establishing a support network early on in your studies. Here are some ideas, which could help…

1. Connect with your tutor

If your course gives you access to a tutor, make full use of the help they have to offer. Engage with them early on and make an effort to keep lines of communication open as your course progresses, it will make things easier when you need to call on them for help.

Share your learning goals with your tutor at the outset and get their input to help you customise your study plan.

It’s good to try and solve problems yourself. But if you are stuck, get in touch with your tutor.

“We often find that students can be reluctant to ask questions, so we encourage them to ask as much as possible. It doesn’t matter how trivial it seems to you, just ask away,” says Caroline Warburton, AAT course director at iCount.

Help them to help you by asking for specific help. Try and pinpoint your difficultly, for example:

  • I understand everything up to this point…
  • I understand this part, but not this…

Don’t forget to thank them for the feedback and support afterwards.

2. Join AAT’s student forum

If you haven’t already done so, sign up to the AAT student forum.

AAT’s social media team will need to approve you. If you already communicate with AAT via email, you can use the same email address for your application.

As Online Community Executive, Paul Combes puts it: “You will find other students going through the same subjects and modules who you can talk to and just support each other”.

You can also find members who have gone through it all. The search function also allows you to find historic topics that may help answer a question.

3. Buddy up

Finding a study partner is a great way to increase your motivation and raise your chances of a pass.

Ideally you will be able to pair up with someone from your course. If not, look for someone suitable from a forum or Facebook group.

“What’s really good about having a study buddy is that it helps you learn,” says Catherine Littler, a trainer and consultant for AAT. “If you have a study buddy to discuss topics with, you benefit from having to put your ideas into words; if you have to explain a subject to your study partner, then you have to understand it – and thus you learn it”.

Learn more about finding the perfect study buddy.

4. Look out for webinars

Webinars are another way to top up your knowledge. Some training providers run free webinars on topics ranging from general study strategy, to advice around specific assessments. You can find out about these on training provider websites or support groups.

“Distance learners often feel they are on their own. But it’s not the case,” says Samantha Hannigan of Premier Training.

“There are webinars that are free and open to all. We also run a mentoring service, which is free to our members and available for a fee to those who aren’t customers.”

5. Friends and family

Sometimes all you need is a little boost to get you over a hump. Family and friends may not be able to help you with advanced tax or bookkeeping techniques, but as people who believe in you, they are an invaluable resource.

Make full use of this network by sharing your goals, updating them on your progress and reaching out when you need encouragement or general advice.

Resource of the day

As a distance learner you might miss the social atmosphere of a classroom. By joining a Facebook group this is a great place to ask for tips on how to pass that assessment, or share the challenges of balancing work and study with people who are working on the same topics.

The AAT Students Independent Group, created by students for students, is a place for AAT distance learners to come together for technical advice, motivation and general banter.

With over 12,000 members, you can learn from and support one another. The main rule in the group is ‘if you ask for help, return the favour when you are in a position to do so’. That way the group regulates itself as each new round of newbies can get support from those that have progressed. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Why not join the Accounting Student Network Facebook Group. With over 25,000 members this group supports accounting students from all qualifications, not just AAT. It’s a chance for you to grow your network as well as get career advice and talk to others.

Up Next: Why students fail assessments

David Nunn is Content Manager at AAT.

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