Studying an Online PGCE: Distance Learning Teacher Training

Teaching is a popular career, but achieving NQT (newly qualified teacher) status isn’t always easy. The time you have to commit to complete the standard PGCE can be too much for some; you may have other work commitments that don’t allow for you to study full-time, or perhaps you don’t want to go back to the student lifestyle. If this is you, then you can always study your PGCE via distance learning online. There will still be fees but with no face-to-face teaching you may not be expected to pay as much as if you were studying your PGCE at university, although institutions do vary so it’s worth checking.

If you’re not looking for information specifically about online PGCEs, see our detailed guide on the standard PGCE.

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What types of PGCE can I study via Distance Learning?

Online PGCEs can be studied at most or the majority of universities and can be taken either as a full time option or, in a smaller number of cases, as a flexible part time course. Part time courses allow you to study the course over two years at a pace that suits you. While studying at home you will learn the theory of teaching which will be around 50 percent of your course and the other half will involve classroom experience.

You can take a variety of different PGCE courses through Distance Learning on a flexible basis. With secondary school teaching between the ages of 11-16, it is possible to specialise in the specific area of study your expertise lies, for example, if you have a BA Hons in English you could study a PGCE Secondary English (Age Phase 11-16) with QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). Courses like this are available if you wish to teach science, design and technology, modern languages, music, business studies or computer science.

Classroom experience

Although the theory part of a PGCE via Distance Learning can be done at home, it is not possible to complete the entire course from the comfort of your own home. To fully complete any PGCE which leads to Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) you must complete a certain number of hours in the classroom, teaching students in your chosen subject or age group. Many universities have links set up with specific schools to which you can apply, but in some circumstances it may be possible to organise teaching at a specific school close to you if you are a good distance from your PGCE provider.

Again your classroom experience can be completed on a flexible basis which you will agree between yourself, your mentor and the partner school in which you are teaching during your studies. For example, you could do this by performing 2 days a week at school every week until enough hours have been accumulated to meet the requirements set out by the exam board – it doesn’t have to be a full time commitment.

You will be expected to attend any on-campus sessions which are part of the flexible course to ensure completion, these will be in the form of teaching mock lessons to other students in the same circumstances as yourself. On some courses this may comprise of just 2 days out of the whole 24 months, although other courses may demand a week of interaction with classmates before you are let loose on the children, imparting your wisdom upon them.

Studying a PGCE Online

Carrying out your PGCE through Distance Learning means that it is difficult to have face-to-face time with lecturers or mentors, but this is where newer technology steps in and makes your life easier. You will often be supported by an individual tutor during the completion of the course that will ensure you receive the right hand-outs, information, and training; they will monitor your work and ensure it is completed to the expected standard. This mentor will also work with you during the development stages during classroom experience, often looking at your lesson plans in depth and ensuring that you are following the curriculum correctly for that year groups school or subject. Some institutions now offer webcam chats with tutors, making your learning environment a little bit less ‘virtual’.

Cost of studying your PGCE through Distance Learning

As with any university course the cost of study will vary between courses and institutions, along with whether you study full or part time. It is important to look at costs for your studies as it can differ if you study on a part time basis, as you often pay for each individual module or term by term.

Take the time to research what is on offer at the different institutions and what is expected of you to complete the course. Plan your time wisely in advance, especially in terms of flexibility between yourself, tutors and partner schools. Be prepared for the hard work too, just because you are studying in your own home, or even at the local coffee shop, it doesn’t mean it will be any less stressful. The PGCE is a very intense course, but extremely rewarding, and studying for it via distance learning makes it possible for those who aren’t able to study at an institution to gain QTS.

If you’re interested in becoming a teacher, you may also be interested to read our articles on School-Centred Initial Teacher Training, the Postgraduate Certificate of Education and our advice piece on becoming a qualified teacher.

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