Frequently Asked Questions about Distance Learning

Everything you need to know about Distance Learning

Distance learning has become the go-to further education method for many students across the whole of South Africa. Students no longer have to worry about travelling expenses or class schedules. Also, the cost of distance learning education is much more affordable than traditional class-based education. This makes it an even more popular choice amongst South Africans, given our current economic crisis.

If you are unsure about whether to follow the crowd and sign up for a distance learning course, continue reading. We will take a closer look at distance learning education, where it all started, and answer a few questions that are regularly asked.

What is distance learning?

Distance learning, also known as home study or correspondence learning, is a method of further education where students do not have to attend any face-to-face classes. When you study a distance learning course, you complete all your assignments at home, on your own. Students simply enrol for a course, their study material gets sent to their home address, and they work through the study material at their own pace.

Distance learning has actually been around for many years. It dates back as far as the year 1728. Caleb Phillips, a teacher from Boston, Massachusetts, was the first person to advertise distance learning. He placed an ad in the Boston Gazette, claiming to be a “New Shorthand Method” teacher. He was searching for students who were interested in studying through weekly mailed lessons.

In 1840, Sir Isaac Pitman created the very first correspondence learning course. His distance learning programme soon became a big success, and three years later the Phonographic Correspondence Society was established.

The first home study school, The Society to Encourage Studies at Home, was founded in 1873. That same year the University of the Cape of Good Hope was founded. It was the first distance learning facility to operate in South Africa. Today it is known as UNISA.

Modern distance learning

Today, distance learning involves online classrooms, discussion forums and submitting assignments via email. Students now can access their course work online and join chat rooms to discuss course work with other students or tutors. Submitting assignments has also gone from using the postal services to simply sending an email with your completed assignments attached.

What does distance learning education cost?

Distance learning is much more affordable than campus-based learning. Also, many home study colleges include the cost of the textbooks in the course fees. This means that you do not have to spend extra money on study material.  

College SA offers easy payment options. This allows you to choose a payment option that best suits your budget and financial situation. You can choose to pay per subject, per monthly instalment, or pay the full course fee up front.

How do I apply for a correspondence learning course?

Normally, course enrolment can be done online or over the telephone. Once you have completed all the registration documentation and paid your registration fee, you will receive your study material.

Check with the institution how their processes work. Each college has their own course registration system in place.

Entrance requirements:

Entrance requirements for distance learning courses are not as strict as campus-based colleges or universities. College SA for instance, offers provider programmes that only require you to have a Grade 10, be 16 years of age, and able to read and write English. This means that, for some of our courses, you do not require a Matric certificate.   

How do I pass a distance learning course?

Studying on your own might seem daunting, but if done correctly, you can complete your course stress free. Here are some failproof tips on how to pass a distance learning course.


  • Read through the syllabus before starting with any course work
  • Complete and hand in all your assignments on time
  • Stay informed by following online resources
  • Chat with fellow students online and help each other
  • Keep your work organised and make sure you know when your next assignment is due
  • Never procrastinate
  • If you need help, ask.
  • Set some long-term goals to motivate yourself

What if I do not understand the course material?

Because distance learning courses are studied independently, the college will provide you with study support. College SA has an in-house student support centre that helps students not only understand their course work, but also pass their study programme the first time.

If you are planning on studying with a different home study college, ask them about their student support. Not all institutions offer the same level of student support.  

Will I write exams?

Depending on the type of course you study, you might have to write exams in order to get your certificate or diploma.

If you register for a non-accredited course, you won’t have to write exams. Most non-accredited courses are assignment based. However, if you enrol for an accredited course, you will be required to write exams.

Check with the learning institution of your choice and confirm whether the course you are interested in has exams or not.

How to choose a distance learning provider?

There are a few questions you have to ask in order to find the right home study college. All of them might look promising, but unfortunately, some are bogus colleges, meaning that they are not registered to offer distance learning education.

When choosing a college, ask the following questions: 

  • Is the learning institution registered and accredited with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET)? Where is the proof?
  • What are the overall costs involved? Do I have to pay extra for study material?
  • Do they offer student support? If yes, how will they help me?
  • What are their course entry requirements?
  • Do they offer accredited learning programmes? (If you are looking for a recognised qualification)
  • Can I afford to study with them? Do they have any special payment options available?


Your findings might help you find the right college for your needs and preferences.

If you have any questions about College SA, feel free to contact our call centre on 0861 663 663