Introducing Distance Learning & College SA


College SA Matric Series Introducing Distance Learning


Martin has been begging me to tell him about distance learning and private higher education. As you may have noticed, I love answering questions through blog posts, so I’m not only helping Martin, but also all the other Matrics like you!

 I’ve used my college as an example because I think it will give you a good idea of what private distance education is all about.

 Although this is a long post, I thought it would be helpful to give you as much information as possible!

 In this post I’ve included the following:

  • An explanation of distance learning
  • Accreditation
  • Payment plans
  • Exams
  • Assignments
  • The courses offered by College SA

Distance learning

When I tell people I study via distance learning, and I tell them that I don’t attend classes, I get confused looks. I’m always asked, “Desi, how do you know what is important to study if you don’t go to class?” Or, “What if you need help with something, who will help you?”

Learning by yourself seems scary and sometimes impossible – it isn’t!

Here is the quick answer to the above questions (I’ve used College SA’s example of distance learning):

1.    What it is and how it works

Distance learning means that you learn on your own, without having to go to face-to-face classes. You get your study material and textbooks from the college, and then you study each section in your own time.

All of the courses have assignments that you need to complete and submit to the college for marking. However, the accredited courses have exams that you must write. The exams aren’t written at the college, but at external examination centres.

2.    Study material

The study material you receive from the college is specifically designed for distance learning students. Your study material usually includes a textbook and a study guide. The study guide shows you what is important to remember, it lists the expected outcomes (the concepts you are expected to know after studying a specific section), and it contains assignments which you need to complete and submit for marking.

Colleges SA’s own study material is also written in a way that only includes the most important concepts in a specific subject, so everything in the book is relevant and needs to be studied.

College SA

1.    Accreditation

Through my research, I’ve noticed that accreditation can be tricky, especially in the way that it applies to private colleges (College SA is a private college). Unlike public colleges (government-funded colleges), private colleges don’t have accreditation for all of their courses.

Private colleges are relatively new, and accreditation is a complicated process that takes time. Private colleges must, however, like public colleges, be registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). The DHET oversees higher education (education after Matric) in South Africa and ensures that colleges meet certain requirements.

Private colleges do offer accredited programmes, of which the most popular is the ICB (Institute of Certified Bookkeepers) programmes. The ICB itself only offers the exams, which means that students need to find study material and study support elsewhere. This is where private colleges come in.

Other courses that need colleges to offer their study programmes are:

  • Technical/Engineering courses accredited with Umalusi
  • Computer courses endorsed by Microsoft and CompTIA

Additionally, private colleges offer provider programmes. These programmes are non-accredited. This means that the courses are meant for self-enrichment (gaining extra knowledge), rather than securing a job. These programmes are also relevant for people who work in a certain industry, who want to better understand their industry and job, but don’t necessarily need a formal qualification.

It is very important to remember that if you want a formal qualification to find a job, improve your career opportunities, or the possibility of building on your existing qualification, you need to make sure that the course your enrol for is accredited or endorsed (if you want to work in information technology).

In other words, if you finish a non-accredited course with College SA, you will receive a ‘College SA Certificate’. This certificate is only to show that you’ve completed a course, but it does not mean that the course is accredited.

2.    Educational Planners

College SA has designated Educational Planners. An Educational Planner is someone who helps you choose and register for the right course. An Educational Planner also reminds you of your study payments and follows up on any questions you may have.

3.    Payments

When you register for a course you have to pay a registration fee (most colleges and universities ask this). You also need to pay your course fees.

Course fees differ; you can have a look at College SA’s course fees on their website. (I will also write a blog about the cost of further education in South Africa.)

Students have different financial circumstances and need different payment options. College SA offers three different payment options:

  • Pay up-front
  • Pay interest-free instalments
  • Pay per subject

Other colleges or universities have their own payment structures.

4.      Study time & assignments

Your study time is your responsibility. Meaning, you have to decide which days and times you will use to study.

It’s a good idea to have a study schedule. Have a look at the I mentioned in the Exam Preparation post.

5.    Exams

If you choose to study an accredited course through College SA, you will also have to write exams and submit assignments.

The exam dates can be confirmed with your Educational Planner or tutors.

  • The computer courses have exam dates throughout the year, as well as exam centres all over South Africa. You’ll have to book your seat well in advance.
  • The ICB generally has exam sittings in February, May, July, September and November.
  • Technical courses are written in April, August and September
  • The National Diploma in Human Resource Management requires that you complete 25 hours practical training within the Human Resource Management industry, and complete a series of assessments.

6.    Work

The best thing about distance learning is that you can work full-time and study. And, you don’t have to attend evening classes (many other colleges require that you attend evening classes).

7.      What do you get?

When people ask this question, they generally mean, “What kind of qualification do I get?” What you get when you study a course, depends on where you study (college, university, university of technology), and what type of course you study.

My college offers qualifications that range from a National Certificate to a Diploma.

8.    Types of courses offered by CSA

What are the types?

College SA separates their courses into broad fields of interest, then into programmes, and then into courses. For example:

Accounting and Bookkeeping (broad field of interest)

ICB Financial Accountant (programme)

Level 1 (course)

Level 2 (course)

Level 3 (course)

College SA offers the following broad fields of interest:


  • Accounting and Bookkeeping
  • Business Management
  • Technical Studies N1-N3
  • Human Resource Management
  • Computer Studies

Provider Programme or Non-Accredited

  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Beauty Therapy
  • Interior Decorating and Interior Design
  • Receptionist, Secretarial and Personal Assistant
  • Project Management
  • Marketing
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Child Day Care
  • Graphic and Web Design

What is the difference?

Accredited courses lead to a qualification. You would study an accredited course to work in a specific industry, or if you want to move into higher position in your current industry or company.

The biggest advantages to studying an accredited course like ICB is that you don’t lose credits.

Provider programme or non-accredited course are good for skills development, improving your knowledge of a certain field, or sometimes even to start your own business. These courses are good for situations where you don’t need formal qualifications, and just gaining the knowledge is enough.

Why is it important to know?

It’s important that you know what the difference is, so that you can make an informed decision based on your career goals.

9.    Matric

My college, and many other TVET colleges offer courses that don’t need Matric as an entry requirement. This means that you can begin studying a course on an NQF4 level if you’ve completed grade 11, and still get a recognised qualification

I really hope that this information will help you!

Until next time,

Desi Signature6

Disclaimer:  Martin and Desi are fictional characters created by College SA for educational purposes.