Part-Time versus Distance Learning

Fellow Twitter pal, Harriet and I decided to compare our LIS course experiences so far. Harriet is an Art History grad, currently working as a Library Assistant in a University Library, whilst I’m an English Language & Linguistics grad working as a Business Intelligence Consultant on a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) programme. Harriet is studying part-time at Sheffield University, whilst I’ve opted for distance learning at Robert Gordon University. Here are our thoughts so far.

Getting Funding


Harriet:   I found getting funding for studying the Part Time Masters in Librarianship really difficult. There aren’t a lot of funding options available and currently you cannot get a Postgraduate Loan from the government for this course. I wrote more about funding in this blog post here. I applied for one of the Sheffield University Scholarships and was unsuccessful. Amazingly my employer, every year, sends out an email asking people if they have any studying requirements and I applied for my first years funding from my employer. I was successful and my employer is now sponsoring me to take the course. Hopefully I will get funding for my second year too. I’m aiming to do the Masters in two years instead of three.

cutmypicRachel:   I thought I had funding. I called SAAS in the lead up to my course starting. I had a great chat with a Post-Grad advisor, before completing an online form. All the funding boxes were ticked, and I was partially funded for the year. (WIN!) However, SAAS told me this week, that 5 weeks into my course, they were pulling my funding. I don’t have time to re-apply for alternative funding this school year, so I’ll be self-funding instead.

SAAS has told me the situation had been created due to a ‘comms error’. Apparently they thought distance learning courses were covered by funding, but they aren’t. I’m pretty disappointed with SAAS as a service provider. If I weren’t able to self-fund, I’d have had to drop out.

Studying whilst working

Harriet:   I’m only into my fourth week of studying and working. So far it hasn’t been that bad. I’m generally a pretty organised person, but I do block out times in my diary and on my Google Calendar to study and make notes of the hours I do. Even if I feel like I haven’t done loads, seeing that I’ve sat at my desk in the attic for three hours makes me feel like I am trying. It’s been a challenge in terms of the workload in some ways. We have graded assignments due over the next couple of months and weekly tasks to do. I find the weekly tasks and reading the most difficult because they aren’t all communicated in the same way. We get emails, notifications, areas on our Virtual Learning Environment. 


It’s pretty sporadic. And we don’t get our weekly tasks always on the day of our lecture we can get them half way through the week. Right now I’m focusing on the graded assignments and putting a lot of work into those. If I miss a weekly task oh well, not the end of the world. I also used to work a lot in some zero hours jobs I have alongside full time work. I’ve had to cut down on that quite a lot. I used to do a lot of weekends, either working a Saturday, Sunday or both, so that’s had to go for now to make room for studying. I’m still managing to squeeze the odd shift in here and there.

Rachel:   Similar to Harriet, it’s still early doors. I’m 5 weeks in, and I’m really enjoying the course but finding that I don’t get much time through the week to complete assignments and course reading. I generally spend my weekends playing catch up. I try to complete additional reading on the bus to and from work. The course can be accessed via my iPhone, so I dip in and out of course materials whilst I’m on the go. This certainly isn’t how I studied the last time I was at university – however, materials are so accessible, I’m finding dipping into things whilst waiting for the tram, or whilst spinning at the gym to be the only way to keep on track with the latest course developments.

Part-Time versus Distance Learning

Harriet’s pros:

  • I love that my life hasn’t been consumed by university like it was for my BA. I get to go to work Tuesday to Friday and enjoy what I’m doing and be good at a job. My life isn’t quantified by how well I did on that essay or that test.
  • MONEY! Having a full-time wage is extremely helpful. I’m not worrying about rent or bills. I’m not working loads around my study (and having my studies suffer) just to be able to live.
  • I work in a library currently and have a couple of zero hours roles in others. Working in a library alongside doing the course is so beneficial. Staff at everywhere I have/am working have been so supportive and pretty much everyone has said ‘Any questions send me an email’ which is so nice of people to do. I’ve been overwhelmed by how supportive the network of library and information professionals I have around me.
  • Studying part time has made everything feel much less terrifying. Looking at the work load I don’t think I could have studied full time and worked enough to meet my financial needs. I was thinking of studying full time due to the lack of funding and I feel like I’ve really dodged a bullet.

Harriet’s Cons:

  • The course is very geared towards the full time/live in Sheffield students. Most of our introductory talks basically felt like ‘Hey part timers this is all the cool stuff you’ll be missing out on!’
  • I would have loved to have done the course in a year and completely focus on it, but that wasn’t practical for me. Sometimes I worry about it taking two years, but I’ve told myself I need to slow down. I’ve always been worried about where I am for my age and how ‘successful’ I am. I’ve taken a step back from that and tried to make decisions that are right for me. I think in the end having this time to work and study will be beneficial.

Rachel’s Pros:

  • Weekly recorded lectures. These are accessible on laptop and smartphone, making access to video content really easy
  • Regular interaction with my lecturers via Twitter
  • Fantastic library resources, even for those miles away. I can access all of my reading materials online, and have access to postal lending if needed
  • A course that fits around an already busy work and home life

Rachel’s Cons:

  • I really wish i could interact with fellow students and lecturers face-to- face. The online systems used via the course Moodle are great, but I’d swap an arm for a coffee and chat through of the week’s lectures.

Career Aims

Harriet:   My ideal dream library job would be to be an Arts Librarian either in an FE/HE institution or in a specialist arts library. Saying that I really just want to explore librarianship and the information sector as much as I can. I’ve recently started working in the Open Access team at work and managing the repository with a team of people. I’ve loved this work so far so maybe this is another avenue I can go down. I see my career, hopefully, as me doing lots of different things. I want to try everything, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be focused in my course and have a general idea of where I want to go and what I want to do. If I get my first chance to be an Arts Librarian at age 40, amazing! If I’m only an Arts Librarian for a few years before I move onto something else, again, amazing! I think it’ll take me a long time to achieve these goals, but I’m excited to see where the course and my career takes me.

Rachel: …can you ask me next year? I see my LIS course supporting the role I do right now. I’m working on a Data Governance project, supporting the GDPR regulation coming in next year and already I’ve taken away helpful ideas from the course that support my current project. I’m really interested in Digital Inclusion and Literacy, so possibly once I’ve completed the course I’ll get a little more involved in that area of study. For right now, I’m focussing on getting through the course. I’ll think about career aims the day after graduation.