Byline: MARY MORGAN
YOU are keen to learn new skills, but packing in your job to return to the classroom is not always an option. So why not consider distance-learning?
Whether your aim is to climb the corporate ladder or simply expand your horizons, alternatives to classroom or campus-based study are becoming ever more popular.
Thousands of distance-learning courses are now available, covering a range of subjects from basic literacy to prestigious MBAs.
And apart from the obvious advantage of allowing you to remain in paid work while you study, home-based learning is likely to be far cheaper than living on campus or travelling to a college.
Study methods vary from course to course, so students can choose the style best suited to them.
Some are delivered completely online, while other course providers use a combination of books, audio tapes, videos, DVDs, CD-ROMs or TV programmes.
Others run compulsory study weekends or summer schools.
The Open University remains a popular choice. Its courses do not require prior qualifications, and most cost around [pounds sterling]400 to [pounds sterling]500 per year.
On enrolling, you will be allocated a tutor who will help to guide you through the study materials, TV programmes and videos. You will also attend summer schools.
Huw Lewis already had a degree, but he signed up with the OU to study a subject that really interested him - politics.
The 39-year-old originally trained as a science teacher, having done his first degree in chemistry. But as he hoped to become a politician, he started a degree in economics and politics in 1998.
Just a year into his course, Mr Lewis and his wife, Lynne Neagle, 36, who live in Merthyr Tydfil, were elected to the Welsh Assembly as Labour members, and Mr Lewis was forced to fit his studies around a busy constituency schedule.
Despite the birth of his first child, James, just months before his final exams, Mr Lewis graduated with a second-class honours degree last summer.
When his son is older, he plans to take another OU degree, possibly in classics.
Mr Lewis said: 'My original degree was in chemistry, and I always felt I had missed out on the non-scientific side of study.
'A lot of people worry about distance-learning because you don't have the lecturer in the room with you, but the quality of support by telephone and email was excellent.
'The course gave me …