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Stonebridge Associated Colleges - My Experience
Stonebridge Distance Learning
Member Name: Carysb
Stonebridge Distance Learning
Advantages: Student Study Plan, Lots of choice
Disadvantages: Out of date content.
Stonebridge Associated Colleges is one of the biggest distance learning colleges in the world which claims to offer over 600 courses worldwide. They are based in Bude, Cornwall, UK but distance learning can be completed either via the postal service or online. Postal tuition comes in the form of text books, paper books put together with enough information to guide you through your chose course in the hope you pass. As with all learning you are expected to source your own external material to assist your learning. This is the method I use. You post your work with a cover sheet and receive a marked response usually 7 days later, though you do not receive the work you sent so it is worth keeping a copy.
Each student will be assigned a tutor who marks their work and can be contacted directly via the college should you need assistance with any of the questions. The text books sent by the college are divided into chapters and each state the aims of what you are expected to have learnt by the end of the lesson. There is often plenty of information on the subjects and they appear to be thoroughly researched. (Read on and you will see why I am hesistant when I say appear). I cannot fault the level of support offered by the tutors I have been assigned. They have all been very helpful and the staff I have had answer the phone to any of my queries have always been polite and called me back to give me the information I have requested or to confirm my next course rather than put me on hold waiting.
My experience with Stonebridge Associated Colleges has always been good until a year and a half ago when I came across a huge problem which I do not feel has ever been appropriately addressed by the college. Over the last 5 years I have completed many courses. I decided that I wanted to busy myself for an entire year and signed up on the £600 a year study plan (now £700) called the Student Achiever Plan. This plan entitles you to complete as many courses you can in the 12 month period. You can only do two courses at any one time but do not have to finish them all within the 12 months. So effectively if you signed up in the 11th month you could still be completing the course a year on. This worked out really well for me because I wanted to do several courses over the year and at between £200 and £400 per course I was saving myself hundreds of £££.
So far on this membership I have completed: A Level 4 ASET accredited diploma in Mental Health and Social Work. (£285)
A Level 4 ASET accredited diploma in Drug, Solvent and Alcohol Abuse Counselling. (£285)
A Level 4 ASET accredited diploma in Using Law in Social Work. (£285)
A Level 4 ASET accredited diploma in Stress Management Advanced (£360)
And I am still studying:
A Level 4 ASET accredited diploma in Stress Management Coaching & Consultancy Professional (advanced) (£385)
(All ASET accredited courses are subject to an extra £25 examination fee) So you see I got my money's worth, if indeed the courses are worth the prices quoted.
My bad experience came when I was on Assignment 4 of the Using Law In Social Work course. I noticed that the legislation was out of date, not a minor mishap but TEN YEARS out of date, something which is quite important in a diploma in how to use the law. This made me question the validity of the qualification I was working extremely hard in my spare time to achieve. Really if what I was learning was 10 years out of date would the qualification stand? Would the answers I gave using the current legislation be passed? Or would I fail because I hadn't answered from their inaccurate texts? I wrote a very long letter (2 pages) to Stonebridge Associated Colleges pointing out the massive problem in the course they were selling for nearly £300. In the letter I referred to at least 3 of the 6 lessons that were out dated and also showed I knew what I was talking about by referring to the current legislation and a telephone call I made to social services to clarify certain aspects of the law.
Let me explain, I was doing the course to assist with my job where we often liaise with social services and I wanted to be in a better position to understand the legal requirements they have to adhere to. The response I got from the college was immediate - literally it must have been posted on the same day they received it, not that that made it any more worthwhile. The letter they sent me effectively said that they apologise for the error but it wasn't their fault as they buy in the courses from universities and that I could either give up the course (after completing 4 of 6 lessons) and apply for another - meaning I wouldn't have time to fit in the final course I wanted to do, or I could continue it. It also stated that as the course was rarely done by students it wasn't something they would have noticed without it being pointed out to them.
Well really I am none the wise as to how valid this course is. I was given no explanation by Stonebridge College as to whether the qualification would be worthless on completion due to how out of date the content was, nor was I really given a reasonable apology for the inadequate course they were providing. I chose to complete the course because I decided that I had put too much work into it and done too much external research aside of the text provided that it would be stupid of me to quit it. However it has made me much more sceptical of how valid the other courses I wish to take till be as there is no facility to view the texts before you pay your money. Nor has the course I was studying been removed from the listings. The college claimed the Using Law In Social Work course is:
"This Course leads to an ASET Level 4 Award Certificate for successful learners. That means that it is independently accredited at a level of learning equivalent to level 4 on the National Qualifications Framework (NFQ) for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (in which case GCSE's are at levels 1 and 2 and A Levels are at level 3). The Award has been designed by a learning provider to meet specific learners' or employers' requirements and as such is not listed as a qualification on NQF. While the duration, content or assessment may vary from similar national qualifications, in accrediting the programme at level 4, ASET attests that its learning outcomes are at an equivalent level to a level 4 national qualification."
(It has recently changed from being ASET accredited to being accredited by the NCFE).
I would have thought that if it was externally accredited then it would have been vetted to a higher level to establish that the content was up to date.
Do I Recommened Stonebridge Associated Colleges?
I would recommend Stonebridge college overall as I completed many courses with them by the time my membership was up and I am still working on one now, however If you wish to study something as important at the law or a course which teaches you about the policy procedure and ethics of your chosen topic I would advise you to be very careful and consider your options before paying out.
As a result of my experience I will not be paying out for another year on the Student Plan, but then there are no more courses which interest me.
(Also on Ciao but updated for Dooyoo)
Summary: Distance Learning College
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