Firstly, I have studied a distance learning course from the University of Wales, Lampeter, so I can't comment on the site itself. As universities offer an increasing number of distance learning courses, I think a review that focuses purely on that experience is still valuable.
I first enrolled for the Licence in Theology diploma in 2008. The modules are pricy compared to something like the Open University, but in addition to the course materials, a number of set texts were provided. The course materials are made up of a study guide prepared by a particular tutor, with a number of readings attached to the end. The academic quality of these materials is really first class; by encouraging individual tutors to write about their own specific area of interest, the materials are well-informed and accessible to the student. What's slightly disappointing is the presentation quality of the items. The photocopied readings which appear at the back of the booklets have quite often been reduced in size and in some cases are really too small to read. What would have been more useful, would have been to allow students access to online journals and databases as the OU do, and then have left students to locate and download/read the articles themselves.
The set texts seem pretty standard for this type of course, though some are getting a little dated now. Whilst the department provides these texts, they are often in old editions (they must have got a job-lot at one time or another!) which is a pity for the student.
Generally, once a student enrols for a module, the materials and set texts are dispatched quickly and efficiently by the university; however, I can't help but feel that at this point, the university feels it's completed most of its obligations.
The tutorial support is patchy; I suspect that for given the small number of students, tutors offer support as an 'extra' alongside their on-campus teaching. They are very knowledgeable in their own fields, and my experience is that they are helpful; the trouble is, that they aren't very pro-active. Once the course materials arrive, students are simply required to get on with their work. Tutors can be contacted for support where necessary, but I didn't feel that they were particularly interested in supporting the students.
Studying at a distance can be particularly difficult. Unlike institutions such as The Open University, no online learning environment is provided, so there is no opportunity to engage with other students. This, coupled with the tutorial support, makes for a lonely period of study.
When students have completed the work, assignments are chosen from a given list, and then these are submitted to the tutor for marking. For the first module I undertook, this was very effective, and they were returned within a couple of weeks. For the second module, there seemed to be a complete breakdown of support from the tutor, and the first assignment took over three months to be marked and returned. After this, I lost the momentum, and withdrew.
I gather that a lot of the latter problems were caused by restructuring problems within the department. This has obviously been difficult for them; however, it's the students who ultimately bear the brunt of this, and the university shouldn't seek to provide causes which it cannot fully support. I feel that whilst my experience of the first module was excellent, the second was very much below the expected standard.
It's a pity that in terms of this particular distance learning course, the university seems to have lost its way. I see that it is still providing the modules, though I wonder whether they have addressed the tutoring issues I experienced?
I studied at Lam peter University in 2003 for two years of a three-year undergraduate degree.
My experiences of living and studying in this rural picturesque village, taught me that it is never a good idea to maroon yourself in a corner of Wales if you are someone who is family orientated and/or prefer the wide-open familiarity of cities.
Many of the other students I befriended whilst I was there, genuinely felt unsettled due to the limitations of living in such an isolated part of the Ceredigion county. Unsurprisingly, a large percentage of students at this University tend to comprise of mature learners and those who find social integration very difficult and therefore prefer the attractions of what rural life can possibly offer.
During my time at Lampeter as a student, I felt desperately unhappy and notably because of the intensity of the campus layout that gave little or no privacy at all, living in such tight confinement. Accommodation officers could only ever place you where there were spaces available (unless you could afford to pay for private lodgings) which at that time I couldn't. In addition, very few students had the luxury of permanency in the allocated residence and were frequently moved from one place of stay to another over the course of their studies.
This only added to my own feelings of being unsettled to which affected my ability to concentrate on my learning.
Although Lampeter is an exquisite place of beautiful introversion with plenty of fascinating history, it certainly has plenty of disadvantages: finding employment is just one of them because the local community always put to labor their own families first and foremost, so students must not come with the expectation that they will easily find work (even on the campus) in which the jobs are scarce and quickly taken. There is plenty of friendly advice and practical support from the students union, but this does little to alleviate the practical hardship and anxieties that result from poverty.
Few students, regardless of what University they attend, have the kind of financial resources that will keep them afloat throughout the few years of their learning and why anyone who is contemplating a place at Lampeter, would be wise to ensure that they go there with plenty of spare cash and not to rely solely upon easily dispensable student loans. I would highly recommended this University for those who are financially well-supported considering that there are few job opportunities with a lower minimum, national wage.
Furthermore, it is also recommended that students contact their course tutors in advance of course starting to get a comprehensive reading list of required books as the main library on the campus does not stock many of the materials for essential reading. They are equipped in the field of Archaeology as this is the most popular choice of study in Lampeter but they are under-resourced in Psychology in particular.
The only real advantages I care to mention in this review is that in all of my encounters with my course tutors, they were very accommodating of my needs for assistance with my studies as well as exceptionally full of individual character.
An interesting place - Advantages: no crime, cheap food accomodation, peaceful - Disadvantages: nothing to do in or out of the uni, badly organised resources, library etc., expensive travel, poor transport services
Lampeter is a bit like a seaside town only much smaller. However the university flourishes in this environment, as the town relies on the students for most of it's income. The university gives individual attention to its students that you would be hard pushed to find anywhere else - no waiting for three weeks to see a tutor here - just wander down to the union bar where there is almost always something going on, it's not likely to have the best, but pretty close to it! Although the university is set in the middle of nowhere, the views and the countryside are spectaular. It is only 30 mins away from a sandy beach and under an hour from Aber or Camarthen. Buses run reasonably well and if there aren't any there are plenty of people with cars - and the routes are simple. Lampyland can be a complete haven or a nightmare, but you can be completely yourself without anyone blinking an eye and if something is wrong the community is one of the most caring in the country.
Located in the Welsh rolling hills Lampeter is a place that you are going to either love, or hate and the vast majority love it. Rated as the smallest institution un Europe you will quickly find yourself getting to know other people and this is the great thing about Lampeter. The community spirit is something which all students quickly find themsleves surrounded in. Being so small Lampeter's entertainment is limited. Most student tend to head to the students' union on a friday night as the rest if town offers little. There is usually a reasonanable selection of music and again, knowing people there usually makes for a good night. If you are into sport Lampeter has a reasonable selection of teams but don't expect to get too used to winning much. Taking part is the name of the game here but as long as the commitment is there then the chance to escape from town every Wednesday can come as a welcome relief. Nearest major shopping is Swansea which is just over an hour away by car. Nearer as Aberystwyth and Camarthen but shopping here is limited. If you are looking to come to uni, having a great time and make some good mates then this is the place. If you are looking for the the lights of a major uni then avoid. Give it a go 1200 students can't be wrong