Reading through this thread with interest and I thought it worth a comment. Full disclaimer: I am a freelance ICB tutor and I do work for several distance learning providers including Open Study College. I have no particular loyalty to OSC as they are just one of the providers that I contract with across a range of finance and business subjects. Some of these negative comments are valid opinions of individuals that may not have had a great experience and they would apply to more than one distance learning provider that I have undertaken work for recently or in the past but when considering distance learning for your studies, regardless of which provider you choose, you need to consider several things carefully before deciding if distance learning is for you.
In my own experience, people are disappointed with the service that they are provided with from their chosen training provider when they have unrealistic expectations and have not sought to first establish the kind of service that they are going to receive from a distance learning provider before signing up so I thought it worth giving people a general idea of what they can realistically expect from most distance learning providers:
Most (but not all) online learning providers do not provide live real time classes.
Support is usually provided through an email/messaging system. This is not instant chat, so don't expect to receive immediate replies from questions pinged out from a mobile phone while you are studying.
Most (but not all) online learning providers do not provide learner support via telephone unless a pre booked appointment is made. Again, if you are not prepared to wait and need answers/help immediately then distance learning may not be for you.
Most (but not all) online learning providers do not provide learner support or responses over the weekend.
As far as materials are concerned. These do vary. You are likely to be given a choice of online or printed course materials and, as with all things study related, these will suit some people better than others. Everybody learns differently and some need more detail than others. Some prefer concise, no nonesense explanations. Some learn best visually. Make sure you ask the providers that you are considering what materials are supplied, what format they take and whether absoutely everything required for the course syllabus is included in the supplied materials or whether further reading/research is also recommended. If you are not a self motivated "textbook" person then consider carefully whether you would be better studying in a class environment. Most distance learning tutors will not be chasing you to meet deadlines. You will be expected to manage your own time in order to complete the course within its alloted duration. Depending on the provider, you may be given some support to help you with planning your time but if you think you will need that much help in planning your studies, you should seriously consider whether distance learning is the right way to go. You might be better off in a class room environment.
Most distance learning tutors will provide supporting resources in addition to the course materials that you are supplied with. Some of these will be freely available on the Internet and others will be resources that only tutors will have access to but you are unlikely to see these unless you make contact with your tutor and ask for help. It amazes me that learners will pay good money to sign up for a distance learning course and never make contact with their tutor after the materials are received but this does happen and the learner's experience is poorer as a result.
To give you an idea from a distance learning tutor's perspective; on average, a tutor would respond to questions about the course content/ technical queries within around 48 hours. If assessments are being marked, the turnaround is often longer and could take up to a week. Of course, these times could vary greatly and are often much quicker - today I have marked 8 assessments 3 of which were submitted Friday and 5 from over the weekend and I ahve answered numerous queries sent either today or yesterday - but if you need your questions answering straight away, are not prepared to wait, then distance learning may not be the option for you.
Something else that is worth considering is that when you enrol on a course you are also agreeing to fulfil your part as a learner which is to complete all work that you are asked to complete as part of the course and to submit all assignments. Some distance learning providers employ their tutors directly but the majority contract with freelancers like myself and the way that tutors are paid varies but usually a payment to a tutor is linked to the assignments that they mark or to the learner passing an exam so if you want to get on the good side of your tutor, then complete and submit all the assignments that you are asked to. Don't save them all up and submit them together at the end. Your tutor will have work from other learners to also deal with so can't drop everything to feedback on your assignments the day before your exam.
Take your tutor's advice. They should have experience of the course and what is in the exams. If they give you advice, listen to it. One of the key things is to agree with your tutor when and if you are ready to take an exam. You may feel confident (or not confident) but your tutor will know best whether you are ready (but only if you have submitted work).
Lastly, something else that I have come across in my own experience as a distance learning tutor is learners wanting advice on real world situations - E.G. their tax returns, VAT returns, business affairs for them or their clients. Your tutor is paid to support you on the course on which you enrolled, while they may be perfectly willing to provide you with help and guidance where they can (most are) they could potentially land themselves in legal hot water by providing advice so don't sign up for a bookkeeping course expecting the tutor to tell you how to deal with your own business situation or the affairs of your client. That is not going to happen.
Consider the whole picture when you are choosing a distance learning provider, discuss what is being offered and ensure that you know what you can reasonably expect in terms of responses etc and if you choose the provider that suits your requirements best, you should have a good experience.
I hope this helps some folks to make an informed decision. I want to avoid a situation where I am answering questions about the different providers that I work with so I will apologise in advance for not responding to any questions asked here.
Best of luck in your studies.