How distance learning works 

Picture of a computer with cloud of social media and internet icons denoting connection

Many Arts courses are available to study remotely via UC's online course platform Learn. Here's what you need to know to study distance courses. 

Your commitment

Full-time distance learning students

  • About 40 hours a week of independent study
  • Attendance at on-site block courses if applicable
  • If a course has an official exam or supervised test, you will need to attend at the allocated centre. (See Distance courses with exams or tests)

Part-time distance learning students

  • About 20 hours a week of independent study
  • Attendance at on-site block courses if applicable
  • If a course has an official exam or supervised test, you will need to attend at the allocated centre.

(A 15-point enrolment equates to about 10 hours of study a week.)

  • UC provides all course material online, does all marking, and assigns grades. As an Arts distance student, you participate in lectures through the university’s online interactive learning platform (Learn) via your home computer. To access the Learn site, students will be given a user ID and password. Distance students are also given an Outlook Live student email account.
  • Learn is an online teaching and learning space that provides an access to your course materials, discussion forums and links to other web-based resources.
  • Learn is designed to be simple to use. There is plenty of supporting information on each page.

Lecturers and tutors communicate with students by email and via Learn.

  • Some subjects may also have courses that are a combination of distance learning and on-site teaching as an intensive block. These block courses require attendance on UC’s campus or at another specified location for their duration. The attendance requirements of these courses are clearly described on their course page.     
  • If you need accommodation in Christchurch, there are local motels, or casual bookings can be made in our halls of residence if rooms are available. Contact to enquire. 
  • Accommodation and travel costs are met by the student.
  • All course materials are provided free of charge. They are accessed online through UC's learning management system, Learn. Materials can be read or printed as required.
  • Supplementary materials may be sent with the course. If there are supplementary materials they will be sent before the course starts.
  • Any compulsory textbooks can be found in the course outline. Course outlines are available online. The University Bookshop (UBS) is a bookseller located at the University and orders can be placed by phone or email.

Most courses also have recommended readings. These will either be available online or are able to be borrowed from the UC Library. You will find information about recommended readings in your course outline.

  • Normally distance assignments are submitted electronically via the course Learn site. Any assignments that cannot be submitted electronically must be sent by mail to the college.
  • If assignments are submitted electronically via Learn it is likely that they will be marked and returned via Learn. Interim grades will also be available via the Learn Gradebook. Final grades are available on myUC.

If an assignment is required to be submitted via mail it will be marked and returned via mail. Grades will be available via the Learn Gradebook.

Distance learning requirements

Some distance courses have exams during the official examination periods (June and October/November) or supervised tests at other times of the year. If a course has an official exam or supervised test, you will have the choice to select three centres from the list. UC will consider your preferences but has the final decision on the centre location. It is expected that you will travel up to 2.5 hours from your home address to the allocated centre.

The exam will be sat under exam conditions with a supervisor in attendance.

  • It is important that students plan their time to make every attempt to complete assignments on time and meet any due dates.
  • An extension of up to two weeks can be applied for where there are exceptional circumstances. Some courses do not permit resubmits.
  • Approval must be requested from the course coordinator before the due date.
  • Examples of exceptional circumstances are; serious injury or illness incurring hospitalisation, death of a close family member or trauma. Evidence must be provided to support the reasons for an extension application.
  • The Library can provide access to books, articles, and audio-visual material for distance students.
  • They will post requested items to students across New Zealand free of charge.
  • They will send scans of articles/chapters to student email addresses
  • Each parcel sent will include free return postage.
  • Items not held by the Library may be requested using the interloans service.
  • There is access to many online resources, including guidance on using library resources, advice on search strategies, databases and other electronic resources.
  • Liaison Librarians will assist with referencing guidance. They can be contacted by phone or through the ‘Ask Live’ service, where a Librarian is available for help online in real time.
  • Click here for Library Distance Services.

All students enrolled at the University of Canterbury should have a Canterbury Card that is valid for a period of five years. To find out how you can get one, head here.

If you do not physically want a card you must still contact the University to confirm your permanent username and password. Phone 0800 827 748 and ask for ICT Servicedesk. Students cannot access the course Learn sites to start their study without a permanent username and password.

You must have continual access to a computer or tablet with broadband internet access. We realise that many of our students may feel anxious about their level of computer and online skills when they think about distance study.

The following checklist will help identify the areas that students will need to be comfortable in to successfully manage online learning:

  • Know how to access the internet through an internet provider
  • Know how to operate the basic search and navigation features of a web browser
  • Know how to use e-mail to send and receive messages and attachments
  • Know how to download and open PDF documents
  • Know how to change a document into a PDF file
  • Know how to store and retrieve electronic documents for future use
  • Be comfortable reading and contributing to online discussion forums in course Learn sites
  • Be able to write assignments using a word processing application
  • Be able to use your computer with several windows open at the same time
  • Be able to open audio and video files
  • An Internet Service Provider (ISP) or other access to the internet - a broadband connection with a speed of at least 1MB/second will give you the fastest access
  • A PC installed with Microsoft Windows 7 or later, or
  • A mac with OS 10.6 or later, or
  • An iPad, Android or windows tablet with a screen sized larger than 10 inches
  • A web browser – Chrome, Firefox, IE(9+), Safari (5+) or Edge
  • Plugins for Flash (non iOS devices), Quicktime, and a PDF reader
  • Microsoft Office (Office 365 is available free to fully enrolled students), or Libre Office / Open Office
  • Optional but useful – webcam, headset (headphones + microphone), printer


Each individual course has a fee based on the degree area and level of the course. You only pay for the courses you choose to take. Arts distance students pay only 20% of the student services levy or $1.45 per course point studied. Visit our Courses, Subjects and Qualifications website for full course descriptions and costs.

Support for distance students

Your lecturers are available via email and Learn sites. The Academic Skills Centre can assist with study and/or assignment writing enquiries. 

When things just aren’t quite right there is always someone to go to for help and advice. Check out our Support for Distance Students page for more information.

Talk to our student advisors about how distance can work for you.