How Education distance learning works

16 October 2023

Our Faculty of Education delivers quality courses online via Learn. Studying by distance is a rewarding experience that will challenge and inspire you as you gain new knowledge and skills. Find out how distance learning for education works at UC.


As a distance learning student it’s important to understand fully what distance learning is like, and how it fits with students' own learning preferences. Studying via distance at University is a rewarding experience, and will challenge and inspire students, whilst gaining new skills and knowledge, and will be worth all the commitment made.

Your commitment

Full-time distance learning students

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

Part-time distance learning students

  • About 20 hours a week of independent study
  • Attendance at On-site Intensives 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.

Students working in schools or Early Childhood centres during Professional Practice would normally be at school from 8am until after 4pm. 

  • Distance learning courses are delivered online through UC's learning management system, Learn (Moodle).
  • Learn is an online teaching and learning space that provides access to your course materials, discussion forums and links to other web information.
  • Learn is designed to be simple to use. Inside there is plenty of supporting information on each screen.
  • Lecturers and tutors communicate with students by email and the Learn sites.

  • Primary or Early Childhood BTchLn or Graduate Diploma and Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning students are required to attend a two week On-site Intensive at the beginning of the programme. Bachelor of Teaching and Learning students normally also attend a second one-week On-Site Intensive in July. These will be held on campus in Christchurch.
  • Other programmes may also have courses that require you to attend a compulsory On-site Intensive in Christchurch. Confirmed details will be made available via the Learn sites.
  • 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
  • Accommodation and travel costs are met by the student.

  • For some programmes students are required to spend time in schools or centres. These Professional Practice blocks will be between two and eight weeks, and may occur twice a year.
  • The Professional Practice blocks allow students to learn through practical application and first-hand experience. These experiences enable the student, their lecturers and associate teachers to evaluate their developing knowledge and skill. The college endeavours to place students in local schools or centres but students may be expected to travel. Travel and accommodation costs are all met by the student.

Sometimes access to a school or classroom is desired in order to complete an observation or task for a course. Distance students in primary programmes are strongly encouraged to foster a good relationship with a school in their area so they gain access for their studies. This is a strictly informal relationship between the student and the school and falls outside of any formal liaison organised by the college.

  • Course materials are accessed online through UC's learning management system, Learn, which is powered by Moodle. 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. You will find information about recommended readings in your course outline. These readings can generally be borrowed through the UC Library. Often the recommended readings for your course can be purchased from UBS, but you are advised to try the library first.

  • 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.
  • Any assignments submitted via mail 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. 


Courses that may require travel to a test or exam

Please note that the following courses may have a distance test or exam:


Additional information

  • If a course has an official exam or supervised test it is expected that you will travel up to 2.5 hours from your home address to the allocated centre.
  • Confirmation will be sent out regarding the details of your examination/test about three weeks before the exam date. You will also be advised of any restrictions on what not to bring to the test or exam. Acceptable photo ID is needed on attendance (passport or NZ driver’s licence).
  • If you miss an exam due to unforeseen circumstances (e.g. sickness) you may apply for Special Consideration. Applications must be submitted within five working days of the examination/test. Information regarding Special Considerations can be found at Special Considerations Information
  • Students may enter an exam up to 45 minutes after the published start time of the examination. A candidate who reports after this time or misses an examination must contact the Examination Arrangements Senior Co-ordinator as soon as possible.
  • Please contact the Examination Arrangements Senior Co-ordinator for further information.
  • Information regarding Missed Exams can be found at  Missed Exams.

  • 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 audiovisual 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, visit this link
  • 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 with broadband internet access, and access to a printer. 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, and what computer hardware they will need 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 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 work with MP3, MediaPlayer or iTunes formats, as music, māori and other assignments will be required to submit audio files via Learn.

  • An Internet Service Provider (ISP) or other access to the internet
  • A broadband connection will give you the fastest access
  • A computer installed with Microsoft Windows 7 or later, or
  • A mac with os 10.6 or later
  • A printer to print course materials
  • A sound card and speakers.

  • An internet browser such as Firefox or Internet Explorer
  • An e-mail programme like Microsoft Outlook or Gmail
  • A word processing application like Microsoft Word or Open Office
  • Adobe’s free latest version Adobe Reader
  • Presentation software like Power Point or Keynote
  • Video playing software like Quicktime, Media Player or Adobe Flash Player.
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 learners page for more information.

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