Since Corona, more and more students from Kortrijk Colleges of Higher Education VIVES, Howest and Kulak are choosing a flexible study format under the status of working student or distance study. The combination of e-learning and a limited number of contact moments in modified hours ensures that graduates are still able to retrain or retrain. Selien Houwen (VIVES), Summer Colman (Howest), and Emile Desimpel (Kulak) also prefer a flexible training model in which they can integrate their job with their course of study.
Corona forced students to take lessons and take exams from the home front. Every student on the planet has tasted “distance learning”. After the pandemic ended, universities, colleges and their students did not immediately return to their old normal. Not even in Kortrijk, where the number of students studying remotely at Kulak, VIVES or Howest has doubled in two years.
“A distance student is not necessarily a working student, but rather someone who is pursuing a course from a distance,” explains Frederic Dolster, Howest’s Director of Education and Internationalization. “The status of a working student has different requirements: for example, a student must have proof of employment in an employment contract or as a self-employed person with a range of at least 80 hours per month. A job seeker who is entitled to benefits is also eligible” .
“With your working student status, you are entitled to additional facilities, such as requesting an exam postponement, requesting training leave from the employer, etc.,” says Petra Huist, Research and External Relations Officer at Campus Kulak Kortrijk.
“So every study program can have people with this status. The biggest reason for doubling the number of people studying remotely is to integrate graduate programs into colleges of higher education. These accessible courses provide many opportunities for distance students who want to retrain or Retraining,” explains Frederick. For example, Howest offers many “@home” variants of junior degrees, postgraduate and bachelor’s programmes, such as artificial intelligence, programming or tourism and leisure management, with distance students from all Flemish provinces and even a number of students from abroad. For the University of Leuven Colac, the status of a working student is most common in the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences. Last year, the law program numbered 106 students. The program has now been around for ten years and has somewhat maintained the same size. Within the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, the number is always between 5 and 15 students. Just under 50 per cent of working law students come from outside West and East Flanders.
No daily training
Summer Colman (26 years old) lives in Heule and has been a long-track student of the Howest Tourism and Leisure Management course since 2019 and works part-time in a supermarket. Selien Houwen (27 years old) from Kortrijk has been working full time as a consultant and has been studying remote applied psychology at VIVES for two years now. Emile DeSemble (35 years old) works for FPS Finance and pursued his abbreviated BA in Law as a working student at Kulak. He graduated three years later in July.
“I actually got a diploma as an interpreter when I was 21, but it wasn’t my intention to work in the sector, I just wanted to do something with languages,” says Sillian. “After my first experience working for a company that organized trade fairs, I ended up in the marketing sector, but didn’t find myself in the business world where it was all about money. I wanted to work with people in a social environment.” When she was twenty-five, she wanted to retrain herself, but Celine did not like ordinary daily education. “Going to school every day, mandatory teamwork… I didn’t want to go back to that formula and wouldn’t have been able to either. After all, I wasn’t a top student in the past, tener was enough,” she laughs.
Turns out that a one-day course at Howest wasn’t the right match for the summer either. In the third year, I quit filming and then went on a five-month tour with a friend. When she started the school year with her Tourism and Leisure Management course, she had only seen fellow students for a month before the closure was announced. “From a free bird on my flight to a student locked up in her room, it was such a big adjustment. I missed socializing and decided to go to work, but I still wanted a diploma,” says Summer.
Distance learning and student work
Both women considered the option of distance learning, as Cillian combines her full-time job with an applied psychology course, and summer complements her part-time job in tourism and leisure management, this time from a distance.
The eternal student Emile chose the status of a working student, not to retrain, but to complete a bachelor’s degree in law. At the time, at the age of 18 he enrolled for two university courses, Emil attended the history of Kulak and during the second year took courses of law. He did not complete his law education at that time because after getting his history degree he started working and started a family life. “My priorities were elsewhere at the time, but when my sister took a law course a little later, when I was 32, I was eager to go get my degree. I could use the courses I passed as an exemption during my course of study, so I had to I only get 90 credits, spread over three years.”
The spread of the study path and therefore the work space is what students refer to as a huge advantage of distance learning. “After the lockdown, I did not go back to day education because I wanted to earn money. I don’t want to continue to depend on my parents and pay for my studies myself, but living alone with my income is now difficult due to the high prices,” Samar says. Cillian had been living alone for three years, and going back to full-time school wasn’t financially viable for her. “So the process will take longer than the normal three years, but I can choose how many courses I take and when I plan my exams.” As a working student, Emile does not have space to schedule his exams himself, he follows the schedule of regular students, but due to his status, he is entitled to educational leave on these weekdays. Although the system is very flexible, it is of course still challenging. It requires a mixture of work, study, and private life, so it’s a matter that requires a lot of planning and persistence,” says Emile. “Over time, this is essentially an investment, but it’s like a salami policy: slice by slice and you’ll get there eventually.” Cillian also considers On track year after year.” “If it gets too hard, I’ll stop. But in the process I study really well. What a difference with the past: I can’t get under 14 anymore (Laugh). “
Summer, Selien, and Emile praise the way Howest, VIVES and Kulak support their students with adequate learning materials and accessible guidance. “It is good that this opportunity is available to people who have not had the opportunity to study, finish their studies or would like to change careers, without having to pause their job with this choice,” Summer says.
Sometimes people think later in life that education is no longer for them, but there are plenty of options to be able to study what interests you. In addition, since it is a benefit, it is going much smoother than expected, and the motivation is different than when you started your studies as an 18-year-old student,”
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