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How Distance Learning works at Otago


Below are brief answers to some of the most common questions prospective distance students ask. After enrolment, your Department’s distance programme Administrator will send you the very useful Distance Learning Information and Support handbook which explains everything you need to know as a student.

Search for information about distance learning at AskOtago, or email the University Information Centre for the answers to any other queries.

You may also like to review the following:

Download the Distance Learning Information and Support booklet (1,146kb in PDF format, 64 pages)


How are distance papers taught at Otago?

Distance learning involves self-directed study using course material and completing assessments. Some papers involve attendance at on campus residential schools. Interaction with other students and lecturers might be by audio conference, web conference or online discussion forums. Course material may be provided in hardcopy, online or via CD-Rom or DVD.

Do I need access to the internet?

Most courses provide course material and interact with students online via a web-based learning environment such as Blackboard. Internet access is required for those courses, preferably Broadband or similar. Email is required to receive important University communications.

Will any part of the course require on campus attendance?

Some papers require attendance at on campus residential schools. These may run for a period of 2 - 5 days. Contact the programme administrator for details. Papers which can be studied by students residing overseas AND which do not require attendance at any course component in New Zealand are marked in the prospectus with an icon.

How much study time should I allow?

An 18 point paper taught over one semester will require approximately 15 hours per week study time, including reading, research, audio conferences and assignments. For a 30 point single semester paper, allow 25 hours a week. For Full Year papers, halve the number of hours per week.

What is the teaching period per paper?

The University year is split into two semesters each of 13 weeks, followed by an exam period. The start date for distance papers may vary, however Semester One and Full Year courses generally commence around the start of March and Semester Two starts in July.
Summer School is a full time intensive programme with teaching covering a six week period from early January to mid February.

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How is my work assessed?

Assessment will vary from programme to programme and from paper to paper. In many papers, however, there are generally two assignments and an exam. You can request an exam venue close to your home. Exams take place in June for Semester One papers. Full year and Second Semester exams are around October/November. Other assessable activities could include:

  • online quizzes
  • compulsory attendance at contact courses
  • participation in online discussion forums
  • audio conference attendance and participation

Information on assessments for your course can be found in your Course Outline/Administration Guide.

When are exams held and where?

Exam periods: The University of Otago has three main examination periods:

  • The Summer School examinations run from around mid February
  • Semester One examinations are in June
  • Semester Two and Full Year examinations run from mid October to mid November

The dates for these periods are set two years in advance.

Location of Exams: Where practicable, students will sit their examinations at a local centre based on their semester address in PIMS. Some students, however, might be required to travel distances of up to an hour’s drive.

Check the Examinations website for more information on these and other matters.

Help with selecting my programme of study

What does the enrolment process involve?

For most students, enrolment is a three-step process involving:

  1. Application for enrolment
  2. Payment of fees
  3. Course Approval

Before applying, you are strongly encouraged to contact the department or departments concerned to check your eligibility to take your planned course.

Acceptance into the University of Otago requires that students:

  • Meet the academic criteria for entry into the selected programme, and
  • Satisfy the University’s admission criteria (see notes below for international students if applicable)

Detailed enrolment information can be found at

How do I apply for enrolment?

All applications are made online via the University's online application system e:Vision.

New students:

  1. First you will need to know the qualification you intend to undertake. See "Help with selecting my programme of study" above.
  2. Then, start the application process by selecting the qualification you wish to apply for. Click the "Apply Now" button you will find on your programme page. This which will take you through the process of submitting your application via the e:Vision portal.
  3. Select your Papers: From your e:Vision student portal you select the papers you intend to study in 2013. If you are a first year international student and/or wish to enrol in certain courses (e.g. Health Sciences Professional programmes) you will need to wait until you have been accepted into the programme before you can select your papers online.

Returning and recommencing students should log in to their e:Vision student portal.

Checking the progress of your application: You can check the status of your application via your e:Vision student portal. Contact the University Information Centre if you have any queries.

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When do I need to apply?

Applications should be completed by the following dates:

  • 10 December – all new students and recommencing students
  • 15 January – all other returning students taking first semester or full-year papers or courses
  • 15 June – students taking only second semester papers or courses.

Later applications may be accepted if facilities for tuition remain available, but you may be liable for an additional fee.
All necessary documentation concerning entrance qualifications, including  name, date of birth, citizenship and/or residency must be provided on applying.

When do my fees need to be paid?

Payment of fees must be arranged by:

  • 11 January (for Summer School papers) or
  • 10 February (for courses beginning in the first semester) or
  • 10 July (for courses beginning in the second semester).

What is Course Approval?

Course approval is the final step in enrolment. Once accepted into a course, a course approval form will be sent to you for signing and return.

Course approval is not complete until the signed form is received by the University. Once course approval is complete, you will have access to the Library and Blackboard.

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I live outside New Zealand. What additional information do I need?

International students (excluding New Zealand citizens living abroad) enrolling with the University for the first time should contact the International Office. Full information about admission requirements and the application process is available on their website.

After enrolment, how soon can I start?

Course material is generally made available 1-2 weeks before the semester starts. Access to Blackboard occurs on the first day of the semester. You may be able to obtain a reading list earlier by contacting your programme administrator.

What is Blackboard and how do I access it?

Blackboard is a web-based learning environment used by the University of Otago. Lecturers use Blackboard in many ways, but major purposes are to provide course material and to support interaction between students and lecturers. Not all papers at Otago use Blackboard; some use Oceanbrowser or Moodle.

Find out more about Blackboard, including instructions on how to access your courses

Back to "Information needed before your course starts"

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