Learning is a lifelong journey, and even if you've already completed your schooling, you may seek to continue your education. Maybe you need a refresher, or an upgrade, or maybe you just want to get a hobby. But it's a busy world, and the older you get, the less time you have to sit in a classroom. A course in distance learning can be a wonderful way to enhance and complete your post-secondary education, while still leaving time to give the rest of your life the attention it deserves.

The experience isn't compromised, though. You still get to participate in a program led by an instructor with industry-relevant experience, with the goal of teaching you useful life skills. You simply don't have to devote the time to enter a classroom. But going along with this, you still have to make sure you're prepared to go back to school, even if you don't literally have to go back to a school. If you've decided you want to give it a whirl, here's five things to keep in mind before beginning your foray into distance learning.

1) Know what you want to get out of it
Firstly, it's important to examine your motivation for continuing your education. Do you need to upgrade your existing career, or get a new one entirely? Are you doing this for business or pleasure?

Any approach is fine. One of the benefits of continuing education is that it can fulfill so many different purposes, as a career enhancement, a life-changer, or simply entertainment on the side. But what you want out of it will affect your approach. If you're participating for pleasure, or to pick up a hobby, don't stress and treat it like a do-or-die scenario. On the flip side, if your career is banking on this education, give the course the respect, attention and priority it deserves.

2) Choose your subject
Now that you know why, focus on the what. Centennial College possesses a broad variety of continuing education courses, many of which have distance learning options. Knowing why you're taking a course goes along way towards narrowing down that list. Choose what you need for your career, and pick something that's the right mix of relevant and engaging. Simply emphasize the engagement angle if it's for fun.

3) Do you want to learn online or via correspondence?
There's more than one way to learn from a distance, with different elements to each method. Firstly, you have the option of doing your classes entirely online, receiving notes and assignments through a 24-hour virtual classroom and submitting assignments through email.

An advantage to this approach is that it's paperless and confined to a single workspace in the form of your computer.

But perhaps you don't have access to a computer regularly, or maybe the internet is too distracting to work next to. Or maybe you feel you learn better when you read and write with physical materials. In that case, you can do print-based or correspondence courses, where your materials are mailed to you. Assignments can be dropped off at the college, or mailed in. Either way, you can communicate with your instructor via email or on the phone, so that aspect's identical.

4) Know your workspace
Regardless of you preference for digital or physical work, you'll need a good, reliable place to do it in. Ask yourself where you'll be doing this work.Your home may be the obvious answer, but think on it in a bit more detail. You need to ensure you pick a space where you can focus and do your work in peace, be it a desk in your room, or a couch in a living room. But you may also have to accept that your home isn't always an ideal space. It could be distracting, or messy, or full of family and friends, or a television or other entertainment that calls to you. Consider leaving that space if necessary. Libraries are excellent places to do work. So are community centres, or even the coffee shop down the road.

There's plenty of options. Don't leave it up to chance. Know where you're working before you even begin.

5) Keep a regular schedule
One of the advantages of distance education is its flexibility. You can fit it around other, more immediately pressing responsibilities, like family or work. However, it's still school, and you still need to pass. Discipline is required, and that includes scheduling. If you're serious about your schooling, make one and stick to it. Know what time you have to block off, and make sure that when that time comes around, you're in your workspace, with your papers or your computer, ready to hit the books. Granted, that time can be whenever you want it to be, but it should still be stuck to. Find a place and a time to learn and do assignments, and do whatever you can to make sure that's when you work.

Distance learning can be educational and convenient, allowing you to advance your career and life when you have the time, in a place you're comfortable with. Approaching it with the right attitude will allow you to make the most of it, and engage in a truly enriching life experience.