What does distance learning involve?

Study materials

Once you have enrolled your study materials will be made available to you. This normally happens at least one week prior to the start of the semester.

The study materials are produced by the subject expert who will be teaching you, in conjunction with a team of learning and presentation experts.

There are usually two components:

  • The Administration Guide - explains the way the course is organised, what you will be required to do and what you can expect in return from your lecturer and Massey University.
  • The Study Guide - takes you through the themes of your course and usually combines a set of lessons with a collection of recommended readings.

How these materials are delivered to you will depend on the course you have enrolled in. The materials will either be posted to you or made available through our online learning environment (known as Stream) in electronic form.

For information about when you should receive your study materials see dispatch of study materials.

Interaction with lecturers and students

One of the major differences of distance learning is the level and type of interaction you have with your lecturer and fellow students. Unlike campus-based courses you do not have the same opportunity to meet face to face with your lecturers and students on a regular basis.

However, our staff can be contacted at times that may be more convenient to you. We also encourage students to take full advantage of the online communication tools available to interact with both students and lecturers. On-campus workshops are also an opportunity to meet with people and share experiences, and EXMSS (Extramural Students' Society) have a number of area representatives who can assist with setting up study groups within your region.

It is important to remember that you are not alone in your study experience and lecturers are still available should you need to seek help or ask advice.

Online learning environment (Stream)

Stream is your online learning community. We want distance students to feel part of a real class. The online learning environment allows you to share and exchange ideas with fellow students and lecturers. Depending on the course you are enrolled in, you can also access the latest news in your subject, study notes, recent articles, online presentations, assignments, activities, and tests. 

For more information see online learning environment.  


Massey University has a world-class Distance Library Service which has been recognised through a number of awards. We have over 870,000 books and countless journals and articles. You can browse the catalogue online and download the latest publications relevant to your area of study. In addition, you can have an online consultation with a librarian and request books via our overnight delivery service which are delivered free of charge to your mailbox.

On-campus workshops

On-campus workshops can take two different forms depending on the course you are studying.

Contact workshops

Contact workshops are an opportunity for you to interact with other students taking the same course and to receive face-to-face tuition. They usually last from one to five days. They are designed as an integral part of your study programme and you should plan to attend if possible. You are advised to check the contact workshop requirements for courses before enrolling as some courses are compulsory.

Block courses 

Some courses are offered in "block mode". This means students are required to attend one or more periods of intensive study. These are usually on the Manawatu, Auckland or Wellington campuses.

In many ways these courses have more in common with internal offerings than they do with distance courses. However, most of the support systems needed to offer these courses are the same as they are for distance courses and they are often of interest to distance students.

Check the dates and study requirements for any course listed as block. Accommodation is not available in the University Halls for students attending block courses located in Palmerston North which fall outside the normal study break and holiday periods.

Please also check the locations listed as well. While some block courses will be located on the main campuses, others may be located at a regional centre. Many block mode courses will supply study material at the beginning of the semester, but others may supply it at or shortly before the block course itself. Please also be aware that some block courses may incur higher fees.

You can find this information in the course details pages within the Programme and courses web pages.


The specific requirements of assessment will be detailed in the Administrative Guide you receive in your study materials. Assessment may take a number of different forms including assignments, laboratories, field trips, or on-campus contact workshops. For more information please see our main Assessment web page.

As a distance student you will have to think about how these different types of assessments fit into your schedule in order to complete all compulsory elements. For example, if you know you cannot attend a compulsory contact workshop, it is best not to enrol in that course.

For the majority of courses, you will be able to electronically submit your assignments for marking. However, there may be times when you will need to use the postal system. If this is the case, you should allow for the time it will take to reach your course co-ordinator for marking. We have a 15 working day turnaround time for returning marked assignments (starting from due date, and only if you submitted your assignment on time). Assignments for off shore students will be returned by airmail or electronically. 


When enrolling in courses you nominate the venue where you would like to sit the examination. For students studying off shore, venues are also available outside of New Zealand.

We are also able to cater for some special requirement such as students with disability. For more information see the Examinations web pages.

The University year (semesters)

The Massey University academic year is divided into three main teaching periods: Semester One, Semester Two and Summer School. Semesters One and Two each consist of 12 teaching weeks, and conclude with an exam period. Summer School has 10 teaching weeks. In addition, a longer teaching period, the Double Semester, parallels Semesters One and Two with an exam period at the end of Semester Two.

A winter break of three weeks is held between the Semester One exam period and the start of Semester Two. Within Semester One is a two-week mid-Semester break, which is normally linked with the Easter holiday break. Within Semester Two, there is a two-week mid-Semester break which coincides with breaks at most other universities.

Most programmes of study and courses fit in to these standard semester periods.

A single semester course normally covers the same amount of work as a double semester course, the only difference is that the workload is compressed into 12 weeks. You must plan your study carefully, particularly for single semester and Summer School courses where the timeframe is even shorter.

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