Online short courses

About Us » Who is ACS Distance Education?

ACS Distance Education (also known as Australian Correspondence Schools) develops and supplies distance education courses and ebooks, for delivery by a number of online colleges and correspondence schools; principally in Australia and the UK, but also across the world.

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Course Standards

Most courses are designed to take an average student around 100 hours to complete. Most who undertake these courses are adults. Some may not have completed secondary school, however the courses are mostly developed with the assumption that a student has an academic ability commensurate with a secondary school education or similar. 

Course development began in 1979. and continues today, with all courses being periodically revised and updated to meet three main criteria:
1.    To provide a learning experience that will improve the student’s understanding, awareness and ability to apply what is learned about the subject studied.
2.    To be relevant in any geographical, cultural or economic situation.
3.    To be flexible in catering for differing situations and learning capabilities.
The courses are intended to be an alternative to mainstream education; supplying an option for learning subjects that may be found in either university or vocational courses; while neither fitting neatly into the mould of either vocational or university education.
Some of these courses have been developed to fit curriculum for recognition or accreditation systems; and some of the colleges that deliver courses do deliver as formally accredited courses.

Disciplines Covered

Many of the disciplines covered have a relationship to applied biological science, communications or management.
There are over 600 courses. They cover Horticulture, Landscaping, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Pet Care, Wildlife Studies, Environmental Management, Health, Fitness, Food and Nutrition, Human Biology, Zoology,  Plant Sciences, Biochemistry, Environmental; Management, Earth Sciences, Physics, Engineering, Construction, Information Technology, Business, Marketing, Management, Tourism, Hospitality, Writing and Photography.

Teaching Methods

All courses are developed to support “experiential learning”. Students are provided with written course notes and computer generated interactive self assessment tests; but are also guided through many set tasks that involve experiences such as undertaking research and practical tasks. The school has researched and developed a methodology for using problem based learning (PBL) projects as a component in many courses. Students are encouraged to develop a work ethic in tune with what will be needed to succeed in business or employment after they graduate.
The system is designed to provide individualised attention to each student; with lots of opportunity for interacting personally with tutors as needed.

Different affiliated colleges will adapt and apply delivery of these courses in different ways; providing varying methods and levels of support and varying types of “add on services”. In this way, each of the affiliates of ACS will be emphasising and supporting their students in different ways; hence every graduate will have a unique set of knowledge, skills and experiences which they take from their course.


ACS Distance Education was founded in 1979 by John Mason, an author, horticultural consultant and sessional lecturer at a variety of colleges around Melbourne (including Burnley Horticultural College, Footscray Institute of Technology, and Council of Adult Education). Originally it was known as Australian Horticultural Correspondence School.
Becoming aware of a significantly unsatisfied demand for horticulture courses, Mr Mason tried for 6 months to gain government support for establishing a distance education course in horticulture through Burnley. Eventually he developed and promoted a course independently. This was so successful that further courses were developed and by the early 80’s ACS was enrolling around 500 students a year. From that point it began to expand into other disciplines
As ACS began to employ more academic staff and write more courses; it was approached increasingly to write for a range of book and magazine publishers. By the early 1990’s other colleges were approaching ACS seeking rights to use its intellectual property.
Since the mid 1990’s it has contracted to write four different magazine series in Australia; over 50 non fiction books and hundreds of other articles for a wide range of publications in Australia, England and elsewhere.
In 1989, it licensed rights to some of it’s courses to the Home Study College in South Africa. In 1994 it sold rights to a certificate in Horticulture to a government College in Bermuda. Since that time it has licensed rights to courses to over 25 other colleges in eight different countries; including both public and private institutions.

ACS Publishing

In 2012, in response to difficulties obtaining a reliable supply of appropriate text books needed by students for supplementary reading; ACS embarked on a project of writing and publishing texts to compliment its courses. By mid 2016, over 100 e-books had been written and published; specifically tailored to fit the needs of students in more popular courses which it had developed.

New Style Courses in 2016

In 2016, ACS developed and launched a new type of short course, that uses a fully automated online study guide. These courses can be enrolled in, studied and completed, with everything able to be done online, from anywhere, any time of the week, day or night. These courses are driven by software written by ACS programmers, and incorporates highly polished content developed by ACS academics working alongside world class graphic designers.

The writers and course developers are all professionally qualified and experienced experts in their respective disciplines. They hold tertiary qualifications to a university degree level or higher, plus at least 5 years of relevant industry experience (more commonly decades of experience). Everything is written by a team in collaboration, managed by a principal writer with at least a decade of experience working for ACS.


External Links
ACS Distance Education Affiliates homepage
ACS Distance Education Courses
ACS Distance Education UK School
E books written and published by ACS