Delta conversations: Sandy

This is part of a series of posts showing you all the different ways you can approach the Cambridge Delta. They are designed to help you find out more about the course and what it involves, as well as helping you to choose the right way to do it for you, your lifestyle and the time you have available. If you’ve done the Delta (or any other similar higher-level teaching course, including a Masters), and you’d like to join in, let me know by leaving me a comment or contacting me via Twitter @sandymillin.

Sandy Millin is me 🙂 Find out more here.

What's cooking? Me (on the right) with one of my classes
What’s cooking? Me (on the right) with one of my classes

How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?

I followed the Distance Delta Integrated Programme from September 2012 to June 2013. This consisted of a two-week orientation course at IH London (you could do this at many different centres around the world), followed by a nine-month online course. During the course I decided to postpone my Module One exam, so I have only completed Modules Two and Three, although I did all of the preparation except for the mock exam for Module One. I’m hopefully going to do Module One in December 2013.

Update: I did the Module One exam at IH Sevastopol in December 2013 and got a distinction – postponing it gave me time to really focus on it! I got a pass in Module Two and a Merit in Module Three. I don’t think the Merit would have been possible if I’d been trying to prepare for the exam at the same time.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I wanted to study the Delta part-time as I had done CELTA this way, and I thought it would give me more time to absorb what I was learning. I like my sleep, and I (still!) don’t understand how people can survive an intensive full-time course and stay sane. There was no local part-time option, like Mike’s, so I had to do it through Distance Delta.

How was your Module Two taught?

During the orientation course we did a diagnostic lesson, which included practising how to write an essay and lesson plan to the standard required for the Delta course. We then completed each LSA (observed lesson + essay) over about 6 weeks, with some gaps in between to give us time for other parts of the course. LSA1 was due in November, LSA2 in December, LSA3 in March and LSA4 in May. This may seem very spaced out, but with Modules One and Three as well, there was a deadline to hit almost every weekend, apart from a two-week break at Christmas.

For each LSA, we chose our topic, posted it in the forum so that the tutor could approve it, then were able to submit a draft essay and lesson plan for the tutor to comment on. I normally had a fairly complete essay and an outline of my lesson aims and procedure ready for the draft deadline. We could then use the feedback to edit our essay/lesson plan. There was a two-week window in which to arrange the lesson, which was observed by our local tutor (LSA 1, 2, 3) or an external person (LSA 4). The local tutor then sent a complete report about the lesson to the Distance Delta. Our course tutor used the report to give us our grade, and they also graded our essays.

The Professional Development Assignment was also started during the orientation course. We completed our Experimental Practice lesson in October, then submitted the other three sections throughout the rest of the course.

How much time per week would you estimate you needed to spend working on the Delta in the format you chose?

At least 10 hours, and often more like 20. I regularly spent all day Saturday and all day Sunday working on the course (at least 9am-6pm). I did try and have some weekends off to keep sane, and I was ill for most of December due to exhaustion, so it wasn’t quite like that all year, but it felt like it. I was also teaching full-time. At the start of the course I did a bit of work in the evenings, but had given that up by Christmas (possibly before?). I also stopped reading for pleasure and only read Delta-related books until May.

In retrospect, what would you have done differently?

I wouldn’t have done Module Two distance. I think Modules One and Three can be done that way, and I feel like the support I got for Module Three was a lot better than it has been for other people I know who have done a face-to-face course, but I felt very isolated doing Module Two that way, and I don’t feel like I got enough support from my local tutor.

I would also have done all of the modules separately, spacing them out rather than overlapping them. When I decided to postpone the Module One exam, I had nearly finished Module Two. The month I had to focus purely on Module Three was when I was happiest during the course.

Finally, I would have had a proper holiday before the course started to make sure I was refreshed and ready to go. Instead I went straight from the Paralympics to the course (pretty sure nobody else has been that stupid!) 😉

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

The DELTA has made me start reading methodology books and start to incorporate what I read. It has also given me lots of material for blog posts, many of which are still in my head. It gave me the push I needed to film myself teaching and encouraged me to question what I’m doing in the classroom in a more methodical way.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

I felt very isolated and didn’t feel like I had much support from my local tutor. I didn’t think about checking up on how much support we were supposed to receive until I spoke to a coursemate and realised that she was having the same problems as me, by which time it was too late. There were times when I thought about giving up on the course because I wasn’t enjoying it at all, and I got quite depressed. I normally love studying, and the fact that I wasn’t enjoying the course at all was a vicious circle. I don’t know how I could have finished it without the support of my PLN via Twitter and facebook.

All of us on the course seemed to spend quite a lot of time trying to work out what was required of us for each assignment, and the asynchronous nature of the course (with everyone logging on at different times) meant it was often at least a day, and sometimes longer, before you got an answer to your questions. This could be very frustrating at times, and while I expected this to some extent from the forums, it would have been good to have some faster ways of getting help, as well as clearer guidelines for each of the assignments. Lizzie Pinard has now written a Delta tips series, which I wish had existed before I started! The conversations I had with her during the course really helped too. [I’ve also put together a list of Delta-related posts on my blog, and Useful links for Delta]

I also felt like the way the course was delivered was out-of-date, and didn’t take advantage of a lot of the new technology that it is available for those organising online courses. The course was forum-based, with no opportunities for synchronous meetings, such as using online classrooms, incorporated into the programme. All of the input was via pdf documents, which I stopped reading in February because I couldn’t find the time and didn’t seem to be getting much from them. There didn’t seem to be any recognition of different learning styles, for example by providing a range of input through videos, online meetings or even just using colours in the pdfs. I really feel like the Distance Delta needs to be updated before I would recommend it to anyone.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Studying part-time meant that I could incorporate new ideas into my teaching as I went along, although I didn’t do this anywhere near as much as I expected to because most of the time I was just too tired.

I worked with a range of tutors and peers from all over the world, and the input that I got from them was very helpful.

The support I got for Module Three was much greater than that received by others I know who have done Delta in different ways. We could submit two drafts (one in February, another in May) and the comments that I got on those were incredibly useful – they really helped me to work out what I was doing.

I realised how amazing my PLN are. Every time I had a question about anything, I would post it on facebook, and I would normally have a reply within the hour. It was considerably faster than the forums, and normally more useful.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

My main tip for potential DELTA candidates is to build up a network of useful people. Start with Twitter and add facebook too (try the ‘International House World Organisation’ and ‘Teaching English British Council’ pages to start you off).

Make sure you have some time off during the course, especially if you are doing it distance. Having holidays to look forward to made a massive difference to my mental state. Have a holiday before the course starts too to make sure you are refreshed.

Read my post on things you should do before starting the Delta, and do them! Also read Lizzie Pinard’s Delta tips. You could also check out my page of Delta-related blogposts, which I add to all the time.

If you have a question, ask. You will not be the first person with that problem, whether it’s about methodology, your classroom, or the course itself. We all feel stupid at some point during the course – if you can get over that feeling, you’ll be fine!

Really think about the best way to do your course. There a lots of options, which is why I’ve been publishing the Delta conversations – I didn’t know there were so many ways to do it.

Good luck and remember, it will all be over at some point!

11 thoughts on “Delta conversations: Sandy

  1. Module 3 was done brilliantly at Leeds Met – loads and loads of support. We had input sessions for things relevant to all the sections and we submitted drafts of each section in turn at intervals and got feedback on it (a mixture of written and tutorials). Then we also had a complete draft looked at. And there was scope for a final look over nearer the submission time too. (So it all took place between September and June, but input between September and December). I think I was very lucky – I don’t think I’d have come out with a triple distinction if I’d done the Delta anywhere else!! 🙂

    And thanks for the mention of my delta tips! 😉


  2. Hi Sandy. Thank you so much for the wealth of information you’ve provided to people like myself who are thinking about doing the Delta. I am currently working in the Middle East, I am also thinking about doing the Delta at distance learning, but I’m a little confused about which program to apply for, the blended or the integrated. Could you perhaps offer me any guidance?


    1. Hi Hayla,
      The blended programme means you can do Module 2 face-to-face, which is how I would recommend anyone do it. I think you get a lot more out of it that way. The integrated programme gives you more time to absorb information, but unless you have a very good local tutor, I don’t think it’s worth the money you pay for it.
      I hope that helps,


  3. “I really feel like the Distance Delta needs to be updated before I would recommend it to anyone.”

    Can I just say that I did the Distance DELTA London and it sounds like nothing has changed since you did it. I did it while working full-time and failed it (2019). For most of the course I felt pretty much bewildered by the whole thing and only started to figure it out by the end, by which time it was too late. As everyone probably knows by now who has completed the course, Cambridge refuse to offer you a grade (percentage) so you only get given a PASS/FAIL/MERIT etc. For me, this added insult to injury, and it really impacted my motivation to continue the course. I’m due to start MOD2 but face-to-face intensive, although my morale and confidence is pretty low. I really hope that doing the course physically in one place will help me pass the course. With the distance mod1, there was simply no actual teaching at all – and it’s a LOT to take in with a clinical dissection of English grammar which cuts far deeper than you would ever actually teach in most situations (but I admit is useful once you learn it).


    1. I’m really sorry to hear that it hasn’t changed much 😦 I definitely recommend that people do Module 2 face-to-face if at all possible. Have you seen my useful links for Delta page? I’d particularly recommend ELT Concourse and Damian Williams’ ‘How to pass the Delta’ book if you haven’t seen them already. Good luck with your course, and let me know if you ever want to write one of these conversations yourself!


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