By David Wells, editor at Surviving the OU

Current OU student Richard discusses the pros and cons of distance learning

Throughout my time with the OU I have generally been extremely pleased with the workings of the organisation and the way it is run. I have met some great people from the uni, including many tutors as well as fellow students willing to help me and of course Jess and Heather and their team over at Open University headquarters in Milton Keynes. However, I am aware that other learners have experienced problems and pitfalls during their time. I did have a slight disagreement over the price of a course recently which I was convinced had escalated in price but some correspondence with regional offices confirmed that I was mistaken. It is important though that we identify and discuss problem areas as well as all of the marvellous benefits you can take from studying not just with the OU but distance and distance learning organisations as a whole.

We recently arranged an interview with an active Open University student who we shall call “Richard”. Richard is currently working full-time (approximately 39 hours per week) and is registered on to a Social Science module although he is aiming towards a Psychology Bsc, reaching his goal on a part-time basis. He would like to get through 60 points per year.

We asked Richard to list three positives and three negatives that he has drawn from his time with the OU so far:

Advantages of the Open University

1) You learn how to manage your own time so you get better at prioritising and committing yourself – it’s all about self motivation and raw personal development. You get progressively better at adjusting to the time constraints and TMA deadlines and struggle less to get them in on time.

“This was a key one for me as I was never the best at time management before I started on the degree path,” confessed Richard.

2) You study when it suits you as you don’t have to attend tutorials every day so you can get your career up and running at the same time. Richard was going through a key stage of his work life when he started at the OU and could not afford to deviate or take time off from his job so the study-at-home aspect was vital.

3) You can get help when you need it via the online forums, email and telephone, rather than having to wait to see your tutor. Here the digital aspect helped Richard. “Not only was I able to contact other students on my course locally, through the group specific to my tutor, but also across the UK to speak to students from other groups. We created a bond.”

Open University Student Advantages

Disadvantages of the Open University

1) You don’t have as much physical contact to build relationships with peers. This is slightly contrary to the previous advantage but of course less tutorials or classes means less physical meetups with students and sessions where the tutor fleshes things out in person.

2) You have to be very dedicated and self-motivated to manage your study time and life.  “While this really brought the best out of me,” says Richard, “it could’ve easily gone the other direction and seen me wilt under the constant pressure of being self-motivated.”

3) “You probably get to move away from home and experience student digs, which includes spaghetti hoops or beans on toast, shared bathrooms and other great joys!” Slightly tongue in cheek from Richard here of course but there is a lot to be said for the whole student experience. 

Open University Student Disadvantages

If you’ve never studied with the OU before or don’t know much about them then here are some bits and pieces we’ve gathered together to help get you up to speed.

“The Open University is the world’s leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. The only difference that sets us apart from other universities is that we’re not campus based. You study in a flexible way that works for you whether you’re at home, at work or on the move. Innovative teaching methods are brought to you via course websites, downloads and DVDs.”

Quick facts:

– They currently have over 260,000 students.

– Most of the UK’s biggest universities use their study materials.

– They’ve been in the top three UK universities for student satisfaction since the National Student Survey began

– Students who have studied elsewhere say they’re better supported by them than by other universities.

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The Open University study guide is now available! Click on this image to find out more.