The books have arrived, our brand new notepad is bought and the pens and pencils are in place. With every new Open University module there is usually a mix of excitement and trepidation. I was always pleased to see the course books sitting fresh and untouched on my table before the module had officially opened as it offered up a chance to get stuck in to exploring an overview of the text before it all kicks off.

Perhaps everyone thinks this way or perhaps I’m in the minority. There are different approaches to dealing with course materials early on but as soon as the module website home section opens then the schedule and timetable are there to guide us along. Usually the brown cardboard envelope arrives before the course homepage is up and running so there is an opportunity to “get ahead”. If you are able to take advantage then do so.

When I was studying for T189: Digital photography (one of the shorter courses the Open University has to offer) there was a series of online tutorials which allowed us to skip ahead and get an overall feel for the course and what was up ahead. On A215: Creative writing one fellow student was boasting at the first tutorial that he had already completed the first three TMAs. That’s overkill in my opinion and unwise. If he was even telling the truth.

Personally I always took one TMA at a time. My sole focus was the current essay and not until it was submitted did I take a look at the next one. Occasionally I did take a look ahead at the final TMA or the EMA if I felt it was necessary or others were discussing it on forums or Facebook groups. Each to their own on that one I suppose.

So, back to the initial stages of a module. Rather than reading the entire course book (unless it’s relatively small) perhaps skimming through to get an overall idea of the requirements and feel for the subject could be beneficial. Especially if you are unfamiliar with much of the subject matter. I always found reading the introduction and conclusion of the books to be a good, solid way of introducing myself. Once you know the assignment question then you will be able to hone in on specific parts but the general overview is in place and you will have a feel for the content.

Whenever I was debating this on Twitter, one correspondent suggested that it is best to: “…..start straight away. Don’t hold off because it’s easy to fall behind. When it comes to Open University modules you need to get ahead and stay there.”

Wise words indeed. Studying can be difficult so we need to grab any advantages we can and that includes getting off to a solid start.

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