Some people jump in head first. Some like to take their time and see what’s what. Others don’t do anything at all. When deciding on the best way to start your Open University studies there are often a myriad of options and choices presented to you. You could start on a full level one course, dive in at level two or, if you’re feeling brave, break into a level three. While the choice you make is often down to your expectations, limitations, situation or desire, whenever anybody asks me where they should start I often point them in the direction of a short course. In fact, this is exactly the route I opted for.

So why on earth would you sign up for a short course?

Well for me personally I didn’t want to jump in too deep, too soon. I’ve seen people writing on the various OU Facebook pages asking whether they should jump in to a level two or even level three course before anything else. This is people with no experience of the OU or even in some cases potential students with no experience of higher education at any establishment. Big mistake! Of course the way the OU works means that this is possible to do but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have extensive experience in the subject matter or have taken a few courses at that level before elsewhere.

It can certainly represent a big leap in demands which is why I decided to dip my toe in the water with a 10 point short course before committing to anything greater. After a fair bit of deliberation and discussion the course I decided to take was A172: Start Writing Essays (which I believe has since been discontinued). As I was living near to Belfast at the time I walked in to the old Open University building in the University quarter of Queen’s and picked up a prospectus. It was a hefty catalogue back then as the transition to mostly online was not yet complete. I’ve since been informed that the university building has been moved further into Belfast and the old one shut down.

Anyway, back to my short course.

Since I started my studies the OU now runs a selection of free courses which can also present a good route into academia and you can peruse the full range here.

In fact the actual description on the homepage fits in perfectly with the vibe of this article.

snip free courses

While we are on the lookout for some high-quality education dare I suggest moving away from Open University courses and opting for another source?

The Khan Academy – The Khan Academy is an organization on a mission. We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. All of the site’s resources are available to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.

Coursera – Coursera empowers people to improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in with education.

As always it pays in the long run to take your time and perform due diligence on the length and difficulty levels of courses before jumping in head first. Studying with the Open University is a big commitment and we should strive to present our best work and get the best marks possible.

Did you enjoy this article or find it useful? Please LIKE/TWEET/SHARE and drop a comment below with your thoughts. Have you ever taken a short course or do you prefer the full monty? Either way let’s get the conversation going and help each other move forward.