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6 In lifestyle/ Open University

My thoughts and experiences after 1 year of distance learning

This title’s been in my drafts pretty much since I started my degree and now it’s time to actually write it.  How did that happen so quickly?!?  I know everyone says it but bloody hell, that year flew by.  Yesterday I sat my first uni exam (in soaking wet leggings and looking like a drowned rat, might I add) and after Friday’s exam I’ll have completed my first year of distance learning entirely.  I’m heading straight down to Gatwick after that one though so this post’s coming early!

Aside from the fact that it’s sped by, I have several observations on my first year of distance learning that I thought may be interesting to share. Hopefully anybody who’s considering this route might find them useful (nobody told me about the OU option whilst I was at college so I’m trying to spread the word for others) and anybody who’s just nosey might find them remotely interesting.

— The most obvious thing to say is that one year in I’m still 100% certain I made the right decision for me.  I don’t regret choosing distance learning over traditional uni one bit.  Feels good to say that after so many people told me I’d feel like I was missing out.

Studying full-time (120 credits per year) is manageable.  You’re advised before beginning distance learning to start out part-time with only one or two modules per year, but I was determined to go straight in at the deep end with full-time – and I was absolutely fine.  I started university straight away on the back of A-levels, whereas many students have been out of education for 20+ years or are balancing studying with a job or family, so I guess my position was a little different.  I didn’t need to readjust to full-time education because it’s all I’ve known so far anyway.  I fully expect that it’ll be harder once I’m in my second and third years but I still think full-time distance learning is doable.

— Exams haven’t been too time stressful.  I might be eating my words here soon but they don’t seem anywhere near stressful as A-levels when I had to rush like a lunatic!  A 3 hour exam gave me plenty time to go at a steady careful pace and check my work so hopefully I’ve done OK.  Seems like a much better idea than stressing students out with time pressure so you can’t concentrate properly.  My tutor is part of the exam setting team for one of my modules, and she said that if she can’t complete it in 2 hours then she says it’s too difficult for students to do in 3.  Nice to know that you can take your careful time!

— One thing I do regret is that I didn’t make the most of opportunities to meet and chat to other students.  I haven’t really participated much in the forums or online groups so I don’t know who else was on my course or studying nearby, other than the couple of people I saw at tutorials.  I’ve probably missed out there so next year I’ll make more effort to be more social with it!  I’ve pretty much been going it alone this year which seems a bit daft really.

— This one’s more relevant to working from home in general than distance learning specific, but it’s so worth having a separate place for uni work at home.  When you don’t have a place to travel to that puts you in a work mode, it helps to at least have a room in the house as a dedicated work space.  A desk in the spare bedroom does the job for me!  Much better than trying to work from my bed or the dining room table.

— It was more difficult to get into ‘exam mode’ with distance learning because you’re not surrounded by people in the same boat.  Exam season can feel all consuming sometimes when you’re in it with classes full of people, but it creeps up on you when you’re just studying on your own.  I found it a struggle to kick my brain into exam gear this time anyway!

— This goes for any education, not just distance learning, but I definitely found my enthusiasm has waned towards the end.  Right now I’m just feeling like I just want to get these exams over with because I have so much other stuff I want to do!  However I’m sure after a few months away from it I’ll be keen to get my geek on again, and the second year modules look more interesting to me too.  Time to start all the cool planetary stuff. 😀

Bring on next year!  After summer, that is.  Give me my 4 month summer first.

Lily Kate x

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  • Reply
    8th June 2017 at 7:37 pm

    Hey Lily, I fit into the nosey category but find the idea of OU learning really interesting especially for people (like myself) with social anxiety issues who would struggle in a traditional university environment. You’re right, OU wasn’t ever mentioned, not even in passing, in my school.
    Can I ask how the exam situation works when the people on your course are from all over the country? Do you take your exam with other OU students doing exams in other subjects? Can you choose the date/time of the exam?
    Hope your exams go really well and enjoy your long summer, I’m looking forward to reading all about it on here.
    PS I’m hoping you might write about your recent modelling experience too – been loving the photos on Instagram!
    Take care, Pixie xxx

    • Reply
      Lily Kate France
      8th June 2017 at 10:23 pm

      It’s such a shame that the OU isn’t mentioned because it can work so well for so many circumstances!
      I’ve only had one exam so far (my next is tomorrow) but you sit an exam with people on many different courses. You can’t choose the date or time and you’re allocated a location based on your address, however you can change the location if you’d like. The exams are held at assessment centre kind of places. 🙂
      I can’t wait to throw myself head first into blogging over summer – hopefully you’ll like my posts! I might slip a post about modelling in there sometime, thanks for the idea!
      Have a lovely day xx

  • Reply
    11th June 2017 at 2:27 pm

    I recently started my Masters degree via distance after completing a five year Bachelors degree at my local univeristy where I was going to face-to-face classes on a weekly basis. Aside from the fact I’m studying an area I’m a lot more passionate about than I was in my previous degree, I’ve been loving it. As a Masters I don’t have exams to go to and the study load is a lot less than yours seems to be and what mine previously was, but I’ve been loving it, and like you, love that I choose this way to continue my study. It can certainly be hard to get into the right head space to complete work and even just do the readings this week, especially as all my friends around me now talk about work and are on full time work hours when i’m use to them being right there alongside me, but I’m still loving it, and can’t wait to hear more about how you feel about it as you progress.

    Amy // http://www.thenoiseinwonderland.com

    • Reply
      Lily Kate France
      25th June 2017 at 6:58 pm

      That’s great to hear you’re loving it! What subject are you studying? I’m planning to probably do a Masters part time after I complete my BSc so it’s interesting to hear about a Masters distance learning experience. It’s weird being on a different path to all your friends isn’t it? I found it strange when they all went away to uni and had a completely different ‘starting university’ experience to me but I don’t at all regret doing it this way. 🙂

  • Reply
    9th December 2017 at 2:07 pm

    I’ve just come across your post but this is so helpful! I’m looking at starting an access course in Feb and then doing a degree starting in October, it’s nice to hear someone else’s experiences because I don’t think it’s talked about the way it should be!
    -Cait xx

  • Reply
    why do we take on too much?
    29th April 2018 at 1:41 pm

    […] realise just how much of a task it is.  Teaching yourself is hard, people, it’s hard work!  My first year with the Open University was absolutely fine – I found the actual content not too difficult, and the workload not too […]

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