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