We've taken the distance out of distance learning
Although it’s true that you do much of your study in your own space and time, our style of learning isn’t really distant at all because of the amount of support and the community available to you both on and offline and as the web plays a huge role in how we teach. That’s why we call our study method supported ‘Open Learning’.
But what does this mean and how does it differ from your HNC or HND experience?
If you studied your HNC or HND course by distance learning, some elements of the Open University system will be familiar to you. But if you attended a college campus on a regular basis, studying with The Open University will seem quite different.
As an HNC or HND student the chances are you were in a fairly small group with a lot of face-to-face contact with other students and your lecturers. Supported ‘Open Learning’ is designed to provide a similarly supportive environment structured around four key elements:
Your course materials will arrive before the start of the module. The materials are specially designed for individual study and usually include everything you need. The materials will include a study guide and/or module guide – make sure you read this carefully. Your learning comes primarily from working actively with the module materials. By this we mean much more than just reading the materials. You will be prompted to reflect on your reading, try out examples, make notes and so on. Your module materials are working documents and should end up annotated, highlighted and full of post-it notes!
TMAs and CMAs
Your module calendar is an important document and will have the details of when assignments should be submitted. Assignments come in two forms: tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and computer-marked assignments (CMAs) - the most common are assignments marked by your tutor. Typically, the continuous assessment (TMAs and CMAs) make up 50% of the marks for a module, while the other 50% is represented by an end-of-module exam or other type of assessment (for example project work). You will need to check the exact details of your module assessment on the module calendar.
Assignments are spaced at regular intervals through the module. You will receive an assignment booklet, which gives all the details of what you are expected to do. It is important to read the booklet carefully since it will include good advice on how to tackle the questions. By looking at the TMA question(s) you may be able to structure your study of module texts and shape the kind of notes you take.
Depending on your module, you either send your assignments by post or direct to your tutor electronically. At college you may have been able to resubmit an assignment several times. This is not possible in The Open University system. We understand that adult learners can face unexpected interruptions to their study however, so you may be able to ask for an extension to the submission date on an assignment, provided there is good reason. You must ask your tutor whether this is possible before the cut-off date.
Support from your personal tutor
Your personal tutor is allocated at the start of an individual module and remains with you until the final assessment (an exam or other piece of assessed work) is completed for that module. Throughout the module you and your tutor can communicate by phone, email and usually by online forums (where group discussion is encouraged). Your tutor grades your TMAs and, more importantly, provides feedback on what you’ve done. This dialogue, structured through regular TMAs, is the most important part of your relationship. At college, tutorials will have been a core part of the module delivery. At The Open University, tutorials are optional. They provide a chance to meet other students and your tutor and many students find them very valuable. For work, domestic and other reasons, however, many students are unable to attend.
Our study community
Increasingly Open University modules use online forums to provide student support. This may be in addition to face to face tutorials or on some modules it may provide the main form of support. For students unable to attend face to face tutorial sessions, online forums provide a valuable support tool.
Online forums may be local and used by a small tutor group or take place on a national level, providing opportunity to participate in discussions with all of the students taking your module at that particular time.
The local forums are usually led by your tutor and provide an opportunity to discuss all aspects of the module with your tutor and other students in your group.
Learner support services
The Open University in Scotland provides a comprehensive set of services to support you at every stage of your study. Some of these are in electronic form and can be accessed via the StudentHome website. There are also staff based at The Open University in Scotland’s centre in Edinburgh who can help with a whole variety of issues that may relate to your studies. These include careers advice, financial support, special exam arrangements and many more.