Student blogger Carrie Anne Walton remembers just what it was like to be a newbie student, receiving course material and wondering what´s next.
Student blogger Carrie Anne Walton remembers just what it was like to be a newbie student, receiving course material and wondering what´s next. That was six years ago, she knows the OU inside out and is working hard towards her doctorate. Here she offers some advice to newbie students about to start their first ever OU module...
On a balmy autumn’s eve back in 2003 I enrolled with the Open University for my first bit of education since dropping out of my A Levels some six years prior. Scary. Half the folk I worked with at the time didn’t even know what The Open University WAS and the thought of starting on a six-year journey towards a degree was incredibly daunting to me.
But hey-ho, I love a challenge, and so my course was due to start in February 2004. Just before Christmas a rather large parcel marked “urgent – educational material” dropped through my letterbox. Ooh. I was so excited, but when I opened it up it was full of stuff I didn’t understand; TMAs (what are they?!), study planners, course guides and textbooks (why two?!), but no mention of any classes, who to ask if I needed help or where to find anything!
The OU has changed a heck of a lot since then and the information available on the website and through the VLE is outstanding now in comparison; very little was available when I first enrolled (despite it all arriving well before I needed it), but for newbies I imagine it’s still all a bit confusing.
Here’s what I’ve learned about studying with the OU as the years have gone by:
1. ANYTHING you need to know can be found on the StudentHome website, once your module website is up and running the best thing to do is go on there and go click-happy. It’s amazing what you find out just through clicking on stuff.
2. If, by any chance, you CAN’T find something out online, phone your regional office. One of the greatest assets of the OU is its staff; I’ve not come across anyone so far who wasn’t willing to bend over backwards to make sure you get an answer to your query.
3. The OU can be a lonely experience... But only if you let it be. Join in discussions on your module website and the Platform website, get involved with your local branch of the OU Students Association, ATTEND TUTORIALS!! The OU has the biggest student population of any other university in the country; it doesn’t HAVE to be solitary by any means.
4. You’ll nearly ALWAYS be given the benefit of the doubt. Because of the very nature of OU study they’re very understanding and to a certain degree lenient when it comes to fitting your study into the rest of your life. If you’re struggling, talk to your tutor sooner rather than later, they’ll nearly always be willing to help you out.
5. Don’t worry. If you feel like you’re lacking information about your course or related matters, fear not, it will all be provided as and when necessary. The OU has exemplary administrative skills, I’ve never yet found myself ill-informed about anything and I know now that I can trust that everything’s under control.
And lastly, enjoy your studies. No one has ever claimed it’s easy changing your life but it’s an honourable and worthwhile journey to take. Well done to all those who are making it for the first time.