So, what even IS the Open University?

27 Feb

I have unfortunately sprained my ankle over the weekend, which means I can no longer procrastinate over my impending essay (or TMA as they are known at the OU), as I have nothing better to do than sit and rest my lovely swollen limb.

But enough about my clumsiness; I realised I have yet to explain what the Open University actually is, so here goes.

The OU is a distance learning university. Most courses are studied part time. You apply online, and a month before your course starts, you receive all the course materials. In the case of my course, AA318, I received four text books (pretty much the OU’s equivalent to lectures), four study guides (which guide you through the reading required each week), DVDs (consisting of the programmes the BBC used to screen a few years ago; no more setting the VCR/DVD recorder!) and other material important to the course but not important to this blog post.

Some OU courses have exams at the end of them. My last two had exams, and unfortunately I didn’t do overly well in them; the OU (like all universities) does not teach you to pass exams like A Levels do! Thankfully, this course consists of a final project instead of an exam, which appeals to my put-revision-off-until-the-last-possible-minute persona.

At a ‘real’ university, you have very little choice over your separate modules, at the OU this is not the case. If you go on to study a named degree, there will be certain courses that are mandatory. However, there is something the OU is very well known for, and I want to shout this marvellous invention from the rooftops; the Open Degree. You can see in depth information about the Open Degree here, but in a nutshell, an Open Degree allows you to study whatever courses you want, so long as you get 300 credits (360 for a degree with honours). The usual route to this is to study 120 credits at level 1, 120 at level 2, and 120 at level 3. Most courses are worth 60 credits so the logical thing to do is to take two 60 credit courses at each level. Then, depending on what you study, you will receive either a Bachelor of Arts, or a Bachelor of Sciences.

The Open Degree is perfect for people like me, who have a lot of interests and don’t particularly want to study just one subject area for up to six years. I have studied Drama (from Kent; don’t forget you can transfer credits from other institutions!), Law (interesting but too theoretical for my short attention span), and now Art History. In a way, it’s almost like an American degree, where people major and minor in different subject areas. I honestly think this way of working towards a degree should be so much more prevalent in this country; it’s terrible that you have to decide to study a certain subject at such a young age and then if you wish to change, you have to start again from the bottom.

Of course, it is recommended that you have prior knowledge of a certain subject area if you wish to take it at level 2 or 3, unless the course information page states that no prior knowledge is expected; AA318 can definitely be studied with little prior knowledge, but I definitely feel that A216 and its section on the avant-garde have helped my understanding of the current course.

The OU website is fantastic in giving you guidance on study routes, so if you’re interested, check it out here!

Nikki x

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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in OU


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