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How to study with the OU: advice from students to students

Our students work incredibly hard, committing to their studies while juggling a combination of life, illness, disability, work and family, and they somehow find time to fit everything in. If you’re just beginning that journey you might be feeling a little overwhelmed, wondering how you’re going to make it all work.

So who better to seek advice from than the students already studying with us? We asked our OU students on Instagram to reflect on the question: ‘If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?’

Here’s their advice on what they’ve learned from studying with the OU:

On making the most of your tutor

“Ask your tutor for guidance, it’s allowed and it’s not cheating. You’d ask if at a red brick uni, so ask.” (@beesknits1)

“Drown my tutors with questions. They are passionate about their fields and are happy to help develop your understanding of your chosen subject.” (@k_4_13)

Most of our students mentioned their tutors and the fact that they are fundamental part of the study experience. They’re on hand to teach, to share their knowledge, encourage, and offer pastoral care should you need some help. More importantly, they understand. Tutors are well aware that external factors can affect your studying; be it family, time constraints, or difficulty in getting back into study. As one student explained: “If you were at a brick uni, you could just drop in to their office or speak to them after a lecture. It isn’t different at the OU – you just need to contact them.” It might feel daunting or faceless, writing down your concerns but getting that conversation started will pay dividends in the end. The brick wall you were facing will come down and you’ll see that tutors are there to ensure their students not only pass their module but enjoy it too.

On comparing yourself to other students

 “Don’t compare yourself with where others are at. Everyone struggles and have different situations in life.” (@thetravellingbell)

Many students offered this recurring piece of advice. The OU has a diverse range of students and not everyone works at the same pace. Flexible learning enables students to study when and where they can, and every student journey is unique. If you’re comparing yourself to students who are working ahead, consider why they’re doing it – they may be planning a break for a holiday or work commitments and need to front-load so they don’t fall behind later. As long as you are doing your best and working within your time restraints, try not to worry about others.

On organisation

“Plan, plan, plan and then stick to it – be disciplined and you’ll reap the rewards.” (@robinnecolby)

“Be TMA focused when working, don’t overload yourself with the extras, make a study plan and don’t leave things till the last minute. Also communicate, with support and tutors, if you need help ask for it, no one expects you to understand the new and the unknown.”(@iloveredjellybeans)

“Don’t be put off because you can’t shut yourself away and study solidly for hours. Do it when you can and where you can. You’ll still get there!” (@annpugh)

Many students wish they had planned better. TMAs creep up on you – you think you have all the time in the world, then the week of the assignment comes and you’re working until midnight the night before to submit it. Make use of the study planner, it’s such a helpful tool to keep you on track and let you know when TMAs are due. Visual planners work for some, others keep diaries. Getting your time organised is the key to OU study so find out what works for you, and don’t be afraid to switch it up and try new things.

On support

“The university is here to help you do well. Use the support. They want you to do well.” (@yellow.withme)

“Study smart, you can’t learn or remember it all, and you’re not expected to. Stress less, do what you can. Speak to your tutor, they’re there to help and are fab.” (@chellehough)

Distance learning doesn’t mean being disconnected. From our tutors, to our Student Support Services, we can offer advice on anything and everything. Students have access to the Big White Wall where they can anonymously share their concerns with like-minded students and mentors, and reciprocate by offering advice to others. The students at the OU are one big community who support each other in various forms. You are never alone, and people are always on hand to help and give advice. Likewise, you may have advice to share that might be exactly what someone needs to hear.

The OU has the support network to provide help you when you need it. Students can get advice everywhere – all it takes is to reach out, talk and start working towards a resolution together. We have one collective goal – for you to enjoy your studies, learn, and succeed in achieving those ambitions!

 

About Author

Louise is part of the External Communications Team, working with Media Relations and Social Media Engagement Team. When she is not working, Louise is studying for BA (Hons) in Creative Writing and English Literature with the OU. Louise enjoys playing netball, reading, watching her beloved Chelsea FC and motorsport, while raising 2 boys.

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