Written on: 05/04/2011
Having read through these reviews, I think your whole OU experience and subsequent satisfaction level differs depending on what course you are studying and what your initial expectations were.
Business studies/computing/science seem to get the 'thumbs down' whereas social studies/humanities/psychology appear to be more highly rated. Perhaps given the practical nature of science/computing etc maybe a 'red brick' uni is worth considering as a better option?
I only have first hand experience of Social Science related courses (2:1 degree and diploma already obtained) and Religious Studies (currently studying towards a diploma and an open degree):
A) Some of the course material is incorrect and extremely difficult to understand (a good example of this is AA307 where referenced page numbers do not exist or are incorrectly referenced). One of the set books by Bossy, is in parts, utterly baffling and almost incomprehensible but I am reading through it with a copy of the Oxford Reference Dictionary to hand and looking difficult concepts up on the internet.
B) Some tutorials are held in Newcastle (I live in York). Is this what is meant by distance learning?!!
C) Some parts of the course are just not engaging or enlightening. For example, I have just been directed to 60 pages worth of interrupted reading on what is quite a complex topic.
D) I have to truthfully say that even after years of dedicated and intensive OU study, I am no closer to advising anyone on how to produce a 'good' essay as my marks have fluctuated so much between tutors (and admittedly sometimes unfairly) but clear, concise, well written scripts are usually judged more favourably!
E) The current exam system lets many students down even when they go in with excellent TMA results (I have been to many exams where a good percentage of students do not even bother turning up)!
Having said that, I have enjoyed most of my OU experience and would suggest that anyone thinking about enrolling should do their homework first to ensure that the course is fit for purpose and they really are dedicated enough to commit. It is not a 'free-for-all'; they do not just give the qualifications away and tutors cannot be expected to teach basic literacy or help students write essays! Some people are just not cut out for home study or the level of study required. I actually cried when I received my first foundation level set of books because it was so overwhelming and I could not understand them but now I see it as a challenge and welcome the opportunity to learn something new and challenging. My advice is be realistic in what you can achieve and do not be frightened to open a dictionary or look up things on-line or ask for help from other students, colleagues or tutors, this is what I had to do and what learning is all about!
Has the OU experience changed my life for the better? Without a doubt! The OU has helped me work my way up to Managing Director level (not bad for someone who was filling up vending machines when I first embarked on OU study). Go for it and do not listen to the 'doubters'! You will get out of the OU what you put in as long as you start in a realistic fashion and proceed with the right attitude.